Lowell, MA – When the University of Massachusetts sister schools Amherst and Lowell face-off, it’s usually a low-scoring, physical, one-goal differential game. The only difference on Friday night was the two teams combined for eight goals, and it had to be decided by a shoot-out. Carl Berglund‘s goal in the shoot-out was the difference. Matt Crasa had two goals for the River Hawks, while Anthony Del Gaizo had two for the Minutemen in a thrilling back-and-forth game.
It was a festive occasion at the Tsongas Center as the # 15 River Hawks hosted the # 14 Minutemen in front of 6,289. The pregame ceremony featured an announcement that the two schools will participate in next year’s Friendship Four in Belfast, Northern Ireland, along with Dartmouth College and Quinnipiac University. The tournament between ECAC and Hockey East schools has been dormant since the COVID pandemic hit in 2020.
Massachusetts had last week off and hoped to use the time off to return to full strength as they deal with injuries to three of their top nine forwards. The River Hawks split with UConn last weekend.
The River Hawks had the early pressure in the first period, but the visiting Minutemen found their stride about six minutes into the action.
Aided by back-to-back holding calls on UMass-Lowell, the Minutemen got into a groove. UML had the best chances of both penalities, but Matt Murray (28 saves) kept the game scoreless.
The Minutemen capitalized on a two-on-one when Bobby Trivigno dished to freshman Ryan Lautenbach for the wrist shot that beat Owen Savory (27 saves) just below the crossbar. Lautenbach’s first NCAA goal came at 10:30 of the period.
The Minutemen built on their lead at 4:21 when Scott Morrow beat Savory top corner when he deked on a Lowell defender and then stepped into a shot for the 2-0 lead. Lautenbach and Aaron Bohlinger assisted on Morrow’s fifth of the season.
Freshman Matt Allen cut the Minutemen lead to 2-1 at 9:11 when he buried a Ben Meehan pass across the crease past Murray. Meehan and Connor Sodergren assisted Allen’s first NCAA goal.
At 15:20, things got chippy as Andre Lee, and Trivigno got tangled up along the boards. The River Hawks came away from the fray with a five-on-three as Lee received a Cross-Checking penalty, but Trivigno earned with Roughing and Embellishment calls. Massachusetts freshman Lucas Mercuri also received a Roughing penalty during the altercation.
The River Hawks wasted little time in using the situation to their advantage. Reid Stefanson tied the game when he blasted a one-timer past Murray from the bottom of the right circle at 15:35. Ryan Brushett and Berglund assisted on Stefanson’s fourth of the season.
With Lowell still on a five-on-four power-play, Crasa gave the River Hawks their first lead of the game at 16:25 when he deposited a rebound past a sprawling Murray. Murray made the initial stop on Lucas Condotta, but the rebound fell right to a charging Crasa for his fourth goal of the year.
Massachusetts tied the game at 3-3 on Del Gaizo’s power-play goal at 2:29 of the third. Del Gaizo banged in a loose puck at the top of the Lowell crease that deflected off defenseman Brendan Engum while he was diving to help stop the shot. Ryan Ufko and Morrow assisted on Del Gaizo’s first of the night.
Crasa again gave the River Hawks the lead at 12:22 when a Condotta rebound deflected off the freshman’s skate past Murray. The Minutemen goalie stopped Condotta’s shot from the top of the right circle, and the careening puck hit Crasa for the redirect back.
A Sodergren Roughing penalty gave the Minutemen a power-play with a minute and twenty-four seconds left. Once again, Del Gaizo tied the game for the Minutemen. The senior rifled in a rebound shot in front of Savory at 18:33.
The Minutemen had a power play during the three-on-three overtime at thirty-two seconds when the River Hawks were hit with a Too Many Men o the Ice bench minor. The Minutemen were unable to put the puck past Savory during the four-on-three. The River Hawks had the puck in the Massachusetts zone to end the final minute of extra time, but this one would need a shoot-out.
Reed Lebster had his bid gloved by Savory while Lee missed the net on his attempt. Mercuri missed the net on the Minutemen’s next chance while Berglund beat Murray five-hole. Morrow had an opportunity to extend the shoot-out for the Minutemen but was turned aside by Savory.
“I’m proud of our guys. They fought back,” said Minutemen coach Greg Carvel. “We didn’t start very strong, but I thought we got our game going.”
“We go into the wall and come out with three penalties,” said Carvel of the scrum between Trivigno and Lee. “I haven’t seen that very often, and that was lack of discipline on our part. When we’re short-handed, we can’t put ourselves in situations like that. It’s unfortunate; we started slow, got our feet under us, and then those penalties set us back. Other than that, I was happy with the game.”
“It was certainly a very entertaining hockey game tonight,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “The fans got what they wished for. A good battle between two excellent teams. I thought both teams were physical. We were pleased to get the points.”
“Certainly, coming back from a two-goal deficit was a big deal for us. I thought that was one of the positives,” added Bazin. “I thought our penalty-kill, even though we gave up one, was a positive tonight. Our goaltending was good again. Certainly, giving up a goal with a minute and a half left was tough, but the guys persevered and got the extra point through the shoot-out. A good hockey game overall.”
The two teams square off again on Saturday night at the Mullins Center on the Amherst campus at 7:30 pm EST.