Matthews Arena, Boston, Ma. — February has arrived on the heels of record cold across the country. However, this week brings with it a drastic rise in temperatures, especially as the Hockey East race heats up. Seven points separate first from seventh place. One point separates fourth place UMass-Lowell from third place Northeastern. The two teams meet for their third and final installment of the regular season. The Huskies won both of those earlier tilts. 4-1 in October at Tsongas Arena in Lowell and 5-4 in overtime here at Matthews Arena in November.
The River Hawks are riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, the longest active one in the country, going 6-0-1 in that stretch. The Huskies meanwhile are in a bit of a slump, having lost their last two against Providence last weekend. Northeastern is 3-4 in the new year.
Both squads boast two of the nation’s best goalies, Lowell’s Tyler Wall and Northeastern’s Cayden Primeau. Tonight they would each have a strong say in the outcome of this game.
The first period saw Lowell’s Connor Sodergren test Primeau early. Even with the River Hawks outshooting the Huskies 9-7 for the period, winning the face-off battle 10-5, and carrying the play, the better scoring chances seemed to come for NU. Defenseman Ryan Shea had a slap shot from the right face-off dot saved by Wall. Brandon Hawkins tested Wall when he was alone out front with a rebound but couldn’t put it away. Hawkins again had a chance on a tip from the point, and Matt Felipe had an opportunity on that rebound but Wall was there to make the save.
To start off the second period, NU’s Shea tried to kick the puck at the blue line to keep it in the Lowell zone. He missed and Ryan Dmowski was off to the races, in alone on Primeau, but roofed it too high over the goalie and the goal. NU’s Lincoln Griffin was called for Hooking at 1:15 putting UML on the man advantage. Sodergren missed on a rebound attempt.
Defenseman Seth Barton set up Kenny Hausinger with a shot/pass from the left point. Hausinger knocked the puck past Primeau at the right side of the NU net giving UML the 1-0 lead. The River Hawks had a chance to build on the lead when Charlie Levesque dinged the post on a shot from the point. Ryan Lohin had two swipes at the loose puck but Primeau made a lower pad save and then a skate save. NU climbed back into the shot department winning this period 12-11. Primeau kept the Huskies in this game for as long as he could.
Northeastern went on the Power Play at 6:54 of the third when Lucas Condotta was whistled for Roughing. Their fourth chance on the man advantage would provide the equalizing goal for NU. Defenseman Jeremy Davies took two successive slap shots from the point that were blocked by a Lowell defender. On the second shot, the puck bounced right to Hawkins, who one-timed a slap shot past Wall at 8:24.
Lowell took the lead again when Colin O’Neill rushed the puck from the defensive zone into the offensive zone. He slid the puck along the blue line to Mattias Goransson who blasted a slap shot at Primeau. Lohin was there to scoop up the rebound and put the River Hawks up 2-1 at 15:01. The game-clinching empty-net goal came at 19:36 as Reid Stefanson fired the puck the length of the ice into the Huskie net. 3-1 Lowell.
Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said after the game “At this time of the year you’re measured by wins. We didn’t get it done. I thought the effort was good, the energy level but at the end of the day we gotta find a way to win those games.”
His counterpart, Norm Bazin had a tempered response to the win. “I thought it was a good hockey game. I thought both goaltenders played exceptionally well. I thought there were chances for both hockey clubs, and in the end, we had got one more than they did. We’re pleased with the points, it’s tough this time of year to get points in Hockey East.”
With the win, Lowell leapfrogs Northeastern in the Hockey East standings. Both teams are off tomorrow. The River Hawks play one week from tonight when they host Boston College in Lowell. The Huskies meanwhile look to defend their Beanpot title on Monday night at 8:00 pm as they take on Boston University in a rematch of last year’s final.