BOSTON — It wasn’t pretty, but in the end for the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks, Saturday’s victory over the Northeastern Huskies was simply a much-needed win.
After surrendering a three-goal lead in the final 13:10 of regulation, Lowell’s Michael Scheu scored his second goal of the game with 25.9 seconds remaining in overtime as the River Hawks spoiled an incredible comeback effort by the Huskies and Lowell earned a 6-5 victory in front of 2,560 at Matthews Arena.
When Scheu scored his first goal of the game at 1:52 of the third to give Lowell a 5-2 lead, it looked like the goal would be the icing on the cake for the River Hawks.
Thanks to a barrage of Lowell penalties however, Northeastern clawed its way back, getting goals from Kyle Kraemer, Jim Driscoll and Wade MacLeod over an 8:47 second span to knot the game, 5-5, with 4:23 remaining.
However, the River Hawks stemmed the Northeastern tide, turned their focus to offense and, just when the game looked headed for a draw, stole victory.
“We’re very proud of our team, our mental toughness to overcome that third period to win the game,” said Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald. “There’s a lot of pride in that locker room.”
Across the hall, what would have been plenty of pride for the Huskies turned to horror and frustration for coach Greg Cronin, thanks to a defensive breakdown in the final minute of overtime. The Huskies appeared ready to transition to the rush when the puck was turned over at the offense blue line and a lapse by both Huskies’ defensemen turned a three-on-three rush to a two-on-none break for the River Hawks.
“In a million years, I wouldn’t think that would’ve happened,” said Cronin of the defensive mistake that led to Scheu’s game-winner. “When there are two [defensemen] on the ice and they’re supposed to keep five guys in front of them and they end up chasing two guys. I mean, c’mon.
“The team fought too hard to come back to give the game away. Thats what we did.”
Frustration aside, both teams played at a spirited pace throughout the game. There were certainly more ebbs and flow to the game than many coaches would prefer, but for those in attendance, they certainly got their money’s worth.
Lowell’s offense got off to a quick start when Chris Auger scored just 1:17 into the game. Moving from the right halfboards to the slot, Auger uncorked a wrist shot over Northeastern netminder Chris Rawlings’ (25 saves) glove and under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead.
The River Hawks extended the lead on a perfect redirect by Paul Worthington at 7:53 and opened a three-goal lead when Jeremy Dehner scored on a wrap around at 11:20.
Northeastern climbed back into the game late in the frame. After Hutton stonewalled Mike McLaughlin on a short-handed breakaway at 12:38, he couldn’t stop a two-on-one when Tyler McNeely saucered a nifty pass to Kyle Kraemer at 15:23 to pull the Huskies to 3-1 through one.
The River Hawks held a massive territorial advantage in the opening period, and that translated to the shot, chart as Lowell outshot Northeastern, 14-5.
Northeastern balanced things better in the second, but it was the River Hawks that scored the period’s only goal.
Lowell’s Kory Falite won an offensive zone draw to Nick Schaus at the right point. Schaus feathered a wrister to the net soft enough that Scott Campbell could catch the puck on his blade, make a move around Rawlings and deposit the shot into an empty net at 7:47.
Trailing by three, Northeastern began to mount its comeback.
Rookie blueliner Jake Newton scored short-handed 55 seconds into the third. During the same Lowell power play, the River Hawks answered, as Scheu potted a rebound 57 seconds later to regain the three-goal lead.
Three Lowell penalties in a 1:48 span though gave Northeastern an extended five-on-three power play.
Northeastern scored with the man advantage on Kraemer’s second of the night at 6:50. Timing, though, was on Lowell’s side, as the goal came a second after the first penalty expired, allowing the River Hawks to return two of the three men to the ice. Lowell killed off the remaining penalty, but that simply delayed the Huskies’ comeback.
After Driscoll scored an even-strength goal at 14:49, MacLeod sent the Matthews Arena crowd into pandemonium, snapping a shot into the upper right corner on a power play at 15:37.
Lowell, though, regained its composure, particularly in the overtime period, where it outshot the Huskies, 3-1.
“I think our assistant coaches did a really good job calming the team down,” said MacDonald. “That’s the first step. And [assistant coach] Shawn [MacEachern] did a wonderful job of pushing them to victory.”
The victory caps a three-point road weekend for the River Hawks, who tied New Hampshire, 2-2, in Durham on Friday. Lowell improves to 6-4-1 in Hockey East and 12-7-1 overall and jumps ahead of Massachusetts for fourth place in the league standings.
Northeastern, which fell to 8-9-1 (4-8-1 Hockey East), must regroup quickly, as it will play a rare Sunday night contest against Massachusetts at home. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.