BOSTON – Two of college hockey’s most successful teams of late matched up on Saturday night at Matthews Arena and it was the host Northeastern Huskies that earned a 3-2 victory over the No. 18 UMass-Lowell River Hawks in the opener of the head-to-head season series between the teams.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said UML coach Norm Bazin. “I thought we certainly gave what we had left, but it was not enough tonight.”
The victory was Northeastern’s sixth in a row and fifth straight in the head-to-head series with the River Hawks. NU has not dropped a contest to Lowell since Jan. 9, 2010.
“That’s a very good hockey team we just played,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan. “They are well-coached, they play fast, they think fast…I did not think we had our legs early, but they come at you.”
“There’s going to be a lot of one-goal games in this league and we have to find a way to win those games. I credit our guys for finding a way to win the game…We’ve been a few [close games] lately and we had to find a way to come on the plus side. These were two big points to bring us back into the Hockey East race.”
The teams skated to a scoreless first period, but that was not without some strong chances at both ends. Each goaltender had a strong stanza as NU junior Chris Rawlings and Lowell sophomore Doug Carr were each equal to the task.
Possibly the best chance of the period came in the waning seconds when freshman Scott Wilson’s wrist shot went wide left of Rawlings’ cage and skimmed the side of the net.
In the period, the Huskies out-shot the River Hawks by a 15-12 margin and 21-19 in total chances.
After such a strong opening period for both sides, the Huskies took advantage of a fluky bounce in order to take the 1-0 lead just over three minutes into the second period. Freshman Adam Reid was credited with his second goal of the season, taking a shot from the end line that somehow found its way through Carr.
Zak Stone and Dan Cornell were credited with assists as the Chino Hills, Calif. native scored for the second time in three games after potting his first-collegiate goal in a 9-2 drubbing at Notre Dame last Friday.
“They work hard,” Madigan said of his fourth line, which connected for the score. “They got a goal last week…and they go down low well and protect pucks. When you do the right things, you are going to get those breaks and that’s what we are pleased with.”
At the 13:02 mark of the period, the River Hawks tied the game on a textbook play with junior Riley Wetmore winning a face-off to Wilson for a one-timer that beat a surprised Rawlings over the shoulder.
The goal was the sixth of the season for the Oakville, Ont. native and first in three games.
The River Hawks had the better of the chances, 24-16, in the middle stanza and out-shot Northeastern by a 15-11 margin.
In the third, Northeastern had an early chance to take the lead as a shot was blocked and Cody Ferriero took the puck in on a clean breakaway. He got a little too fancy with a toe-drag move along the left side and the puck was steered away.
The Huskies took the lead back at 4:25 of the third as a pair of sophomores connected on a pretty play in the offensive zone. Ferriero took the initial shot from the side of the left wing circle, but defenseman Anthony Bitetto was right in front to redirect the puck past Carr for the score.
With four minutes to go, Bazin opted to pull Carr from his net and junior Steve Quailer iced the puck into an empty net at 16:03. In a close game, pulling the goaltender is a typical situation but it left many scratching their heads when coming at such a late point in the game.
“I don’t regret that,” Basin said. “I thought we did not execute in what we had drawn up [in the timeout] and I probably had the wrong combination on the ice, but I don’t regret that one bit. I would take that same opportunity again if it presented itself.”
“They have been executing so far this year and I would say that I have been very proud of their effort. Tonight, we did not have that same urgency or battle that we’ve had and there is no excuse for that.”
The River Hawks got one back at 18:37 when sophomore Derek Arnold scored on a slapper from the left circle, beating Rawlings low for the score.
UML handily out-chanced Northeastern in the third, doing so by a 33-10 margin and 76-47 in the contest overall. In shots on goal, the Royal and Red held a 46-31 advantage in shots on net.
Carr finished the contest with 29 saves in 58:52 of time, while Rawlings stopped 38 shots to extend the Huskies’ first six-game winning streak since the 1997-98 season.
“He’s been great for us,” said Ferriero, an Essex native, on the play of his team’s junior goaltender. “Behind those Beanpot games [last year], he was big for us. We always know he is going to have our back there, so we can take some chances.”
The Huskies, which returned to .500 at 7-7-2 overall and 4-7-2 in conference play, come back to action following the Christmas holiday with a contest against Princeton at the Mariucci Classic on Dec. 30.
“I see our team maturing,” Madigan said. “By that I mean, we are getting better in practice and creating better habits…We’ve got a long way to go still, but I like the way we are maturing.”