LOWELL, Mass. — The Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks held on for a 3-2 win against New Hampshire on Friday night in front of a record-breaking crowd of 6,826 at the Tsongas Center.
With the win, Lowell improves to 5-3-0 in Hockey East and 8-4-0 overall. The Wildcats fall to 4-5-1 in Hockey East and 6-7-2 overall.
“We want to prove something everyday,” said Massachusetts-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “We know we’re a pretty good hockey club, and we needed to play like it from the start.”
The atmosphere was revved up from the beginning, with the Stanley Cup being held on display at the concourse, and that energy seemed to spill over into the game, as the teams battled hard physically.
Lowell took an early lead when Josh Holmstrom came down the boards and fired a shot on Matt DiGiralamo from a low angle. DiGiralamo made the initial save, but kicked a close rebound to Stephen Buco. Buco then batted the puck at the goal and then lifted the second rebound into the mesh. The goal was Buco’s first career tally.
It did not take long for the Wildcats to respond when Greg Burke scored on a one-timer in front of the net halfway through the first period. John Henrion chipped the puck down to Grayson Downing behind the net. Downing then slid the puck in front to Burke, who sent it into the mesh to level the score at one. The goal was Burke’s second of the year.
Terrence Wallin gave the lead back to the home team just a few minutes later when he banked home a rebound for his third goal of the season. Joseph Pendenza skated the puck out from the half boards to the point where he was able to get it to Chad Ruhwedel. Ruhwedel then wristed the puck through on DiGiralamo, who kicked a rebound to an unmarked Wallin.
Buco nearly netted his second goal just moments later. Skating in one-on-three, Buco wristed a shot that beat DiGiralamo glove side. The puck rang the top corner of the post and bounced away, holding the Wildcats deficit to one at the end of the first stanza.
With a little more than five minutes left in the second period, Lowell finally doubled its lead. Malcolm Lyles received a bouncing puck at the top of the left circle and sent a wrist shot toward the net into traffic. The rebound found its way to David Vallorani, who slid the puck into an empty net for his third goal of the season.
“It was a good play from Colin Wright,” said Vallorani. “He made a good pass to Malcolm Lyles, and I just got the rebound at the open net.”
Lowell goaltender Doug Carr came up big partway through the final period when he turned away a breakaway chance from Henrion. Henrion broke past the Lowell defense and came in all alone on Carr. Carr got his pad out to knock the backhanded shot away. The sophomore goaltender finished with 33 saves.
“I think this was his best game of the last three,” Bazin said of Carr, who was riding a two-game shutout streak coming into the contest. “He really gave us the chance to win, and he’s had a great season.”
The Wildcats brought the game a goal closer just three minutes later when Justin Agosta sent the puck through the crease to Mike Borisenok, who banked it in to cut the deficit to one.
The pressure kept mounting from New Hampshire in the final 10 minutes, but Carr stood tall in net, and the River Hawks penalty kill shut down two straight power plays late to seal the deal.
“”We’ve got to give it to [Carr], because we played well in the third period,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We didn’t play well in the first two though, and the goals that we gave up were from leaving guys uncovered. We were playing physical, but we weren’t taking good shots in the first two periods. We need to play like we did in the third period for 60 minutes tomorrow.”
Both teams travel up to Durham to have a rematch Saturday night at the Whittemore Center.