LOWELL, Mass. — Ben Walter scored two goals and assisted on the game-winner as Massachusetts-Lowell scored two goals on the power play in the third period to overcome Clarkson 3-2 Saturday evening in front of 3,429 fans at Tsongas Arena in nonconference action.
“We’ve played a number of teams from the ECACHL this season, and Clarkson is by far the best team we’ve played from that league so far this season,” said Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald. “Second night on the road, Clarkson played tough, they finished their checks, very skilled, and looked really good.
“For us, it’s a nice way to win the game, to persevere going into the third period, and at a key moment on the power play to define that moment in the game and make it happen.”
The win extends the River Hawks’ (7-5-1) streak over nonleague foes to an unblemished 7-0-0. The Golden Knights (3-11-1) continued their longest season slump, now six games without a win.
Walter continued a streak of his own, as he has posted at least one point in each of the last seven outings, a personal best, and has failed to score a point only once this season. His 15 goals ties him for the national lead with Minnesota’s Ryan Potulny, and his goals-per-game average of 1.15 is tops in the nation. Last season, Walter led the River Hawks with 18 goals through 36 games.
“This is the toughest loss so far for us, I thought our team played awfully well tonight,” said Clarkson head coach George Roll. “It’s getting to be a long season here. We played very hard tonight; I thought we competed every shift.
“We took some real bad penalties on our part, we were frustrated, and we just can’t afford to do that. We found a way to beat ourselves again. But I thought the effort was there, and we played hard.”
The River Hawks opened the scoring early in the first period. From behind the Clarkson cage, Danny O’Brien connected with Walter as he skated across the slot from right to left. Before Golden Knight netminder Kyle McNulty could turn his head, Walter flicked the puck into the goal for his team-leading 14th of the season at 3:30.
Although both teams had quality opportunities in the offensive zone throughout the remainder of the period, the lone goal stood for the River Hawks, who outshot the Golden Knights 8-5 in the first frame.
“We said to the team that we’re not going to win this game if we continue to play like we did in the first,” said Roll about the mood during the first intermission. “If we wanted to keep playing like that, then we’re not going to win another game. In the second and third period we dominated the game and had great chances.”
Clarkson responded, knotting the game at 1 a minute into the second. Jay Latulippe got the goal for the Golden Knights at 1:01, taking a Chris Blight rebound and scoring from the left side low.
Although the River Hawks looked solid on a 4-on-3 power play midway through the frame, the Golden Knights came away with the advantage after two, taking the lead at 16:35.
With the crease overcrowded with skaters and UML goaltender Peter Vetri down on the ice, the red light came on before referee Bill Mason blew the play dead. After conferring with the goal judge, Mason confirmed that Clarkson had scored. The goal was credited to Mike Arciero at 16:35, his first collegiate goal, and first point in a Clarkson sweater in seven appearances this season.
Normally an official in the WCHA, Mason was assigned the contest as part of an exchange program initiated by Hockey East and the WCHA in order to develop referees across league boundaries. He officiated the Clarkson-New Hampshire game the evening prior in Durham, N.H.
The Golden Knights took the 2-1 advantage into the second intermission, this time turning the tables on the River Hawks, outshooting the hosts 11-5 in the second frame.
Walter tied the contest at two at 5:56 of the third. Taking a great feed from Elias Godoy in the corner, Walter walked in from the top of the left circle and beat McNulty short side on a 5-on-3 power play.
Clarkson’s Mike Sullivan looked primed to give the Golden Knights back the lead, breaking in unobstructed while shorthanded moments after the UML goal. His shot sailed wide thanks to a last-ditch effort by a River Hawk defender.
Andrew Martin netted the game-winner on the power play from the right side low at 17:16, putting home a rebound on a Walter attempt.
“I told the team after the second that (the third) period was going to be like our second period against UNH just over a week ago, where we played great,” said MacDonald. “We had some key guys struggling in the game, and I told those guys to put it behind them, that we had a fresh 20, and everything’s new. We’re going to have a great attitude on the bench, we’re going to be positive. Picture yourself coming into this room at 9:15 with a nice victory.
“The guys pulled together. Andrew Martin had struggled by his standards in the game, but came away with the game-winner, and that will go a long way for us this season.”
“Lowell has a very good power play; they’re awfully explosive, and you just can’t give a team like that two power-play chances, especially 5-on-3 in the third period,” said Roll.
The Golden Knights didn’t go quietly. On the power play with just under 90 seconds to play, Clarkson pulled its goaltender and showcased some of the most exciting hockey in the game until the final horn sounded.
Vetri made a total of 21 saves in net for the River Hawks, while McNulty stopped a total of 18 attempts. Both teams saw production on the power play, as Lowell went 2-for-5 on the man-advantage, while Clarkson was 1-for-4 on the evening.
Friday UMass-Lowell continues non-conference play at Dartmouth, while Clarkson (3-11-1) hosts a set against Ohio State. Both games are slated for a 7 p.m. start.