LOWELL, Mass. — Through two periods and change, No. 19 University of Massachusetts-Lowell had a commanding 5-1 lead, and it was looking like it was going to be a cake walk, but the Merrimack College Warriors were not about to lay down for their conference foe.
They scored three goals in the third to make it a game, but ultimately fell short, losing 5-4 in front of a crowd of 4,511 at Tsongas arena.
Despite the victory by the River Hawks, head coach Blaise MacDonald was not pleased with their overall effort.
Our inability to play with structure, and poise, we need to match or exceed their tenacity and we didnt do that consistently, he said.
River Hawks defensemen Jeremy Dehner led the scoring with a goal and three assists, while team mate Kory Falite chipped in with two goals and an assist.
Sometimes you get bounces that go your way and I just worry about the defensive part, but I look to make some plays, and look to jump up when I can, said Dehner about his performance.
Both Brandon Brodhag and Chris Barton led the way for the Warriors, scoring two goals apiece.
It only took 39 seconds, and a nifty wrap around by River Hawks forward David Vallorani to give Lowell a 1-0 lead going into the second period. Vallorani rushed down the left side into the Merrimack zone around the net and stuck it near side into an empty net.
After the lone goal of the period, it was pretty quiet. Lowell Had one power-play opportunity, but Merrimack did a nice job of not letting too many pucks get on net. They kept the play to the outside and kept the shooting lanes clear for goaltender Joe Cannata (25 saves).
Cannata made eight saves in the first period.
Merrimack had time in the zone, but never really had any good scoring chances. Any shot they had on net, was clearly seen by River Hawks goalie Nevin Hamilton (33 saves).
Merrimack tied the game at one early in the second with a power-play goal by Brodhag. He took a rebound off of the back boards, and stuffed it in past Hamilton.
Last weekend against Massachusetts, Lowell had a total of two goals through two games. In the second period alone, the River Hawks found the back of the net three times. Kory Falite accounted for two of those goals, and Paul Worthington netting the other one giving them a comfortable 4-1 lead going into the third.
The goal came off of a pretty diagonal pass by Maury Edwards to a streaking Worthington down the right side of ice in the offensive zone. It was a perfect pass that Worthington one-timed it into an empty net. Cannata couldnt get over in time. The goal came at 18:19 of the second.
The River Hawks came out in the third looking to put the Warriors away. At 8:13, Dehner notched his fifth goal of the season, while on the power play. Dehner got a rebound in the slot area beating Cannata over his right pad giving them a 5-1 lead.
Twelve seconds after Dehners goal, Barton brought the Warriors within 3 goals, when center man Chris Barton won the faceoff, getting the puck back to Barton for the one-timer. The shot beat Hamilton top-shelf over his left shoulder.
The Warriors continued putting the pressure on getting a 2-on-1 in front of the net. Joe Cucci made a nice pass to Brodhag, who was on the weak side shooting it over Hamiltons right pad. The goal came at 11:56, making it 5-3.
Regardless of the comeback attempt by the Warriors, head coach Mark Dennehy said that it is easy to play when there is nothing at stake.
The game was 5-1, we scored to make it 5-2, said Dennehy. Its easy to play when there is nothing on the line. Yeah we did make it a game at the end, and had a chance to tie the game.
Barton managed to score one more with less than a minute left to make it a final score of 5-4.
Merrimack continues their road woes going 0-11 on the road, and have now lost 10 of 11 games overall.
Lowell (13-9-2 overall, 7-6-2 in Hockey East) comes back to Tsongas arena Saturday Night to take on Boston College, who is coming off a tough 5-4 overtime loss to Boston University.
Meanwhile, Merrimack College (7-13-0, 4-9-0) is heading back home to take on Providence College at 7 p.m.