DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire dominated Massachusetts-Lowell, 5-0, outplaying the previously red-hot River Hawks in every component of the game.
As it extending its unbeaten streak to seven games, UNH vaulted into third place in Hockey East.
Matt Di Girolamo stopped all 31 shots for his third career shutout and first since last December 2, which also came against Lowell. Arguably, though, the majority of those shots were on the perimeter and the Wildcats as a whole played stellar team defense, limiting Lowell to few grade A chances.
Five different Wildcat goalscorers contributed on the offensive end along with six others who assisted on the goals.
The complete win came over a team that had gone on the road and swept Maine last weekend and had crushed Boston University, 7-1, before that.
UNH seized a 2-0 lead then withstood a highly dubious five-minute major penalty and game misconduct assessed to Damon Kipp and a five-on-three within that major that would have lasted 1:37.
“We went into the game looking to play a 60-minute hockey game, knowing what Lowell had accomplished in two wins up at Maine and really taking it to BU,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “We played at a quick pace tonight. We were quick.
“That’s as good as we’ve played all season in all facets of the game. We got a great penalty kill on the five-minute major. All the lines contributed. I was really pleased with the team effort tonight.”
The only negative for New Hampshire was a serious looking arm injury suffered by Dalton Speelman. The first-line winger lay on the ice for some time and needed assistance, cradling his arm, as he left the ice. A boarding penalty was assessed on the play and the Wildcats used that power play to score their second goal, but now must hope the win was not a Pyrrhic victory.
As well as the Wildcats performed, the River Hawks played every bit as poorly.
“We didn’t show up tonight,” first-year Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “We probably need to go back home and rest a little bit and figure out who we are again. We’ve played some very good hockey this year, some Lowell hockey, and that was not Lowell hockey. We deserved what we got out there.
“We didn’t win any puck battles. We certainly didn’t outhustle our opponent. [A loss like this] is what you get when you don’t work hard in this league.”
UNH enjoyed the best of the first period, both territorially and on the scoreboard. The Wildcats would finish with a deceptively close 17-14 shot advantage, but generated most of the quality opportunities.
At 6:20, they got on the scoreboard on a Jeff Silengo shot from 20 feet out that deflected in off a Lowell defender.
It appeared that they doubled the lead with little more than two minutes left in the period. Nick Sorkin walked out in front, shot, and after a save by Brian Robbins, the puck popped into the air. Though Moses argued it went in off his face, the ruling was that it had been gloved in and the goal was waved off.
The period ended with the score still 1-0, advantage UNH, but with more than a minute of a Lowell power play carrying over into the second.
Instead, it would be the Wildcats who would score on the man advantage resulting from the Speelman injury. Stevie Moses skated into the slot and ripped off a nice shot. The puck caromed to Kevin Goumas on the left post with a wide open net, but he couldn’t pivot fast enough and his attempt to put it in slid across the goal crease. Sorkin and Moses both took whacks at it with Moses knocking it in.
Lowell received a gift-wrapped opportunity to get back into the game when Kipp was assessed his five-minute major for a hit from behind that appeared to be only a hit from the side. When a cross-check penalty followed, the River Hawks projected to be on a five-on-three advantage for 1:37.
After several blocked shots by Greg Burke, however, Kevin McCarey negated much of Lowell’s advantage, picking off a cross-ice pass and rushing up ice to kill precious time and then draw a penalty to close the manpower gap.
“[The major and five-on-three] could have been a real turning point,” Bazin said. “We didn’t take advantage of that. It’s one thing not having passes that click, but it’s another when you lose puck battles even five-on-three. We lost the one puck battle in the corner [leading to the McCarey play] and that was a microcosm of the game.”
John Henrion made it 3-0 off a faceoff at 17:21 of the second period. Goals by McCarey and Casey Thrush midway through the third extended the lead to 5-0 and sealed Lowell’s coffin.
The River Hawks (5-4-0, 3-3-0 HEA) look to get back on track hosting Massachusetts on Saturday while UNH (5-4-2, 4-3-1, HEA) travels to BU.