Lowell, MA – Filip Lindberg turned back 27 shots on his way to backstopping the visiting University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemen to a 2-1 win over Commonwealth rival University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks. Two second-period goals by the Minutemen proved to be the difference in the Saturday night Hockey East match-up.
An entertaining first period had each goalie coming up big in the early going. Freshman Henry Welsch (29 saves) was as up to the task as Lindberg. Welsch and Lindberg traded highlight-reel saves during the first few minutes of play. Lindberg robbed Reid Stefanson with a glove save. Stefanson had a wide-open look at the side of the Minutemen goal, but the Finnish goal slid across his crease to flash some leather. At the other end, Welcsh turned away a Matthew Kessel mini-breakaway.
With each school trading a scoring chance and big hits in an empty building, Tsongas Center had an atmosphere like a full house. The Minutemen had struggled in the River Hawks arena since their last win there in 2011.
Colin Felix was whistled for Cross-Checking at 10:54, giving the River Hawks the only power-play of the period. The Minutemen penalty kill was able to keep Lowell from mounting much pressure. Massachusetts had a three-on-one bid, but Welsch corralled the puck.
After one, it was the Minutemen holding an 11-8 shots on goal advantage.
The Minutemen jumped out to the 1-0 lead forty-six seconds into the second period. Garrett Wait deflected a Zac Jones shot from the blue line past Welsch. The goal was Wait’s fifth of the year and was assisted by defensemen Jones and Kessel.
The visitors built on their lead at 9:03 when senior George Mika poked in the puck in front of Welsch. Welsch initially stopped Anthony Del Gaizo’s shot, but Mika was in the right place at the right time to notch his first of the year.
In the third period, the River Hawks got a break to climb back into the game when a Lucas Condotta shot bounced off Kessel and into the Minutemen net. The goal, cutting the deficit to 2-1, was Condotta’s fifth of the year.
The River Hawks had been threatening to tie the game as the third period wound down, but a Hooking call against Andre Lee seemed to tamp down the Lowell momentum, despite a successful penalty kill.
“You never like to give up points at home, but they were the better team this weekend,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “I thought today we played a lot better. I liked our response in the third period. I thought we started to get our legs under us again, but we’ve got a ways to go conditioning-wise, so we’ll work on that this week.”
“I expected a low-scoring affair today, a hard-fought game,” said Minutemen head coach Greg Carvel. “It turned out to be that way.”
“We just found a way to score one more goal than Lowell did, and that’s a big sweep for us. I’m really proud of this team,” added Carvel. “We only scored two goals, but we only gave up one goal on the weekend, and that’s fine by me. It doesn’t matter how many we score as long as we’re playing well defensively.”