LOWELL, Mass. — Chris Auger scored two goals and Kory Falite had a goal and an assist as the University of Massachusetts-Lowell clinched a Hockey East playoff berth with a victory over the No.16 Vermont Catamounts in front of 5,058 fans at the Tsongas Center.
Vermonts Colin Vock led his team with a goal and an assist.
Heading into the regular season finale on Saturday night, Lowell put themselves in great position to clinch that fourth and final home playoff spot.
Vermont on the other hand will be playing for their playoff lives. They headed into the game tonight tied for fifth, and now are currently in ninth.
Massachusetts beat Maine, catapulting them one point over Vermont.
It was an interesting week to prepare because we were playing a great opponent in Vermont, and theoretically you could play well and be out of the playoffs, said River Hawks head coach Blaise MacDonald.
I thought we started the game kind of slowly, we were opportunistic on our goals. As the game went we started to play well, I was really proud of how we overcame a 2-1 lead. Kory Falite made a great play on a turnover and we finished. I thought it came down to our special teams, we were really good on the kill and opportunistic on the power play.
Lowell looked a little sluggish all period, but they got on the board first at 5:06. Scott Campbell received a pass from Riley Wetmore in front and beat goalie Rob Madore (30 saves) through the five-hole.
It took Vermont only four minutes to tie the score at 1. Vermont forward Tobias Nilsson-Roos got the puck from behind the Lowell net, and found a streaking Vock coming down the right side. Vock received the pass and beat Carter Hutton (25 saves) short side.
The Catamounts came out in the second and took the lead at 3:11. Vock got the puck at the right circle hash marks, and made a pass to Brayden Irwin, standing at the top of the circle. He fired a one-timer that beat Hutton high over the left shoulder.
The tides turned as Lowell tied it up at 2, when Kory Falite stole the puck at his own blue line and was off on a breakaway. He skated into the zone and snapped a shot beating Madore on his blocker side.
Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon thought that the Falite goal was a momentum changer.
It was a momentum swing for us because the [Chris] McCarthy play actually was a great scoring opportunity, said Sneddon We go from a having a good scoring opportunity to a spot where we want him to shoot the puck, to an unfortunate turnover to their top goal scorer, giving him an easy goal.
That goal seemed to spark the Lowell offense, scoring two more goals in the second, taking a 4-2 lead into the third.
He kind of turned and he was on his forehand so I saw a guy on my left, so I just put my stick out there and I was gone from there. He actually overplayed me on the blocker side, and he moved over a little bit and opened up the hole, said Kory Falite
Lowells third goal was scored by Ben Holmstrom. Holmstrom knocked in a loose puck that hit the post, from a shot by Falite.
The final goal of the period was scored by Chris Auger at 10:47, while on the power play. He shot the puck from the blue line, and beat Madore high blocker side.
Lowell came out in the third looking to shutdown the Catamount attack, and they did just that. They did a great job of not letting UVM gain much momentum through the neutral zone.
When UVM did get into the zone, they were not able to mount any good scoring chances. Lowells defense held strong, blocking shots and keeping the shooting lanes open to allow Hutton to see any shot.
With about three minutes to play; down by two, UVM pulled their goaltender to try and get back into the game. River Hawks forward Auger jumped out of the penalty box and beat UVM to the puck and put it into an open net.
I thought we lost our composure, we ended up taking some penalties that were uncharacteristic of how we have been playing. We just seemed to get really rattled, and for those five minutes, that really was the difference in the game, said Sneddon.
Obviously, Lowell is a great team when they play with the lead. In the third I thought they [Lowell] played really smart, they didnt give us many opportunities. Weve got to be better from the net out.
MacDonald said his team needs to match or exceed the urgency from Vermont.
We are playing a team that is playing for their playoff lives. We have to at least match if not exceed their urgency. Weve got to play with solid structure and be engaged in our battles.