AMHERST, Mass. — University of Massachusetts forward James Marcou added two points to his nation-leading total on Friday night. Yet, it was his younger brother, Michael, whose goal was the difference maker in a 3-2 win over Hockey East foe UMass-Lowell at the Mullins Center.
T.J. Syner added two points for UMass. Jeremy Dehner countered with two points for the River Hawks.
I thought we played pretty well. We just had a hard time getting the bounces to go our way, said Lowell head coach Blaise McDonald
The conference battle pitted two very evenly matched teams. Coming into the night, both teams had 12 wins and shared fourth place in Hockey East with 14 points apiece.
That was a very hard fought, Hockey East prototype game, said UMass head coach Don Toot Cahoon. It was physicality, there was pretty good skating, both teams played hard enough to generate plenty of shots and chances, goaltenders played well. There was a portion of the game where I thought we carried the play, and there was certainly a portion of the game where they carried the play.
Each team shared space in the penalty box during the first period, but the offensive opportunities favored the Minutemen. UMass first good opportunity of the night occurred just under six minutes into the game. The puck squirted free to Rocco Carzo, who was uncovered in front of the crease, but River Hawks goaltender Nevin Hamilton squashed the Carzo shot.
Twenty seconds later, Danny Hobbs snuck behind the Lowell defense. Defenseman Nick Schaus denied Hobbs a quality scoring opportunity but was whistled for hooking in the process.
UMass capitalized just 16 seconds into the ensuing power play when senior Will Ortiz buried his 11th goal of the season on a rebound from inside the slot. Justin Braun and James Marcou were credited with the assists.
With the marker, Ortiz has earned 22 points on the season, a career high.
UMass appeared to take a two goal lead at 10:51 of the first when Hobbs slipped the puck past Hamilton. However, after an official review, the goal was waived off when it was ruled that the puck was played with a high stick.
The lone goal of the period also proved to be the lone special teams goal of the night. The two teams combined to go 1-10 on the power play.
Shortly into the second period, Minuteman defenseman Doug Kublin was sent to the penalty box for tripping. With that power play, Lowell began building some offensive momentum. Scott Campbell capped off a strong man advantage with a hefty shot from inside the left circle, but UMass netminder Pail Dainton turned it away.
However, the growing offensive pressure didnt produce any tangible offensive results for the River Hawks. So, midway through the stanza, Dehner took matters into his own hands.
Collecting the puck in his defensive zone, he outskated James Marcou and slipped through the neutral zone. With the Minuteman defense collapsing, he easily gained the attacking zone, angled to the left circle and fired a near side shot over the shoulder of Dainton, tying the game at 1-1.
Chances were traded in the latter half of the stanza, but the teams entered the locker room tied after two periods.
The seas quickly shifted as UMass top line — Marcou, Syner and Casey Wellman — regained the lead just 40 seconds into the third period. The line attacked the zone and Hamilton committed to the shooter, Syner. Syners shot clanged off the far post, kicking back slowly into the crease. Marcou, who was positioned on the post, easily swatted the rebound into the open net.
Despite falling behind, it was Lowell who seemed to regain the momentum. After the game, Cahoon suggested that the number of power plays early in the game led to UMasss lack of pressure through much of the third period.
We didnt pressure the puck like we had earlier. I dont know if we were a little leggy, said Cahoon.
Massachusetts played strong defense, but Lowell finally chipped through the armor and tied the game at the 14:54 mark, thanks to some crisp passing. David Vallorani found senior Chris Auger in front of the net for the game-tying goal.
The game seemed destined for overtime, but both teams drew penalties in the 16th minute of play. The resulting 4-on-4 play suited the Minutemen well.
At 17:41, Syner fed the puck to Brett Watson who fanned on the shot. The puck skipped over to Michael Marcou who knocked the bouncing puck into the net for the game winner. It was his first goal since December 5th, the last time the Minutemen played Lowell.
Massachusetts (13-8-0 overall, 8-6-0 in Hockey East) finished the night with 38 shots. The River Hawks (12-8-2, 6-5-2) countered with 33.
The Hockey East foes return to battle on Saturday night at Tsongas Arena in Lowell.