LOWELL, Mass. — On Friday night, in front of a crowd of 4,898, No. 1 Massachusetts-Lowell picked up a win in the first leg of the “Alumni Cup” against Massachusetts.
The victory marks the first of the year for the River Hawks, who were coming off last night’s big upset loss to Sacred Heart University.
The Minutemen drop to 0-2-0 overall and 0-1-0 in Hockey East play after dropping a contest to Boston University the evening before.
Despite both teams belonging to the same conference, Friday night’s matchup did not count as a Hockey East contest.
“We play for something called the Alumni Cup every year, and you can’t play for it if you don’t have a deciding contest,” said Mass.-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “I’m not a huge fan of shootouts, so game one tonight is a nonconference game and the other two will count in the league points.”
For the River Hawks, the victory came as a breath of fresh air after dealing with the much-criticized defeat to the Pioneers the night before.
“Getting the first win’s always big,” said Bazin. “I think Amherst played a great game tonight and didn’t quit … I’m certainly fortunate to see our team come out ahead.”
It was more of the same for the Minutemen, who again found themselves trying to claw back after getting scored on first.
“It would have been nice for us to convert on an early opportunity and be able to play with a lead,” said Massachusetts coach John Micheletto. “When you get down two in this league, it requires you to kind of commit to the rush a little bit more than you’d like, and you live by the sword, die by the sword.”
Mass.-Lowell first got on the board toward the end of the first period when sophomore forward Ryan McGrath picked up his first goal of the young campaign.
After putting up some pressure in the Massachusetts end, Michael Fallon got the puck down to Chris Maniccia along the goal line. Maniccia then sent it out in front of the net, where McGrath chipped a shot up into the mesh for a 1-0 lead.
The River Hawks doubled their lead after finally capitalizing on the man advantage. After going zero for their first 11 attempts, Joseph Pendenza picked up his second tally of the season on the power play. Pendenza picked up the puck in the left circle while working the man advantage and fired a wrist shot that beat Massachusetts goaltender Steve Mastalerz stick side.
A see-saw of a third period was kicked off with a power-play goal from the Minutemen.
The Massachusetts man-advantage worked the puck to Joel Hanley at the point, who wristed a shot that was tipped past Lowell goaltender Doug Carr by Brendan Gracel. It was Gracel’s first goal of the year.
Mass.-Lowell picked up the eventual game-winner less than five minutes later when, on a two-on-one, Scott Wilson took a shot that was padded away into the slot by Mastalerz. Defenseman Joe Houk then picked up the rebound and wristed it into the cage for his first Division I goal.
After the clubs traded a couple more goals, Maniccia iced the contest with an empty-net tally — the first of his career.
Doug Carr was strong in net for Lowell, stopping 27 of 29 shots in his first regular season action since last February. Mastalerz turned away 29 of the 33 pucks sent his way.
Mass.-Lowell moves on to a home-and-home with Quinnipiac next weekend, while the Minutemen play a pair against Michigan State.