LOWELL, Mass. – Fresh off a 3-0 shutout of rival Merrimack on Friday night, the UMass-Lowell River Hawks entered Saturday’s game against No. 12 Maine as the new No. 1 team in the Hockey East standings and the PairWise Rankings.
Unfortunately for the hosts, this contest did not have the same success as the Black Bears salvaged the series finale by squeaking out a 2-1 win – literally at the final buzzer.
With one second left, junior Riley Wetmore had an open right half of the net to shoot at, but Maine sophomore Dan Sullivan had his catching glove out on the ice to stop the puck although he did not see the puck go on goal. The play came on a scrum in front of the net and was picked up at a later glance.
“Obviously, we came out on the short end of the stick,” said UML head coach Norm Bazin. “Kudos to them; They competed very hard. I thought it was a winnable game. I thought the posts and the missed breakaway early in the game came back to haunt us. When you have chances and you don’t finish, it’s your own fault.”
“We did hit one of our objectives and that was to keep the highest scoring line in the nation – [Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn, and Joey Diamond] off the board. It was not a poor, poor game by us. We just did not capitalize enough on our chances.”
Before falling to Providence on Friday at Schneider Arena, the Black Bears were unbeaten in seven straight. Tonight’s road win was Maine’s third in four games, dating back to a weekend sweep at Boston University on Jan. 27-28.
“It was a great bounce back game by us,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “I thought we managed the lead very well and thought we had some glorious chances to make it 3-1…Once it’s done, you like the fact that it stayed tight and we found a way to keep it out of the net.”
The loss snaps a five-game winning streak for the River Hawks, which dates back to Jan. 24 – a 1-0 loss to Providence.
The Black Bears were first on the scoreboard at the 16:45 mark of the first period as junior Kyle Beattie took a pass from classmate Adam Shemansky for his fourth goal of the season.
The Arizona native and New Hampshire Junior Monarchs product took the puck into the offensive zone and beat UML sophomore goalie Doug Carr on a low, glove-side shot for his first goal since Jan. 20 against Boston College.
“He’s tremendous,” Whitehead commented. “He and I talked [after a tough game last night] and I thought he and his line responded real well. The poise he showed on the power play was tremendous and I was very impressed with his game tonight. He was solid.”
UML controlled the majority of the play in the first period but had nothing to show for it, despite a 14-6 shots on goal edge and 21-12 mark in total chances.
UML had a good chance to knot the score early in the second period as senior David Vallorani flew into the zone with speed, but his shot was stopped quickly as Maine sophomore Dan Sullivan closed the five-hole to keep the score in the visitor’s favor.
Carr still stood tall, as he has done all season long, stopping a wide-open junior Matt Mangene on a shot in the slot with 7:50 left in the period.
The River Hawks tied the score at 1-1 at 15:22 as junior Colin Wright took the puck around to the front from behind the goal, beating Sullivan low for his third goal of the season and second in third games.
Maine re-gained its one-goal lead with 1:23 left in the second period as Beattie fed Mangene with a pretty cross-ice pass for the one-time deflection past Carr on the power play. Mangene has now scored a goal in each of his last five games, dating back to a 3-2 win at Agganis Arena on Jan. 28.
The Black Bears took control of the middle period, topping the River Hawks by ten total chances and a six-shot differential on target.
Both teams had great chances in the final period, especially Lowell’s flurry on Sullivan in the latter minutes. The River Hawks had a 19-18 total chances advantage in the final frame, while both teams took ten shots on net.
Both goaltenders had outstanding games and both coaches agreed. Carr fell to 18-5-0 on the season, despite making 32 saves. Sullivan improved to 16-6-3 with a 35-save effort for the Black Bears.
“I thought we did not get the amount of net traffic we needed to capitalize,” Bazin said. “[Sullivan’s] best save was probably the last one, when we finally had someone on him, but it was too little, too late.”
“He was great,” said Whitehead of his sophomore goaltender from York, Penn. “I thought he went toe-to-toe with Carr and I am real proud of him.”
UML returns to the ice next weekend in a crucial home-and-home series with top-ranked Boston University, including the finale of a six-game homestand at the Tsongas Center on Friday night. The Terriers fell to UMass at Agganis Arena on Friday and will face rival BC in the Beanpot Championship on Monday at TD Garden.
Maine is back at Alfond Arena for three of the final five games, including a two-game series next Friday and Saturday against the Minutemen.