Lowell, MA- Massachusetts has spent 2018 and 2019 knocking firsts and drought ends off their checklist. On Friday night, they added another by sweeping the Boston University Terriers for the first time in program history. However, one mountain that remains unsummited is their sister campus in Lowell.
The Riverhawks have tormented the Minutemen at the Tsongas Center, particularly under Norm Bazin, who entered undefeated in ten tries against the Commonwealth’s Flagship on home ice. On Friday night, the Minutemen tried to end a ten-game in-Lowell losing streak but fell victim to one of Hockey East’s toughest venues and hottest teams.
Lowell burst off the blocks quickly. Chris Schutz landed the third goal of his season from the left dot only 2:12 into the frame. The Riverhawks dictated a physical pace and checking style for the remainder of the frame and were rewarded with a second goal in the late stages of the frame. Anthony Baxter found space while skating at 4-on-4 atop the left circle and put a puck through Matt Murray for the final tally of the game only 14:46 into the evening.
UMass was stymied in the second period, losing the shots 15-6, and struggling against the tight Riverhawk defense. Greg Carvel’s squad rebounded for a strong third, outshooting Lowell 13-5 and out-chancing their hosts 29-6. However, nothing got through senior goalie Christoffer Hernberg. The Espoo, Finland, native stopped all 31 Minuteman shots for his third shutout this season, eighth of his career, and a 2-0 victory over Hockey East’s first placed team.
The loss drops UMass to 21-6-0 overall and 13-4-0 in Hockey East. They remain in first place, but by only two points over Lowell. They have not won a game in Tsongas Center since January 14th, 2011, before Norm Bazin ascended to the head coaching spot.
Greg Carvel spoke very well of the opposition while admonishing his team in the postgame
“We tried to bill this game to our players as a playoff-style game, first place in the league, which it was,” Carvel said. “And we weren’t ready to play. Lowell scored first. We knew it was going to be a low scoring game. To not be prepared; to basically give them an early lead is tough to overcome. I’ll give Lowell a lot of credit, they’re obviously the best team in our league right now.”
Matt Murray recorded 32 saves.
The Minutemen regroup for a series with third-placed Boston college next weekend. Puck drops between the Eagles and Minutemen at 7 pm on Friday night at Mullins Center and at 8 pm on Saturday night at Conte Forum.
Lowell improves to 17-8-2 and 11-4-2 in HEA. The Riverhawks are unbeaten in ten games played in 2019. They also have not allowed a goal on home ice in three games.
Norm Bazin spoke simply but clearly about his team’s effort.
“I thought there could’ve been more goals on both side,” Bazin said. “Both teams competed hard. Our first period was opportunistic. Our second period was better. And our third period, we bent but didn’t break.”
Lowell plays a home-and-home series with the Providence College Friars next weekend. Puck drops at 7:15 on Friday night at the Tsongas Center and at 7 pm on Saturday night at Schneider Arena.