AMHERST, Mass. — When Massachusetts-Lowell and Massachusetts met on Jan. 7 at Tsongas Arena, a controversial faceoff dominated the game, as Lowell scored two quick goals to surpass the Minutemen after Chris Federico’s quick draw in the second period.
The River Hawks needed no such controversy Saturday in Amherst, running away to a 6-1 victory in front of a snow-driven crowd of 470.
As a blizzard raged outside the Mullins Center, the River Hawks provided the precipitation inside, sending an avalanche of shots at UMass goaltender Gabe Winer.
Ben Walter scored a hat trick for Lowell, with two goals in the first period and one in the third. Jason Tejchma’s even-strength tally at the 14:54 mark of the first held up as the game winner after the Minutemen, who went without many decent offensive chances for most of the game, got on the board with less than two minutes remaining, courtesy of P.J. Fenton.
The River Hawks improved to 14-5-3, with a 5-5-2 Hockey East record that puts them in sole possession of fifth place in the conference, ahead of the Minutemen and Northeastern. UMass, which was missing centermen Matt Anderson and James Solon, as well as a few others, falls to 10-13-2, with a 4-8-2 Hockey East mark.
“I think we were very fortunate to catch UMass at the right time,” Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said. “They’re pretty banged up, and when you’ve got a lot of guys banged up physically, it takes a big toll mentally.”
The River Hawks gave themselves quite a cushion with a three-goal outburst in the first period. As the Minutemen took four penalties and struggled to develop any offense, the visitors cruised to a 3-0 lead on two goals from Walter and one from Tejchma.
Walter kicked off the scoring with a power play goal at the 12:38 mark, redirecting the carom off of the end boards from Andrew Martin’s slapshot, and putting it past Winer, who was striding over to cover the opposite post.
Tejchma struck next, with 5:06 remaining in the first, one-timing a feed from Bobby Robins in close. Walter added his second goal of the night with a minute to go, snapping a pass from Martin behind the net as UMass’ Tim Vitek came across the ice from the penalty box, where he had just finished serving an obstruction penalty.
Junior Elias Godoy got in on the fun in the second period, with a grinder’s goal at the 10:56 mark. Kim Brandvold flipped a long aerial pass up ice to the Minuteman blue line, where Godoy took control. With UMass’ Dusty Demianiuk scrambling to defend, Godoy cut in on Winer’s net and poked the puck under him as he lost control and went crashing into the corner, putting the River Hawks up 4-0.
At the end of the second period, Lowell held a distinct offensive advantage, outshooting the Minutemen 34-11 through two. They finished the game with a 38-21 advantage in shots.
Lowell’s output didn’t cease in the second, either. Walter and Robins both scored, Robins on the power play, and Walter for his third of the night. It was the third hat trick for Walter this season, with the others coming against Bentley on Nov. 27 and Rensselaer on Oct. 29.
“He always gets to the right spot,” MacDonald said. “He’s very quick, and he has a very good reaction time, and he just knows what to do.”
With the win, the River Hawks captured the Alumni Cup, annually awarded to the team that takes the Lowell-UMass season series.
“It’s great to come on the road and win,” said MacDonald, prepping for a long trek through tough conditions back to Lowell. “It’s important for us to recapture the Alumni Cup. That trophy has taken a much greater significance for my team.”
Fenton scored a too-little, too-late goal for the Minutemen with 1:16 to go, coming up with the puck amidst a scramble in front, with assists credited to Dusty Demianiuk and Peter Trovato.