UMass Lowell blanks Merrimack, completes weekend sweep

LOWELL – Sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves for his ninth career shutout as the UMass Lowell River Hawks completed the weekend sweep of the Merrimack College Warriors on Saturday night, 4-0.

Hellebuyck is just one shutout away from tying the UMass Lowell career record of 10, previously set by Carter Hutton (2006-10). The sophomore improves his record to 10-5-1 in his 16th start of the season.

Hellebuyck gets a lot of credit for the shutout victory over the Warriors and deservedly so, but he gets a lot of a help from his defensive core in front of him. Saturday night, the River Hawks combined for 13 blocked shots spread out among 11 different skaters.

“I thought we got contributions throughout our lineup tonight with several key goals and solid goaltending. We had a lot of things to be pleased with,” said Head Coach Norm Bazin. “I thought our net front sticks were exceptional, that and the shot blocks were two things that stand out in my mind as far a team defense goes. It was probably one of our better efforts this year in terms of block shots (13 on the night). Any time you can sweep any opponent in Hockey East, it’s quite an accomplishment, because it’s so deep.”

Merrimack College attempted 59 shots on net, 13 were blocked before getting to their target, 33 stopped by Hellebuyck and 13 missed the net completely.

The River Hawks have had to play a few men short over the past three games, but have not skipped a beat. UMass Lowell has been without key forwards Scott Wilson and Ryan McGrath, as well as key defenseman Zack Kamrass and Jake Suter. However, the River Hawks are 3-0 without them and have outscored their opponents, 14-3.

Freshmen defenseman Michael Kapla has stepped up to the plate offensively over the past few weekends. Kapla has six points over his last five games, all assists, including two assists on Saturday night. The Eau Claire, Wisc. has amassed a goal and 12 assists this season for the River Hawks in his first season at UMass Lowell.

The River Hawks got offensive contributions from Adam Chapie, Shayne Thompson, Chris Maniccia and Evan Campbell. Chapie’s first period goal came on a penalty shot and Thompson’s second period goal was his first of the season.

UMass Lowell completed the weekend sweep of the Warriors and were able to notch at least one goal in each of the six periods played over the weekend.

Next up for the River Hawks is a two-game road trip with stops at Boston University on Friday, Feb. 7 and Massachusetts on Saturday, Feb. 8 on NESN.

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