Troy, NY- UMass Lowell and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are their respective conference’s wild cards. Both entered the weekend hovering around .500 and vacillating between strong showings and disappointing nights. On Friday night, the two met in Lowell for a post-Thanksgiving tilt. The Engineers edged their hosts 2-1. Two days later, the teams reconvened at Houston Field House in Troy to complete the series and the college hockey weekend. Both showed some strong traits, but Lowell got the better end of the night.
The game opened with some curious happenings. Lowell completely shelled the Engineers in the first, winning the shots 14-6, but only got one goal that wasn’t properly theirs. RPI broke a puck deep into Lowell ice. Connor Sodergren took a tripping minor and RPI goalie Oliver Savory skated to the bench for an extra skater on the delayed penalty. Freshman Jakub Lacka tracked the puck in the corner and threw a pass intended for the point. Sadly, no teammate was there and the puck rolled 200 feet into the abandoned net. Lowell did not beat Savory the rest of the frame, and RPI rebounded. In the late minutes of the frame, Jacob Hayhurst broke across the line Andrew ripped a shot through Tyler Wall to knot the game at 1 apiece before intermission.
RPI capitalized on momentum early in the second. Sam Knoblauch sat for a holding minor and Todd Burgess made the Riverhawks pay with a onetime rip to give RPI a 2-1 lead. Momentum did not hold in RPI’s favor, however, and Colin O’Neill threw control of the game squarely back to Lowell’s side. The junior from Odenton, MD, broke through the Engineer defense and squealed a shot under Savory’s left arm to even the score. The Riverhawk offense ramped up with more pressure and cracked the defense on smooth passing to Connor Wilson at the right circle, where the Senior captain ripped a shot through Savory for a 3-2 lead that Lowell would not relinquish.
Norm Bazin’s squad showed some improved maturity in the third period. They’ve struggled to close games this season but outworked RPI for a 13-7 shot margin and two goals compared to RPI’s none. The first one came from Tampa Bay draft pick Ryan Lohin potted a Mattias Goransson pass less than halfway into the period. The second and final tally of the game saw Chris Schutz record his first goal of the season. Freshman Nolan Sawchuk’s secondary assist was his first career collegiate point. Lowell earned the split with a 5-2 final in Troy.
RPI drops to 4-7-0 with the loss. They continue the habit of showing strong traits while also disappointing. Head Coach Dave Smith spoke positively about his unit after the game.
“I really liked our energy to start the game,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of positives. They get buried in the box score. We scored a power play goal both nights, our penalty kill was pretty good, we created a bit more competition in goal, we got healthy which creates competition up front, there’s plenty of positives for us.”
RPI travels to Notre Dame next week for a two-game road series with the 8th ranked Fighting Irish. Puck drops on both Friday night and Saturday night at 7 pm ET at Compton Family Ice Arena.
Lowell ups their record to 7-6-1 on the year. Norm Bazin spoke well of the maturity his team showed.
“Definitely happy with two points on the road,” Bazin said. “I thought it was a good, clean hockey game. I think for any team that’s got eight freshmen playing on any given night, it’s an adventure to close games out because it’s a learned experience. They did a good job tonight and our focus was to play a good 60/65 and I think they did that.”
Lowell gets a bye week next week but returns to the ice for a home and home against Boston University on December 7th and 8th. Coach Bazin expressed dissatisfaction with the bye week. “I love games. I wish they could add ten games to the schedule but they can’t. I’m not a fan of bye weeks. I like playing games. At the same time, you take what you’re given and we’re gonna have a little layoff here.” Puck drops at Agganis Arena on Friday, December 7th at 7:30 and at Tsongas Center on Saturday, December 8th at 7 pm.