College Hockey:
Late Grant goal paces Minnesota State over Massachusetts-Lowell

— Just when the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks thought things couldn’t get much worse, now Lady Luck seems to be rooting against them.

Following an ugly 8-3 loss to Minnesota State on Friday, the River Hawks responded with a solid effort on Saturday, only to have an attempt by rookie Joe Caveney to clear the puck from in front of the net hit Mavericks winger Chase Grant in the shin and bounce into the net. The goal broke a 2-2 deadlock with 14:12 remaining in the third, giving MSU a 3-2 victory in front of an announced crowd of 3,547 at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena.

“I’d rather be a little lucky at times than good every time,” said Mavericks coach Troy Jutting. “I thought we had a lot of great opportunities to score that we didn’t score on and then we got a little bit of a leaker. Good bounce, fortunate bounce for us.”

“This season we haven’t had a lot of puck luck go our way,” said Lowell sophomore Riley Wetmore, who scored both of Lowell’s goals on Saturday to extend his team lead in both goals and points. “But we have to create our own [luck]. We’ve got to get the puck in front of the net and win a battle. We had that all night and didn’t win one of those battles.”

The River Hawks did rebound from Friday’s abysmal 8-3 loss with a strong opening 20 minutes. Lowell had a 12-7 advantage in shots and scored the period’s only goal.

Wetmore buried a wrist shot at 18:15. Seconds earlier, Wetmore had attempted to wheel around the net, only to be thwarted by a great poke check by Minnesota State goaltender Phil Cook (26 saves). Before you could blink though, a Minnesota State defender attempted to clear the puck, only to put it right on Wetmore’s stick, who snapped it high blocker side for the 1-0 lead.

It was the first time in the season that the River Hawks held a lead at the end of the first or second period.

“Lowell came out with great energy in the first period,” said Jutting. “They really played hard. They were a real challenge for us.”

The Mavericks woke up to begin the second though, and dominated the first 15 minutes of the frame. Just 1:42 in, Zach Kehrke evened things, finishing off a three-on-two with a shot just under the crossbar.

It was a similar situation to Friday, when MSU broke open a 2-2 tie early in the  second. In that game, the floodgates opened as the Mavericks posted four straight goals.

“We have a hard time coming out to start each period mentally,” said Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald. “It’s really hurt us. The beginning and end of each period this weekend has been a nemesis and that’s something we need to solve.”

Saturday though, Doug Carr was strong in the River Hawks net and stopped 19 of 20 shots in the middle period to send the game to the third knotted at one.

In the third, once again Lowell was sluggish at the opening and 55 seconds in, the Mavericks took their first lead. After Carr made a stop on the initial rush, the  rebound eventually bounced to Kurt Davis. The defenseman fired a quick wrist shot from the top of the right circle inside the right post for the 2-1 lead.

Things looked to get worse for Lowell when Caveney was whistled for hooking just  six seconds later, but Wetmore was able to take advantage of a Mavericks miscue on the power play, break in two-on-one and slide a shot five-hole on Cook to knot the game at two at 2:48.

That though, only let Lady Luck enter the picture and after Grant was credited with the go-ahead goal, the Mavericks played solid defensively, allowing just five shots total in the final 20.

The win gives MSU (4-6-4, 2-6-2 WCHA) the weekend sweep, its first back-to-back wins of the season.

Lowell (2-10-2, 2-8-0 Hockey East), on the other hand, has dropped five straight and nine of its last 10.

Things won’t get much easier as the River Hawks will host No. 6 New Hampshire on Thursday. Minnesota State will return to WCHA action next Friday with a two-game series at home against in-state rival Minnesota.

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