LOWELL, Mass. — Jason Tejchma had gone 12 games without scoring a goal, but ended that drought with the game-winner at 14:56 of the third period to give Massachusetts-Lowell a 3-2 win over Vermont.
Tejchma and linemate Jeremy Hall had collaborated on a late second-period power-play goal to give the River Hawks their first lead and did so again, this time off the faceoff. UVM goaltender Joe Fallon made a big save on Hall in front, but Tejchma buried the rebound from the low slot.
“I’ve been playing well, but haven’t seen the results in goals,” Tejchma said. “But my linemates have been picking it up on that end. I was glad to get one in the net for myself.”
With the win, Lowell (13-18-2, 10-14-2 Hockey East) remains tied with Massachusetts for seventh place in Hockey East. Vermont (18-11-6, 10-10-6) is now locked into a sixth place finish. The two teams face off again on Saturday. UMass plays at Maine.
“I thought we were very poor,” UVM coach Kevin Sneddon said. “We didn’t play with nearly the intensity and passion that we did last weekend against [Boston University] and we paid the price. Lowell did a great job of capitalizing on our mistakes. We made two glaring mistakes and they both wound up in the net. If you can’t get up for a hockey game this time of year, you shouldn’t be playing.”
It took over half the game for either team to score, but over the closing 30 minutes Vermont and Massachusetts-Lowell played see-saw on the scoreboard until the River Hawks come out on top.
“It’s tough to penetrate the prime scoring areas against this team,” UML coach Blaise MacDonald said. “And then when you do get a great scoring opportunity, Fallon is a terrific goaltender. It’s definitely a team you need a high yield on your opportunities.”
Freshmen Dean Strong and Peter Lenes had the Catamount goals.
“Our freshman line [Strong, Lenes and Corey Carlson] was our best line,” Sneddon said. “They had great jump and created all our offense five-on-five. But at this time of year your freshmen shouldn’t be the ones leading the charge. We need our veteran guys to step up and play a lot better tomorrow night.”
The game started slowly with virtually no quality chances despite an early power play for Vermont. Both teams were playing so close to the vest that after 13 minutes the teams had combined for only six shots, almost all from the perimeter. Not until Vermont went on the man advantage again with two minutes left in the period did the offensive pace pick up. The Catamounts forced goaltender Peter Vetri to make several good stops, but then had to take a penalty themselves when Tejchma threatened to break away down the right wing boards.
The period ended with Vermont holding a 10-8 shot advantage, generating four of them on the power play.
At 10:58 of the second, Vermont finally got on the scoreboard. Just seconds after Lowell’s Mike Potacco couldn’t cash in on a backhander from down low, the River Hawks picked up a penalty. Their first three hadn’t hurt them, but it took the Catamounts only 12 seconds on this power play to take a 1-0 lead. Torrey Mitchell slid the puck from atop the left faceoff circle down low to Strong, who fed Lenes in the low slot. The freshman buried it for his 12th goal.
It took only 58 seconds, however, for the River Hawks to get the equalizer. Elias Godoy skated up the right wing and led Mark Pandolfo in such a way that the senior could split the defense as he entered the offensive zone. Pandolfo broke in on Fallon and roofed it glove side for his 12th goal of the year.
The River Hawks took their first lead in the final minute of the second on the man advantage. Just seconds before the penalty, however, Lowell goaltender Peter Vetri had made a pivotal save after Corey Carlson fed Lenes on the doorstep.
“That’s a hockey moment right there, a defining moment,” MacDonald said. “Peter played great. That save is what you need in the playoffs to get you to the next level.”
Following that big play in the defensive zone, the River Hawk power play set up. When a Vermont player without his stick couldn’t clear the puck, it moved to Tejchma who fired from the point through traffic and Hall converted the rebound for his 11th goal and a 2-1 lead.
The River Hawks almost added a huge insurance goal on a shot down low by Cleve Kinley with eight seconds left, but Fallon made the stop to send the teams into the intermission with the margin still a single goal.
Vermont knotted the score at 8:45 of the third on a Strong deflection of a Kyle Kuk shot from the point. Six minutes later, however, Tejchma struck for the game-winner.
The two teams complete the regular season on Saturday at the Tsongas Arena.
“It’ll be our senior night,” MacDonald said. “It would be very fitting that we get the W for them.”