LOWELL, Mass. — The Northeastern Huskies’ third line proved to be the third rail for the Mass.-Lowell River Hawks on Saturday night, as Greg Costa netted a hat trick and linemate Ryan Ginand added a goal and two assists of his own and the No. 6 Huskies (9-2-2, 7-2-1 HE) took down the River Hawks (6-5-0, 4-3-0 HE) 4-3.
“That line works so hard, Ginand, Costa, and [Chris] Donovan,” said NU coach Greg Cronin. “We put them together before the weekend because of the speed with Donavan and Costa, and the skill of Ginand. Those first two guys open ice up, and Ginand’s got the ability to really maneuver around open ice, and I thought he was terrific tonight as well.”
Costa’s hat trick was the first Huskies’ hat trick since November 4, 2005, when Ginand accomplished the feat against New Hampshire. Fittingly, Ginand assisted in two of Costa’s three goals on Saturday night.
Costa said the last time he recorded a hat trick was “probably not since juniors.”
“We experienced some success down low,” Costa said of his line. “We tried to get it behind the net, and the first two [goals] were just scrums around the net and we were able to jam it in there, and we’re pretty happy with it tonight.”
On their first power play of the evening, the River Hawks put too much force into their passes and were unable to connect passes, sending many into the corners of the offensive zone. As a result, the River Hawks didn’t get a single shot on Huskies’ goaltender Brad Thiessen during that first power play.
“They pursue pretty hard, so we knew had to move the puck quickly,” said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. “That happens some times.”
On their second power play, the River Hawks tightened up their passes and got five shots on Thiessen. Thiessen never froze the puck, but did just enough to steer all of those shots aside.
Moments after the River Hawks’ second power play expired though, they got multiple close-range shots on Thiessen, who allowed several rebounds. Eventually, Michael Budd got to the puck on the doorstep, and chipped it up over Thiessen to give the River Hawks the early 1-0 lead at 10:53.
“[Thiessen] was good,” said Cronin. “He wasn’t as sharp as he usually is. I thought his rebounds were a little bit sloppy at times, but once again he was good.”
The River Hawks’ lead was short-lived however, as Costa tied it up for the Huskies at 14:18, scoring on a close-range shot against River Hawks’ goalie Nevin Hamilton.
The game was a back-and-forth, penalty-filled affair for the rest of the first period, and most of the second period. That all changed in the first 10 minutes of the third period.
With the game tied at one, Paul Worthington gave the River Hawks a brief 2-1 lead at :20 when he chipped home the rebound of Ben Holmstrom’s wraparound attempt. However, 25 seconds later, at :45, Costa backhanded a rebound past Hamilton five-hole to tie the game at two.
Ginand scored the game-winning goal at 7:39 in the third when he got the puck high in the slot and went top-shelf through traffic.
Costa completed his hat trick at 9:17 in third, giving the Huskies some insurance at the same time. Costa carried the puck into the offensive zone, and with a defender close on him, he shoveled the puck at the net as he went tumbling past it, and managed to squeak it by Hamilton’s far side to give the Huskies the 4-2 lead.
“I tried to sneak it by the defenseman; he played me pretty well,” said Costa. “I thought he had me, and I just took a slap at it and got it.”
The insurance proved valuable, as David Vallorani brought the River Hawks back within one goal with 25 seconds to go with the extra attacker on the ice. The River Hawks kept their net empty on the ensuing face-off and for the rest of regulation, but did not have enough time to tie the game.
“At the end of the day, they’ve got the Hockey East player of the year in their net, and that’s usually the difference in these types of games,” said MacDonald. “No soft goals. He’s the real deal.”
While the teams combined for 19 penalties and 11 power plays, neither team was able to net a power play goal. The Huskies’ 0-for-5 on the power play extends their power outage with the extra attacker to 15 straight goal-less power plays.
After the four-point Hockey East weekend, the Huskies travel to RPI after Thanksgiving to play in the RPI Holiday Tournament, while the River Hawks will have to regroup much quicker, as they take on the Merrimack Warriors in North Andover on Tuesday.