BOSTON — The end of the season means playoff type hockey as teams are battling for home ice and seeding in the playoffs leave it all on the ice. And UMass-Lowell made giants steps tonight towards a higher playoff seed Saturday, finishing off a sweep to Northeastern University.
Lowell clinched a playoff spot Friday and then moved ahead of Northeastern on Saturday as the teams are tied in points, but this victory gives Lowell the tiebreaker. Northeastern has now dropped five straight.
“We beat a very good team tonight and last night as well, you know Northeastern does a lot of real good things. We were just the benefactors of a few key bounces,” Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said.
The sweep continued a tough slide for the Huskies who have now lost five straight, 10 out of their last 13 games.
“Terrible, just terrible, Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said after the loss. You always try and find a silver lining, it’s getting a little superficial now, I mean we’ve lost five games in a row and three of them have been by one goal that easily we could have won the last three games, we would have won those games earlier in the year.
We’re just not managing games very well. It’s one of the biggest challenges in coaching, a team that is starting to lose their confidence. You had believability earlier in the year, we felt every game we could win. And now, let’s face it, we’ve lost that, I’m not going to dodge the bullet.”
Lowell was able to get the first goal of the night when Barry Goers took a shot from the top of the circles that beat Brad Thiessen as Thiessen was screened by defensemen Dan Nycholat. For Goers it was his fourth goal of the season and the fifth of his career.
The second goal was scored only 49 seconds later by the Riverhawks during a scrum in front of the net. There were lots of Lowell red jerseys in front that were all whacking on the puck that was lose as Thiessen had lost sight of it. Finally it found the back of the net, the goal was given to Mike Potacco, his fourth of the weekend after the hat trick the previous night. The assist was given to Kory Falite.
Northeastern battled back and got on the board 13 seconds after the second Lowell goal when Joe Vitale and Wade MacLeod came in on a 2-on-1. Vitale took a shot that the netminder Carter Hutton made the save but the puck was kicked right to Wade MacLeod found the back of the net.
The goal was reminiscent of the first Northeastern goal from the previous night when Vitale and MacLeod came in on a 2-on-1 as well. The three goals were scored in a 1:02 span.
Northeastern tied the game a little after half way through the second. There was a scrum in the corner with two Lowell players and two Northeastern players fighting for the puck. Somehow Chris Donovan skated the puck out cleanly and moved towards the net, taking the puck to his backhand he sent it towards the net.
Wade MacLeod was on the backdoor and slammed the puck home, his second goal of the game giving the freshmen nine on the season. Vitale got the assist as did Donovan.
The play remained tight through the rest of the second and for the first half the third, then Lowell added the go ahead goal in a sort of weird play while a man up for a too many men on the ice call against the Huskies.
Kory Falite took a shoot from the slot that went sailing almost 10 feet in the air, as the players watched it come down seemingly everyone tried to get a whack at it yet every player on the ice missed. The puck hit the back of Brad Thiessen and rolled into the back of the net giving Falite the goal. Assists were given to Barry Goers and Maury Edwards.
“We got a fortunate bounce on that winning goal. The makeup of our team is pretty young, and to come out of any Hockey East weekend with a sweep is a credit to their effort,” Blaise MacDonald said.
He continued: “The ripple effect of confidence starts with your goaltender and I thought Carter Hutton had a spectacular weekend for us. He did a terrific job, he did a great job moving the puck, relieving pressure. He did a great job stopping the puck. We have to do a better job of protecting him a little bit with some rebounds but we’ll take that type of goaltending. That gives us a lot of confidence.”
On the night the NU power-play was 0-5, Lowell went 1-6. Brad Thiessen made 38 saves and Carter Hutton made 30. Lowell now has the season series tie breaker against the Huskies going 2-1-0 this season.
Northeastern (14-15-3, 11-12-2) has a home-and-home with the Boston College Eagles starting in Chestnut Hill on Friday, Lowell (15-13-4, 10-11-4) travels to Maine for a pair to close out the regular season.