LOWELL, Mass. — The Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks may have started the season with a 1-3 record, but a 5-3 win over New Hampshire gave them their third straight win and their first in Hockey East.
Their rebound began last weekend with wins at Michigan State and Michigan, games in which their special teams also made a big turnaround from a poor start. That trend continued on this evening with their power play scoring once in three opportunities while their penalty kill stopped six of seven UNH chances with the goal against coming on a fluky shot from behind the net.
“The penalty kill was the star of the game tonight,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “Our compete level was pretty good, we passed and received very well and we got contributions from all four lines.”
Lowell seized a 3-1 lead midway through the game, but Kevin Goumas’s power-play goal from behind the net closed the margin to one, and halfway through the third period the score still remained 3-2.
Ryan McGrath then made the play of the game. He picked the pocket of Brett Pesce, outraced him to create a breakaway and buried the puck. It was his fourth goal of the year. Just 23 seconds later, Scott Wilson applied the final nail in the coffin, scoring to make it 5-2.
“It was kind of a slow start [to the season] for us,” Wilson said. “But we’ve gone back to the basics with our D-zone. We’re really playing a structured game now.
“It was a big weekend last weekend and then playing a good team like UNH – it was great to get the two points. We’re on a roll right now.”
As much as Lowell now has the positive momentum going for it, New Hampshire has the negative. The Wildcats defeated Clarkson in the season opener but have gone 0-4-1 since. They host Lowell in an important rematch on Saturday.
UNH coach Dick Umile declined, however, to label that contest an early-season, must-win game.
“The season is early,” he said. “We’ve got to battle back tomorrow. We only play Lowell twice. We’ll play them in our arena tomorrow. Hopefully, we’ll come out on top.”
New Hampshire struck first at 6:06 when Dalton Speelman sent Trevor van Riemsdyk in alone. The defenseman deked Connor Hellebuyck and slipped it through the five-hole.
It would be UNH’s only lead, one that would last little more than two minutes. Lowell went on the power play and Josh Holmstrom put in the rebound of a Zack Kamrass shot.
The River Hawks took a lead they would never relinquish at the 11-minute mark, cashing in on tape-to-tape passing from Michael Fallon in the right faceoff circle, cross-ice to Wilson, to Adam Chapie in front. It was Chapie’s third goal of the season.
Eight minutes into the second, Lowell began to pull away. Wilson put on a clinic for one shift in which he did everything but score, followed by a Chris Maniccia setup of Michael Colantone for a wide open net that Colantone couldn’t put it away. As a result, it was left for defenseman Jake Suter to give the River Hawks a 3-1 lead on a shot from the right point through a Shayne Thompson screen.
Lowell continued to press the territorial advantage, but Goumas turned the tide temporarily for UNH with his power-play strike. Reprising a goal he scored against Michigan in the opening weekend, he fired the puck from behind the net into the goaltender’s pads and it caromed into the net.
Goumas now has more goals scored from behind the net (2) than in front (1).
With the score 3-2 heading into the third, that set the stage for McGrath’s pivotal breakaway goal and Wilson’s insurance strike.
Nick Sorkin scored into the upper right corner with 19 seconds remaining for the final margin.