ORONO, Maine — A bit of good luck helped the fifth-seed University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks knot up the first game of their Hockey East Tournament best-of-three quarterfinal series Friday against fourth-seed Maine, and senior center and captain Ben Holmstrom’s third period goal propelled them to a 2-1 win at Alfond Arena.
Holmstrom’s game-winning goal of a defensive affair came 6:55 into the third period and broke a 1-1 tie that held from the first period. He batted a bouncing puck out of mid-air that was sent to the net from the left point by junior defenseman Ryan Blair.
There’s not a lot of space out there and you’ve really got to work to get your shots to the net, Holmstrom said. Goals are tough to come by.
The River Hawks tied the game at 1-1 on a power play with just over a minute remaining in the first period when senior defenseman Jeremy Dehner’s centering pass out of the corner redirected into the net off a Maine defenseman.
Lowell (19-14-4) was 0-12 against Maine all-time in Hockey East Tournament play heading into the contest, with the previous meeting coming in the 2006 quarterfinals. Maine took the regular season series from the River Hawks 2-1 with a win at home
and one on the road.
This is great for the school, but we had no doubts coming in, Lowell senior goaltender Carter Hutton said. It’s going to be a great battle tomorrow.
Hutton and Maine senior goalie Dave Wilson were both effective against limited shot production. Lowell out-shot Maine 21-19. Hutton (13-10-2) turned away 18 shots for the win while Wilson (0-4-0) stopped 19.
I thought it was a very well played game defensively by both teams, Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said. It was difficult to create opportunities. I thought their goalie played really well, and the game could have gone either way.
Maine (16-16-3) entered the tournament with the nation’s most efficient power play (29.5 percent), but could not capitalize on five chances with the man advantage. They managed just six shots in their five power plays combined. Lowell went
one-for-three on the power play.
Their power play had a lot of good looks, but we blocked a lot of key shots, Hutton said.
They were just all over us, Maine junior defenseman Jeff Dimmen said. Especially right from the dump-in, they pressured us pretty good and didn’t let us set up.
Maine freshman defenseman Mark Nemec’s first career goal gave the Black Bears a 1-0 lead 5:00 into the first period. Nemec watched Lowell’s first power play from the penalty box, but exited just as freshman right wing Joey Diamond started on a shorthanded breakout. Nemec took Diamond’s pass in the high slot and beat Hutton with a wrist shot. It was one of just five shots in the period for Maine.
I’ve been scored on early, Hutton said. It’s one of those things, you kind of forget what’s behind you.
Maine had a potential go-ahead goal waived off midway through the second period after official video review could not overturn the ruling that the play had been whistled dead before the puck was whacked free from Hutton’s control and poked across the goal line by Maine center Klas Leidermark.
The teams will meet again Saturday at 7 p.m., and at the same time Sunday, if necessary.
That’s a step in the right direction, Holmstrom said.We’ve still got a lot of work to go.