LOWELL, Mass. — For nearly two full periods, the Bentley Falcons looked poised to upset the Mass.-Lowell River Hawks and pick up their first ever win against a Hockey East opponent, but one bounce of the puck as the second period came to a close changed the complexion of everything and quelled any thoughts of an upset.
Barry Goers goal with .9 seconds remaining in the second gave Lowell a 2-1 lead that it would never relinquish on the way to a 4-1 victory in front of 2,673 at Tsongas Arena. It was Lowell’s third straight win, its longest winning streak of the season, as the team heads into the winter exam break.
“You can never give up goal late in a period, never mind with under a second left,” said Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist. “We had a chance to get the puck out twice and we didn’t. It was pretty disturbing.”
The goal developed as Lowell pinned the Falcons in their zone for the final minute of the period. Lowell was able to forecheck and cycle the puck along the boards while Goers and defensive partner Kelly Sullivan both intercepted clearing attempts to maintain the pressure.
Goers shot was a hard wrister with traffic in front of Bentley netminder Joe Calvi (35 saves) that appeared to deflect off a Bentley defender, beating Calvi short on the blocker side.
“That was a great shift [that resulted in the goal],” said Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald. “We absolutely dominated that shift and it was a worthy goal.”
The victory gave Lowell sophomore goaltender Jon Dryjoywicz-Burek his first win at the Division I level. Dryjoywicz-Burek sat out last year at Lowell after transferring from Mass.-Dartmouth. The red-shirt sophomore was impressive when called upon, finishing the game with 20 saves.
“That’s the first time he’s played in well over a year,” said MacDonald of Dryjoywicz-Burek. “I thought on shots he played well. He was a little bit disjointed coming out to play the puck and leaving it for our defensemen, but that’s natural not having played for a long time.”
The River Hawks controlled play for the opening 20 minutes, but came out of the period on the wrong end of a 1-0 score. Bentley’s Tom Dickhudt notched his third goal of the season, lifting the rebound of Jay Bletzer’s shot over a sprawled Dryjowicz-Burek at 6:16 to give the Falcons the lead.
Lowell mustered a handful of quality chances, many of the odd-man rush variety. Calvi, though, stood tough, stopping all 15 chances his faced.
A penalty to Bentley’s Jaye Judd for tripping as the first period expired put the River Hawks on a power play to start the second, and they captilized quickly. Jonathan Maniff fired a shot that beat Calvi far side at 55 seconds for his fifth goal of the season.
Though Lowell was able to score the back-breaking go-ahead goal at the end of the second, Bentley didn’t lay down in the third, but a rebound goal by Lowell’s Mike Potacco at 3:47 gave the River Hawks the cushion they needed. Potacco added his second goal of the game and fifth of the season into an open net with 1:13 remaining to account for the 4-1 final.
The loss extends Bentley’s winless streak to five games (0-4-1) and drops their overall record on the season to 5-11-2. The Falcons will take 26 days off before returning to the ice to play Canisius on January 4 and 5.
Lowell is heading in a different direction, having notched wins in four of its last five (4-1-0) and improves to 7-4-4 on the season and an impressive 6-1-1 at home.
MacDonald says that, given his team’s injuries in the first half of the season, a record of three games above .500 and its current position tied for second place in Hockey East is nothing short of a miracle.
“We’ve been playing very shorthanded, said MacDonald. “We’ve had 13 or 14 games where there have been no healthy scratches. All hands were on deck so it’s nice to see guys step up and play well.”