Lowell, MA – A timely pair of power-play goals are what separated the UMass-Lowell River Hawks from the visiting Maine Black Bears on Sunday evening. A Five Minute Major on defenseman Simon Butala for Boarding just 1:31 into the third period gave the River Hawks the momentum they needed to pull away from the Black Bears for a 5-3 win at Tsongas Arena. Sophomore Andre Lee and senior Connor Sodergren each scored with Butala back in the Maine dressing room. For Lee it was his second goal of the night.
Both teams were playing in just their third game of the 2020-21 season. Maine hadn’t played since December 12 while Lowell last suited up on the 21st. The rust was more apparent for Maine early on. Forward Charlie Levesque put the River Hawks ahead 1-0 at 2:10 when he deposited a wrist shot from the slot past Matthew Thiessen (18 saves). Lee and Nolan Sawchuk were credited with the assists.
Lee would add to the Lowell lead two minutes later when he carried the puck into the Maine zone along the boards, cut in, and fired a wrister past Thiessen making it 2-0. The goal was assisted by Sawchuk.
The Black Bears started to find their footing as the period wore on. A pair of penalties against Lowell gave the visitors the jump they were lacking. Lowell killed off freshman Brehdan Engum‘s Interference call at the 11:00 minute mark. The Black Bears cashed in on River Hawks defenseman Chase Blackmun‘s Tripping call just twenty-three seconds into their man advantage at 17:11. Freshman Brad Morrissey blasted a rebound past Henry Welsch for his first career NCAA goal cutting the deficit to 2-1 River Hawks. Morrissey’s goal was assisted by forward Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup.
Thiessen kept the Black Bears in the game in the second period stopping all 11 shots he faced. Sophomore Ben Poissontied the game at 2-2 when he banged home a low to high feed from Donovan Villeneuve-Houle at 10:52. An errent pass by Lowell defenseman Dominick Procopio led to the goal.
The River Hawks outshot the Black Bears 11-3 in the second for a total 16-9 shots on goal advantage.
Just a minute into the third, Blackmun hit sophomore Carl Berglund with a stretch pass that sent the 6′-2″ Swede in alone on Thiessen. The forward slapped a back-hander through the legs of Thiessen breaking the 2-2 tie. The goal was Berglund’s first of the season.
Only twenty-seven seconds later, at 1:31 the wheels started to fall off for the Black Bears. Butala was whistled for his costly Boarding penalty. After a brief review by officials Jack Benedetto and Tim Millea, Butala was assessed the 10 Minute Misconduct.
Lee’s second of the night at 3:00 made it 4-2 Lowell when he fired a Ben Meehan pass past Thiessen.
“I give credit to my teammates,” said Lee when asked about his performance. “I felt like our line clicked today. Also on the power play, but I felt good. Got to leave that behind and I look forward to tomorrow.”
Sodergren put the icing on the cake just over two minutes later when he too swatted a Meehan pass past Thiessen at 5:03. Sodergren’s first of the season made it 5-2 UML.
The River Hawks seemed intent on keeping the Black Bears in the game by taking penalties. They survived an Interference call on Meehan at 9:19. A Roughing call on UML’s Austin O’Rourke at 11:32 led to Maine’s Emil Westerlund making it 5-3 at 11:59. The senior forward fired a snap-shot past Welsch from the right circle. The goal, assisted by Schmidt-Svejstrup and Lynden Breen, was the Swede’s first goal of the season.
“We played hard,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “We battled back to get in the game, but giving up a goal early third period, then being assessed a five-minute major that resulted in two power play goals is what sealed our fate.”
“I thought our power play (2-8) did really well,” added Gendron. “I thought the penalty-killing was very good over-all. One of the power play goals they (UML) got in the third period, the puck bounced right back to a guy’s stick. A little bit fortunate for them, but our special teams were pretty good tonight. It was good to get a couple of power play goals and that certainly helped us.”
“We’re obviously glad to get out of this game with a win,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “We had all we could handle and then some. We’ll have to clean things up for tomorrow but we’re obviously glad about tonight.”
The two teams meet again at 3:00 pm at Tsongas Arena on Monday afternoon.