BOSTON — A risky coaching maneuver made by No. 18 Massachusetts-Lowell late in the third period paid dividends. Just to the wrong team.
River Hawks coach Norm Bazin pulled goaltender Doug Carr to gain a six-on-four advantage during Northeastern blueliner Josh Manson’s hooking penalty at 16:33. Unfortunately for Lowell, the presence of two extra men on the ice could not prevent Huskies winger Steve Quailer from clearing the puck directly in to the River Hawks’ empty net at 16:03 in the final frame, securing a 3-2 victory.
“I don’t regret that,” Bazin said. “I thought we failed to execute on what we had drawn up, and I probably had the wrong combination on the ice. But that happens. I don’t regret that decision one bit and I would take that same opportunity again if it presented itself.”
Quailer’s empty netter — which extended Northeastern’s win streak to a season-high six games — extinguished Lowell’s late-game fireworks and the River Hawks’ own five-game hot streak. Lowell is now winless against the Huskies in their last five clashes, and has come away empty handed in five of its last six opportunities.
But it was not for lack of effort.
“I didn’t think we had our legs early in the game, but credit to that, because [the River Hawks] come at you.” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. “It’s not a surprise that they are where they are in the league, because they’re a good hockey club.”
The first period was a draw, with neither team able to chip away at the scoreless stalemate. The squads were nearly parallel in all aspects of play, including simultaneous penalties at 5:28 and an almost equal number of shots on net.
Northeastern’s fourth line broke the stranglehold first in the second stanza. At 3:01, Huskies left winger Adam Reid worked the puck deep in the River Hawks’ zone behind Carr. Reid threw the puck in front of the net in traffic, and it deflected off Lowell defender Chad Ruhwedel and found twine. Linemate Zak Stone and defenseman Dan Cornell received helpers on the Reid’s second effort of the season.
“They work hard — they got a goal last week at Notre Dame,” Madigan said. “They keep it down low well and they try to protect pucks and get pucks to the net.”
The River Hawks answered back by lighting the lamp 10 minutes later. Lowell center Stephen Buco won the draw and dropped the puck to linemate Scott Wilson waiting in the slot. Wilson roofed the equalizer over the shoulder of Northeastern netminder Chris Rawlings.
At 4:25 in the third period, Northeastern blueliner Anthony Bitetto passed the puck across to winger Cody Ferriero low in the left circle. Ferriero rifled a slap shot on net that Bitetto tipped past Carr for the go-ahead goal.
“I was just staying wide, [Bitetto] just cut through the middle, but he kept going to the net when he dished it wide,” Ferriero said of Bitetto’s goal. “I just pulled up because I had a little bit of time, and Tony was just going through. It just deflected off his stick.”
Quailer’s empty-net goal gave the Huskies some short-lived insurance until the River Hawks pulled their goalie during another power play, this time with more success.
At 18:37, Lowell winger David Vallorani slid a pass across to linemate Derek Arnold in the left circle. During another six-on-four advantage, Arnold launched a wrist shot past Rawlings to bring the River Hawks within striking distance as the clock wound down.
However, Rawlings, who made 38 saves in the game, kept Lowell from getting the equalizer.
“Chris [Rawlings] has played so well,” Madigan said. “He’s kept us in games. He’s been fabulous. He plays with so much confidence, he gives our team confidence, and we can take some chances at times.”
With the victory, Northeastern climbs back to .500 with a record of 7-7-2. The Huskies will have to put their win streak on ice for three weeks as the squad enters the mid-season holiday break.
“You win six in a row, you don’t want to stop,” Madigan said. “But I think it’s the right time. We’ll regenerate and re-energize, come back on the 26th, and get it going again when we head up to Minnesota.”