BURLINGTON, Vt. — In the first game of the Hockey East quarterfinals, UMass-Lowell overcame a 3-1 third period deficit Friday night to score three unanswered goals and shock seventh ranked Vermont, 4-3, in overtime before a sellout crowd of 4,003 at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
With goaltender Carter Hutton (27 saves) pulled in favor of an extra attacker, River Hawks defenseman Nick Schaus scored with 30 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Playing the hero, Maury Edwards capped off the spirited comeback by scoring the game winner with just two seconds left in sudden death overtime.
The come-from-behind victory improves Lowell to 18-15-2, but more importantly earns them a 1-0 lead in the best of three series against Vermont (20-10-5).
“Its all coaching, joked Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald on his teams pivotal pair of last minute goals.
“I have no idea what it is. I think really, when you get down to that last minute its simplicity. Through chaos finds simplicity is one of the themes that we use with our guys a lot. Just pucks to the net, bodies to the net and see if you can get a break
“Thats why its a playoff series, not a playoff game, added Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon. “Right now weve got to win two games. Weve been there before. I thought we played pretty well tonight, just disappointed, obviously, in not stepping on the throat when we had them up 3-1. So well learn from our mistakes and come back hard at it again tomorrow.
After a tight checking opening 10 minutes of regulation in which both teams combined to muster just four total shots on goal, the River Hawks nearly took a 1-0 lead on the power play after Kyle Medvec was called for interference at 10:42. Attempting to catch Vermont freshman goaltender Rob Madore (24 saves) off guard, Michael Scheu deflected a centering feed from teammate Jeremy Dehner amidst traffic in front of the net. Nevertheless, Madore stayed in position and swallowed the tip in his chest to keep the game scoreless.
Minutes later, Vermont forward Chris Atkinson got the antsy sellout crowd involved when he collided viciously with Lowell forward Nick Monroe near center ice, a hit which sent both players and their sticks airborne.
Fortunately for the Catamounts, the bone-rattling open-ice hit net Vermont their only power play of the period as Monroe was called for contact to the head/roughing at 13:53. However, the man advantage was short-lived as senior assistant captain Corey Carlson was called for tripping at 15:11, negating the final 43 seconds of the power play.
Taking the brunt of the penalty, Schaus remained on the ice for several seconds before being helped to the bench by the River Hawks trainer.
Despite the self-inflicted wound, Vermont rallied to take a 1-0 lead with just 1:41 remaining in the first period. Sparking a 3-on-2 break, defenseman Drew MacKenzie fed forward Wahs Stacey who gained the Lowell blue line and then pulled up at the top of the right circle.
Forcing Hutton to adjust, Stacey hesitated slightly before ripping a slapshot on goal. Hutton made a right pad save but the juicy rebound squirted wide directly to senior assistant captain Peter Lenes who beat the down and out Lowell goaltender.
Vermont extended the lead to 2-0 just 2:21 into the second period. With three River Hawks collapsing on junior Viktor Stalberg near the sideboards, the Hobey Baker candidate spotted senior captain Dean Strong streaking in uncovered near the left dot. After securing the cross-ice feed, Strong did his best Gordon Bombay impression, triple dekeing the Lowell goaltender before finally squeezing a forehand between the left post and Huttons right pad.
Lowell fought back to cut the deficit to 2-1 midway through the period. Center Ben Holmstrom unleashed a wrister from the top of the left circle that Madore was able to stop but the rebound found its way to Scheu on the doorstep. Scheus first hack at the puck clanked off the right post but he quickly gathered his own rebound and buried the second chance opportunity.
Answering the Scheu tally, Vermont regained their two goal advantage at 4:16 of the third period to make it 3-1. Cycling down low, Stacey emerged from a crowd along the cornerboards and sent a cross-ice feed to defenseman Dan Lawson parked at the right point. Catching Hutton out of position, Lawson blasted a one-timer past the Lowell goaltender for his third goal in as many games.
The turning point in the game came at 9:31 of the third period when Vermont forward Brayden Irwin received a five minute major for hitting from behind. Initially, Irwin skated sheepishly to the penalty box as the hit did not appear to be that severe. However, the referees convened and decided to smack Irwin with a game misconduct, prompting a showering chorus of thunderous boos from the Gutterson faithful.
“They were definitely giving it to us there for a bit, admitted Edwards. “We got that five minute penalty and definitely started to get a positive attitude on the bench. Everybody started to realize a lot more that we still got a good chance to win this.
After killing off the first three plus minutes of Irwins major penalty, Vermont shot themselves in the skate at 12:45 when Stalberg was called for hooking to give the River Hawks an extended 5-on-3 power play.
Taking supreme advantage, Lowell clawed to within one when David Vallorani tipped home a cross-crease feed from Jonathan Maniff at 13:41 of the third period to make it 3-2.
“Obviously frustrating, said a visibly distraught Sneddon. “I felt like we had the game in hand at one point. I thought we took two very poor penalties that hurt our teamthe five minute hit from behind was the correct call, its a bad penalty and then we take another one later on to give them life again.
“We stayed persistent and were able to draw that penalty, added MacDonald. “Its when you score the goals, not necessarily how many.
Trailing 3-2 with time running out, MacDonald pulled Hutton with 1:03 left in regulation in a last-ditch attempt to secure the equalizer. Just seconds later, Stalberg stole a loose puck in the neutral zone and appeared to have a good look at the empty net but was hauled down as he gained the Lowell blue line. Instead of calling a penalty, the referees kept their whistles in their pockets and continued play.
The non-call proved costly as Schaus unleashed a one-timer from the top of the right circle that trickled through Madores pads with just 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the score and force overtime.
“We dont worry about the refs, said Lawson. “We try not to let that affect us. Every team is going to get bad calls against them. Im sure they had bad calls that they thought shouldnt have been penalties or should have been penalties and they had to deal with the same thing.
After a back and forth, hold your breath 19:58 of sudden death overtime, Edwards capped off the improbable comeback when he took a feed from Scott Campbell at the left point and snapped a wrist shot–not his trademark slapper–through the pads of Madore with just two seconds left.
“Honestly, I dont know, its got to be a luck thing or just trying to get pucks to the net at the end of the game and getting lucky on a couple, said Edwards of his game-winner and Schaus equalizer at the end of the third period.
“Wrong players on the ice, obviouslywrong player