Lowell, MA – The UMass-Lowell River Hawks took control of the game against the Merrimack College Warriors from the opening face-off and never looked back. An early Connor Sodergren set the stage for the River Hawks as they cruised to a 7-2 Quarterfinal win on the strength of a pair of Carl Berglund and Ryan Brushett goals to knock out the Warriors and earn a trip to the TD Garden for the Hockey East Semifinal round. Owen Savory stopped 39 of 41 shots to earn his 20th win of the year.
“We had three pretty close games against them (Merrimack) and tonight the score didn’t indicate the type of hockey game it was,” said UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin.
“Giving these guys (UML) an opportunity to play at TD Garden is a big deal for our program,” added Bazin. “We want to keep that going forward.”
The River Hawks won the puck to start the game, and freshman Matt Crasa skated into the Merrimack zone and unleashed a shot that beat Hugo Ollas (22 saves) but fortunately hit the post.
Sodergren made sure his shot went in a few seconds later when he banged in the rebound of a Sam Knoblauch shot that Ollas padded away. Sodergren set up Knoblauch with a nifty feed from the corner and followed up the play to give the home team the lead. Sodergren’s sixth goal of the year was the 25th of his five-year career.
Berglund made it 2-0 UMass-Lowell at 7:55 of the period when he slapped a loose puck past Ollas for goal number eight. Andre Lee started the play before dishing to Isac Jonsson on a two-on-one. The trio of Swedes had a massive game for the River Hawks as they combined for seven points on the day.
Merrimack pulled one back at 17:36 when Logan Drevitch sniped a shot from the goal line between Savory and the post to make it 2-1. Mick Messner and Christian Felton assisted on Drevitch’s fifth goal.
“I thought they played a really simple, good game,” said Merrimack coach Scott Borek. “(I’m) just disappointed for our team that it got away from us early. I thought we’d find a way back into the game. But obviously, when you’re playing catch up against Lowell, that’s going to be a problem.”
“I don’t think that was a 7-2 opportunity-wise, scoring chances for and against,” added Borek. “I thought they (UML) were harder on pucks than we were today. And they won more 50/50 puck fights. I think that was the tale of the tape to be honest.”
The Warriors lost forward Jake Durlinger on the play. Durflinger got tangled up with a River Hawk along the boards and started skating gingerly. He needed help to the bench as the Warriors celebrated Drevitch’s goal. He would return early to the Merrimack bench in the second period before taking the ice as the period progressed.
A three-goal second period sealed the win for UMass-Lowell. It could have been a four-goal period, but a Berglund strike was ruled no goal for Goalie Interference at 3:43.
A Ben Meehan power-play goal at 5:33 made it 3-1. The sophomore from Walpole, MA., beat Ollas with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle glove-side high for his fifth goal.
Berglund ultimately got his second goal at 8:44 when he chipped a Jonsson rebound past Ollas at the side of the Merrimack net. Jonsson and Lee assisted on Berglund’s 9th.
Ryan Brushett scored his first of the day at 14:22 on a redirected tip of a Jonsson shot from the blue line. Brushett’s first day and eighth of the season chased Ollas from the game. In relief, Zackary Borgiel had three saves in 17:37 of action.
Merrimack made a game of it briefly in the third period. Alex Jefferies scored a power-play goal with the Merrimack net empty for a six-on-four. Jefferies wristed a loose puck between Meehan and Blake Wells to cut the Warriors deficit to 4-2.
The slight momentum bump was short-lived as Brushett notched his second goal at 10:27 when he one-timed a Brehdan Engum rebound past Borgiel at the bottom of the left circle.
Savory was fantastic all game, but he shined through in the final twenty minutes as Merrimack put 20 shots on goal.
The Warriors kept pulling Borgiel to try to score on the six-on-five, but it only slowed down the game’s tempo as it led to icing after icing.
The icing on UMass-Lowell’s cake came at 18:18 when Lucas Condotta banged in a close-range empty-net goal to put the Warriors to rest once and for all.
“It was a little disjointed in the third-period because they (MC) get a power-play, and it ends up being six-on-four because they pull their goalie,” said Bazin. They got quite a few shots from the outside, and the guys did a good job of protecting the net front. I enjoyed the effort. The effort I thought was there for sixty minutes, and guys were committing to blocking shots.”
“The first two times we played we played them I thought they (MC) took it to us face-off wise. That was not so tonight, I thought we were better,” added Bazin. The two did finish tied at the face-off dot 35-35.
The River Hawks will face-off against the Massachusetts Minutemen on Friday. The two tied 4-4 on December 3, 2021, but the River Hawks won 1-0 in the shootout. The Minutemen won the next night 3-2 at home, and they won the final regular-season matchup 4-3 at Tsongas on January 30, 2022. In last year’s Hockey East Championship game at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen won 1-0.