College Hockey:
Goaltenders shine as Merrimack and Mass.-Lowell battle to draw

— Two power-play goals apiece were not enough to determine a winner between Merrimack College and Massachusetts-Lowell in the rubber game of their season series in front of 5,876 at the Tsongas Center. The tie is the first of the year for Mass.-Lowell, the final team in Division I hockey to play to a stalemate.

“We’ve come here and played well twice in this building,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “We obviously wish that we got more than a point out of it.”

Merrimack got on the board first at 4:35 of the first period. Working the puck around on a power play, Kyle Bigos faked a slap shot before wristing it toward the net. Stationed in front of the net, Mike Collins deflected the puck by Carr to give the Warriors the early lead. The goal was Collins’ eighth of the season.

Mass.-Lowell came close to leveling the score toward the end of the first period. Immediately following an unsuccessful power play, Derek Arnold one-timed a perfect pass at the bottom of the left circle toward a gaping net. However, a diving block by Kyle Singleton kept the puck out of the net and the River Hawks off the board through the beginning stanza.

Mass.-Lowell finally evened the score midway through the second period on a power-play goal by David Vallorani. After coming up empty on their three previous power plays, the River Hawks were struggling to gain entrance into the Warriors’ zone when Joseph Pendenza ripped the puck along the boards from the blue line to Matt Ferreira. Ferreira then sent a pass through the crease that was slammed into the mesh by Vallorani for his 10th goal of the season.

Neither team was able to generate any real rhythm through most of the third period, but after Michael Budd received two minutes for cross-checking, Collins and the Merrimack power play broke through for their second lead of the night.

After a faceoff win, Bigos sent the puck down to Connor Toomey behind the net. Toomey then passed it to Collins on the outside of the right circle, who then fired a wrist shot that beat Carr, who was cheating the shot, glove side.

“Right before we went out, coach told us to try that play,” said Collins. “We’ve got to be happy with [our power-play production].”

The River Hawks’ final tally was scored with just three minutes remaining in regulation. On a power play, Scott Wilson fed the puck to Josh Holmstrom in the slot from behind the net, who wristed it through Joe Cannata for his ninth goal of the season.

“[Wilson] threw it out and I just put it on net,” said Holmstrom. “It hit a defenseman and trickled through. It was a lucky bounce.”

Neither team created any substantial chances through the remainder of regulation and overtime.

“I thought more importantly than getting the point was that we got back to playing Lowell hockey,” said Mass.-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “To come back with a good effort was very important to us.”

As billed, both goaltenders performed well, with Carr making 28 stops and Cannata turning away 26.

The River Hawks return to action next weekend for their final series of the season against Providence College, while Merrimack, which is currently tied for the final home ice slot in Hockey East, plays a home-and-home with Massachusetts.

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