MINNEAPOLIS — Coming into Thursday, Massachusetts-Lowell and Canisius had allowed opponents a combined average of 65 shots on goal per game this season. With that in mind, the pace of the two teams’ semifinal at the Dodge Holiday Classic should have been no surprise.
In a contest with the makings of a shootout from the start, the last team to score won. The River Hawks’ Jason Tejchma scored that goal at 12:19 of the third period, breaking the final tie of the game off a scramble in front to give UML a wild 5-4 win at Mariucci Arena.
Tejchma’s goal, his sixth of the year, capped a run-and-gun third period in which UML put 19 shots on net and scored three goals to erase a 3-2 Canisius lead.
River Hawks head coach Blaise MacDonald acknowledged that the pace was unexpected.
“I really give Canisius a lot of credit,” MacDonald said. “They showed more speed than I anticipated, and they made us work for it.”
Canisius head coach Dave Smith was philosophical about the loss, his team’s fifth straight, and third straight by one goal.
“We’re going to give up some goals, and we’re going to score some goals, and today we gave up one more than we got,” said Smith. “I know maybe it sounds obvious.”
With Canisius up a goal early in the third, Spencer Churchill had a chance to extend the Griffs’ advantage, but his diving swipe from the crease missed. Instead, he and UML’s Jake Pence were sent off for goaltender interference and hooking, respectively.
On the resulting four-on-four, the River Hawks knotted the game once more. Andrew Martin got the goal, beating Griffs netminder Max Buetow with a mid-level shot from the top of the right circle, off a feed from Tejchma at 5:57.
Mark Pandolfo restored the lead for the River Hawks at 7:17, picking up a puck in the high slot and snapping a shot through a screen to Buetow’s left that gave UML a 4-3 advantage. That was UML’s first lead since a 1-0 edge in the first period.
Canisius knotted it up once more on defenseman Bret Norris’ first goal as a collegian, off a pass from Michael Cohen. Norris’ shot, a wide-open blast from between the circles that hit inside the crossbar and dropped down behind the goal line, made it a 4-4 tie at 10:19.
Tejchma scored exactly two minutes later, giving the River Hawks the final margin of victory, though only after holding off 43 seconds of six-on-five with Buetow off the ice.
For UMass-Lowell, netminder Peter Vetri gave up four goals while making 25 saves, including three in the game’s first 27 minutes.
“They [Canisius] scored three goals on the first 14 shots, and that’s never a good thing,” said MacDonald. “I thought Peter battled tonight.”
Buetow, meanwhile, stopped 38 River Hawk shots while allowing five goals, some of them on wide-open chances.
“I think we put our goaltender in a tough position at times,” said Smith. “The goaltending wasn’t the problem.”
Early on, nothing much was too big a problem for the Golden Griffins, though UMass-Lowell did get on the board first.
Six minutes into the opening period, River Hawks defenseman J.R. Bria sneaked in low on the back side, but his stuff attempt on a rebound banged off the post. But after a bench minor for too many men on the ice against Lowell, the River Hawks struck shorthanded. Elias Godoy tallied his second goal of the season, on a breakaway at 9:28 off a home-run pass from Danny O’Brien.
Canisius’ next power play was more productive. With UML’s Nick Monroe in the box for hooking, the Griffs evened the score on a wide-angle shot from the left faceoff circle off the stick of Cohen at 14:56, his sixth goal of the season.
Early in the second, with UMass-Lowell on a power play held over from the waning moments of the first, the River Hawks’ bid to retake the lead was foiled by the left post, as Godoy’s redirection of Cleve Kinley’s pass into the slot banged off the iron.
Fred Coccimiglio made it 2-1 Canisius at 2:36 of the second, banging home his first goal of the year from below the right circle, but the River Hawks immediately struck back. Bria, parked at the right point, picked off a puck and fired on net, a slapper that eluded Vetri’s glove to make it a 2-2 tie at 4:12.
The score-fest continued at 6:36, as Chris Angelo got in on the backside of the net and stuffed home his third goal of the year off an assist from Churchill. That was the last goal of the second period, setting up a busy third and, eventually, the Lowell win.
UMass-Lowell will next play in Friday’s Dodge Classic championship game against the winner of Thursday night’s game between Union and host Minnesota. The title game starts at 7:05 p.m. CT. Canisius awaits the loser of that contest in the consolation at 4:05 p.m.