UMass Lowell squeaks past Minnesota State

WORCESTER, Mass. – The UMass Lowell River Hawks kept their season alive on Saturday night as they defeated the Minnesota State Mavericks at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., 2-1.

The River Hawks renewed their rivalry with a former Division II rival Mavericks team on Saturday night. The River Hawks were once again able to top the Mavericks, as they did in 1979 to win the Division II National Title, when the Mavericks went under the name Mankato State.

Following a questionable charging penalty on Ryan McGrath, the River Hawks found themselves down a man for the first time in the game. Halfway through the penalty kill, Joseph Pendenza blocked a shot on his own blue line creating a breakaway for himself. Pendenza skated the length of the ice and backhanded a shot through Cole Huggins five-hole, giving the River Hawks a 1-0 lead.

“We practice a lot on getting that long stick on that d-man for the penalty kill,” said Pendenza. “I just went out their with a long stick and he ended up shooting it into my body. I just went on a breakaway. I had to escape the goalie one way and just put it in the five-hole.”

The River Hawks continued with their success at scoring first, playing with the lead in the first period and taking that lead into the second period. UMass Lowell improved to 20-2-3 when scoring first and 19-0-3 when leading after one period of play.

“Going into every game its a key to get off on the right foot,” said Pendenza. “It was good to get the goal and take the weight off our shoulders and start playing our game. Anytime you can get the first goal it’s huge.”

Zack Kamrass would give the River Hawks a two-goal lead on an empty net goal with 40 seconds remaining and nearly sealing the victory for Lowell. However, the Mavericks tallied their first goal and only goal with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. It was the first goal scored on Connor Hellebuyck in 201:45, halting his shutout streak at two games.

Hellebuyck once again showed why he is one of the best, if not the best, goaltender in the country. The Winnipeg Jets prospect stopped 35-of-36 shots fired at him by the Mavericks, allowing only the late third period goal by Zack Stephan. Although Hellebuyck’s shutout streak has come to an end, it took a power play and extra attacker for the Mavericks to get one past the sophomore goaltender. Hellebuyck’s last goal allowed was in second period of game three of the quarterfinals against Vermont.

The River Hawks will face the Boston College Eagles on Sunday afternoon in the Northeast Regional Finals for a chance to make a return trip to the Frozen Four. Puck drops at 5:00 p.m. eastern, also at the DCU Center.

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