Lowell, MA – #14 UMass-Lowell eked out a win over #8 UMass-Amherst with 27.5 seconds remaining on a goal from junior forward Chris Schutz. The River Hawks snap a two game losing streak while jumping into a three-way tie for second in Hockey East with the Minutemen. Lowell has now won 20 of the last 23 meetings between the two schools.
The River Hawks capitalized first when freshman Zach Kaiser picked up a loose puck just inside the Minutemen zone and swooped in to put the puck by starting goalie Filip Lindberg (0 saves). Charlie Levesque was credited with the assist after he pressured Massachusetts defenseman Zac Jones at the Lowell blue line causing Jones to lose the puck. Levesque lost the puck as Reed Lebster rode him into the boards then Kaiser made his move. The goal was Kaiser’s fifth this year.
The Minutemen responded with pressure but senior stalwart Tyler Wall (38 saves) was solid for the River Hawks in goal.
A Roughing call on Amherst’s Jeremy Davidson at 12:16 gave the River Hawks the first power play of the game. It appeared to only take UMass-Lowell just :14 to score but Connor Sodergren‘s goal was overturned for Goaltender Interference upon review. Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel pulled Lindbergh while the play was being reviewed. In came junior Matt Murray (19 saves) with 6:30 remaining in the first period. The visitors were outshooting the hosts 11-1 at the time of the switch.
Andre Lee was called for Roughing at 16:37 putting the Minutemen on the power play. Massachusetts tied it 1-1 when John Leonard buried a rebound past Wall. The goal was Leonard’s 21st of the year, and his 50th NCAA goal. The junior’s power play goal at 18:27 was assisted by Bobby Trivigno and Marc Del Gaizo.
With a minute to go in the first period Lowell’s Lucas Condotta was penalized for Roughing. During the preceding play while on the delayed penalty the Minutemen’s Cal Kiefiuk was hit hard after shooting the puck. The play resulted in a broken jaw for the freshman. The play was reviewed but no call was made.
UMass-Amherst outshot UMass-Lowell 16-2 in the first period.
The two teams traded scoring chances early to open up the second period. Murray made a split save at the right post on Lowell forward Matt Brown. Then at the other end Trivigno beat Wall but hit the post. Murray again made a leg save on a shot from the top of the circle by Condotta.
The Minutemen had their third power play opportunity when Blake Wells was called for High Sticking at 9:01. The Minurtemen again pressured Lowell but couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage. However, just two seconds after the power play expired Trivigno banged home a rebound to make it 2-1 Minutemen. Trivigno’s ninth of the season was assisted by Jack Suter and Del Gaizo again.
The Minutemen killed off two River Hawk power plays in the last half of the second. A Tripping call on Jake Gaudet at 11:36 and Interference on Del Gaizo at 18:25. UMass-Amherst again outshot Lowell for the period, 14-9, for a two period total of 30-11.
Lowell’s Sodergren had three whacks at the puck in front on Murray in the Minutemen crease to open up the third but couldn’t poke one past Murray. UML continued their response by applying steady pressure on the Minutemen. Levesque had a one-timer turned aside by Murray as well.
The River Hawks were rewarded for their efforts at 7:37 when Carl Berglund put Colin Felix‘s clearing attempt past Murray. Tie game 2-2. The assists went to Jordan Schulting and Lee on Berglund’s 12th of the year.
With just under five minutes remaining the River Hawks Lee had a breakaway attempt broken up by Jones.
When it appeared that this one was heading to overtime is when Schutz stuck the proverbial dagger in the Minutemen hearts. After Murray made a save on a flurry of activity, he lost his stick. While thinking the puck was being cleared Murray and Del Gaizo were transferring sticks when Schutz, a fourth-line, energy guy tracked down the loose puck along the boards, turned and fired the puck on net past an unsuspecting Murray in the Minutemen goal. Murray had no idea where the puck was. It was behind him.
Lowell carried the third period shots 11-10 and finished trailing 22-40 in that department. 6,474 fans were in attendance at Tsongas Arena for the game which took 2:30 to play.
“They had two shots and two goals,” said Carvel when asked about his quick hook with Lindberg.
The Minutemen coach was visibly upset over this loss. He felt that players “stopped playing hockey” on the game winning goal. “The goaltender just stopped playing hockey, not a good time to do that,” he said.
Coming into the game Massachusetts had a bye week after sweeping Providence. Carvel was asked if the bye week helped or hurt his team. “We played pretty well, I thought we were ready to go. First period we outshot them 16-2. Tied 1-1,” said Carvel. “Second period we outshoot them, probably outshot them in the third, I don’t know. When you outshoot a team 2-1 then you lose the way we did it’s frustrating.”
“I thought this was more like a playoff style game,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “We certainly didn’t start the way we wanted. It was almost a tale of two games for us. I thought the first 30 minutes weren’t good and the next 30 got a little bit better. Fortunately for us we got some points. They are a very good opponent.”
“I’m happy for Schutzie,” said Bazin. “He doesn’t necessarily get the quality minutes the other guys get. He might get more now but overall I’m very happy for him. I put him out there because he had energy and he was winning puck races.”
“A lot of times, when things get really heated out there, and playoffs are the same way,” added Bazin. “If you put enough pucks on net you’re going to get rewarded at times. I thought the were number of goals that were net front tonight for both teams. It’s fundamental hockey as far as getting the puck there but for whatever reason early in the game that wasn’t happening, as you know by the shot totals. We finally got some pucks to the net.”
“I thought we started off pretty well. And for whatever reason after the (Sodergren) goal was disallowed we went into a lull. That can’t happen against opponents like this.”
The two teams meet again on Saturday night at the Mullins Center in Amherst. Puck drop is at 7:00 pm EST.