LOWELL, MA- A second-period offensive explosion by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks was the difference in calling it a season or moving on to the next round of Hockey East playoffs. Four goals in the first 15 minutes of the period proved too much for the University of Vermont Catamounts to overcome. Forward Matt Brown led the way with two of the four goals, including the eventual game-winner.
The opening period started with Lowell on the offensive, but Vermont weathered the early storm.
Midway through the period, UML ran into penalty trouble, collecting four penalties (with one being a matching penalty) in six minutes of action. Despite killing off the man-advantages, the momentum had swung in Vermont’s favor.
Sophomore forward Jaques Bouquot put the Catamounts on the board at 17:29 when Vlad Dzhioshvili stole the puck just over the red line leading to a UVM three-on-one. Dzhioshvili dished to Alex Esposito, who passed to a trailing Bouquot. The 6′-0″ left-wing from South Windsor, CT. beat a sprawling River Hawks goalie Owen Savory (20 saves) at the post for the 1-0 lead.
Junior Nolan Sawchuk picked the right time to score his first NCAA goal when he blasted a slap-shot past UVM goalie Gabe Carriere (26 saves) to tie the game at 1-1. Andre Lee and Nik Armstrong-Kingkade assisted Sawchuk’s goal at 2:50.
Anthony Baxter made it 2-1 River Hawks when he deposited a rebound past Carriere at 9:13. Baxter’s first goal of the season was Charlie Levesque and Ben Meehan.
UVM forward Dallas Comeau was called for Tripping at 10:28.
On the power-play, Brown notched his first of the game at 10:54 when he redirected a pass from Levesque past Carriere. Levesque and Seth Barton assisted the sophomore’s fifth goal of the year.
The Catamounts had yet another power play, as UML’s Lee was sent off for Charging at 12:28. Seconds after the River Hawks killed off the 6′-4″ Swede’s penalty, and Brown struck for his second of the game. UVM turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and Baxter hit Brown in stride as he made his way to the Vermont end. Brown beat Carriere between the legs on his mini-breakaway.
The Catamounts’ Dzhioshvili was called for Tripping at 19:05. Yet, it was teammate Bryce Misley that took advantage of the situation. The senior forward blocked a slapshot, corralled the loose puck, and raced in alone for the short-handed goal at 19:24 cutting the deficit to 4-2.
In the third-period, UML junior defenseman Barton wristed a shot from the top of the right circle past Carriere for the 5-2 lead at 3:05.
Seconds later, UVM’s Simon Boyko made it 5-3 when he caught Savory napping. The UML goalie had turned his back to play a carom off the end boards, and as he went to pass the puck, Boyko poked it into the River Hawks goal. For Boyko, it was his second goal in seven games this year.
The River Hawks dominated the third, outshooting UVM 18-2, despite that the Catamounts fought until the final buzzer.
“It was a real good first period for us, a real good third period for us,” said Catamounts coach Todd Woodcroft. “We didn’t have a real successful second. We felt it was kind of indicative of our season. A lot of momentum swings inside the game, a lot of momentum swings in the season.”
“The best part of the game for us tonight are the building blocks that got laid for next year,” added the first-year coach. Due to COVID, Vermont had only played 12 games all year before today.
“We didn’t start off the way we wanted as far as the game went, but we responded to a little bit of adversity,” said River Hawks coach Norm Bazin. “We were able to have a big second period, and that seemed to make the difference in the game overall.”
The River Hawks travel to Boston to take on Boston University in the Hockey East Quarterfinals at Walter Brown Arena on Sunday at 1 pm.