LOWELL, Mass. — Before Friday nights contest between Maine and host the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, the River Hawks honored All-American goaltender and current Edmonton Oiler Dwayne Roloson. So it only seems fitting that on the same night, Lowell would end an ugly streak that dates back to Rolosons senior year.
Paced by four power-play goals, including three in a row to close the second that changed the complexion of the game, the River Hawks knocked off the Black Bears, earning its second win of the season against Maine and clinching the season series for the first time since 1993-94.
Roloson was a senior on that team that advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals, the closest Lowell has ever been to the Frozen Four. He, along with Christian Sbrocca and Jeff Daw, sophomores on the famed 93-94 Lowell team, were recognized for being selected to Lowells 25th anniversary Hockey East team.
That tells you that Maine has been a great time [over time], said Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald. Im sure there have been a lot of teams that have struggled to take series from Maine. Thats quite an accomplishment for us.
On Friday night, the offensive explosion for both teams made it seem like it was once again 1994, before the days of enlarged goaltender equipment and $300 composite sticks.
It was a game where nobody, well at least us, we werent able to establish our system, said MacDonald, in attempt to explain the two-way offensive explosion. That made the game disjointed.
The key for Lowell was special teams. While they successfully killed six of seven Maine power plays, the River Hawks also scored four times in eight opportunities. It was the most goals Lowell has scored with the man advantage all season.
We got our power play opportunities and converted, said MacDonald. That was the difference.
The River Hawks wasted little time getting on the board to start the game. After Maines Chris Hahn was whistled for hooking at 2:01, Lowells power play went to work with Michael Scheu, a rookie who joined the team at New Years, buried the rebound of a Nick Schaus shot under Maine goaltender Scott Darling (26 saves) at 3:33 for the 1-0 lead.
Maine struggled to get anything going in the early going, but once they did, it produced the clubs best offensive opening period of the year.
Tanner House got things going at 8:30, taking advantage of a Maury Edwards turnover at the blueline and burying a one-timer blocker side on Lowell goaltender Nevin Hamilton (32 saves) to knot the game at one.
At 10:44, the Black Bears extended the lead on the power play. When Hamilton left a juicy rebound of a Simon Denis-Pepin shot, Brian Flynn fired the rebound high inside the left post to give Maine a 2-1 lead.
The River Hawks responded less than two minutes later when Patrick Cey gathered a loose puck and fired it high glove side for his 11th goal of the season at 12:14.
But 11 seconds later, Maine scored off the ensuing faceoff with House capitalizing on yet another big Hamilton rebound. After Flynn fired a shot from just inside the blueline, House picked up the rebound in the low slot and lifted it just under the crossbar for a 3-2 Maine lead.
It was the first time the Black Bears scored three goals in the opening period this season and thanks to the ability to kill off a Lowell 5-on-3 late in the frame and the benefit of a post on a Steve Capraro shot with 1:12 remaining, they took a 3-2 lead into intermission.
Maine dominated the first half of the second period thanks to a Lowell parade to the penalty box. Three Black Bears power plays resulted in a 14-0 Maine advantage in shots through the first 8:33. But Hamilton, after struggling at times in the first, looked sharp and kept it a one goal game.
We just didnt get to that second shot, said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead of his teams inability to covert early in the second. We have chances to make it 4-2 and we didnt. That was the turning point.
Turning point may be an understatement, as the River Hawks then exploded offensively late when Maine got into penalty trouble of its own.
Lowell scored three power-play goals late, the first two coming during a 5-on-3 with Maury Edwards and Scott Campbell burying rebound goals at 11:44 and 12:58, respectively. And then Paul Worthington gave the River Hawks its first two-goal lead at 18:10 finishing a Campbell feed on a two-on-one for Lowells third straight power play goal in the frame.
After giving up the first 14 shots of the period, the River Hawks proceeded to outshoot Maine, 10-0, over the final 11:27 and took a two goal lead to the third.
In the third, a barrage of minor penalties kept either team from getting much flow which allowed the River Hawks to nurse the lead without too much threat.
The win allows the River Hawks to clinch fifth place in Hockey East after Boston College fell, 2-1 in overtime, against Northeastern.
With the loss, Maine locks itself into the eighth and final seed in the Hockey East playoffs, no longer able to catch Massachusetts.
The River Hawks and Black Bears will close their season series and regular season on Saturday in Lowell when Whitehead hopes his can turn things around heading for the playoffs.
We have an opportunity on Saturday, said Whitehead. We know exactly what Lowell does [on the power play]. Now its about bearing down and blocking shots tomorrow. Those are the things we didnt do.