Lowell, MA — Norm Bazin’s UMass Lowell River Hawks are the biggest wild card in Hockey East this year. They have an interesting mix of championship experience from their 2017 Hockey East and near Frozen Four run, pain from that run ending and the next season being a harshly ending roller coaster, and exciting freshmen talent. They opened their season on Friday night against the Rochester Institute of Technology and scored two third period goals to win the opener 2-1. The teams rematched at the Tsongas Center on Saturday night and cranked the offense up to eleven. Lowell showed the same fight from the night prior but did not get the same result.
The opening ten minutes saw the teams trade sloppy turnovers and poor transition plays. Still, the goalies, Lowell’s Christoffer Hernberg and RIT’s Logan Drackett performed admirably. The period wound down and the game appeared en route to a scoreless opener. But Kenny Hausinger had other ideas. The junior from Anchorage, Alaska, took a pass off the boards from Connor Wilson then sniped top right corner on Drackett. Just 32 seconds later, Wilson played the puck behind the net and found Sam Knoblauch for the freshman’s first career collegiate goal. Lowell’s explosion in the late minutes gave them a 2-0 lead at intermission.
The second period saw RIT match and exceed Lowell’s explosive play from the first. Shortly into the period, Jake Hamacher and Jordan Peacock caught Lowell in a bad line change. They created a two-on-one, and Peacock feathered the puck through Hernberg to put RIT on the board. Almost ten minutes went by before RIT capitalized on another critical mistake. Abbott Girduckis caught the defense napping and tied the game 11:57 into the period. Lowell held together for the next six minutes but committed a pair of penalties that sank their period. First, Anthony Baxter took a cross-checking minor. That resulted in Gabe Valenzuela wristing a shot from the left circle home to take the lead. With under a minute to go, Baxter took another dumb penalty; this one for hooking. With only 15 seconds left in the period, Abbott Girduckis redirected a puck through Hernberg to claim post a 4-2 lead before intermission.
Lowell dominated the third period. They out-attempted RIT 31-11 in the period and outshot them 18-6. They were aided by RIT’s own rash of foolish penalties. Dan Willett took a hitting from behind minor and Kenny Hausinger ripped a shot through Drackett for his second goal of the night. The Tigers mostly kept Lowell off the board with Drackett’s efforts and some good fortune. Hausinger almost tipped in a puck on a power play with four minutes left. But the officials called the play back for a high stick and they held onto the lead. As the game got later, Regan Seiferling took one final penalty, this for tripping. Reid Stefanson deflected a Seth Barton shot through Drackett to tie the game with 1:14 left in the game. The teams skated out the final minute of the game and the teams went to overtime.
It did not take long for the game to end. RIT controlled a loose puck at the red line. Jake Hamacher found Alden DuPuis breaking into the neutral zone and the sophomore scored 46 seconds into the extra session for the first Tiger win and first River Hawk loss.
RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson was pleased with his team’s effort after the game.
“It was a looser game for both sides. The things I liked from our team tonight were being down 2-0 after a tough loss last night and battling back. We took a few stupid penalties in the third that helped them back into the game. We didn’t need to do that, they’re good enough on their own. I liked our resolve tonight.”
UMass Lowell Head Coach Norm Bazin was surprisingly satisfied with his team’s effort after a tough loss.
“I thought it was an exciting hockey game. It was an early season game. Plenty of lead changes. I was impressed with a lot of things. Obviously, you want a few things improved, but that’s early season hockey. I thought we deserved to win last night and they deserved to win tonight.”
Lowell has not won an overtime game since defeating Yale in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
The teams split the weekend series and walk away 1-1. RIT returns home to host Colgate next Saturday. Puck drops at the Gene Polisseni Center, in Henrietta, NY, at 7 PM. Lowell plays their first road trip next weekend against the Miami RedHawks. Puck drops at the Goggin Ice Center at 7:35 on Friday night and 7:05 on Saturday night.