Boston, MA – The first-place UMass-Lowell River Hawks and third-place Northeastern Huskies came into Friday night’s Hockey East showdown riding two-game losing streaks. The visiting River Hawks came away with two points on 26 saves by senior goalie Owen Savory. UMass’ scoring came on the first NCAA goal for freshman Stefan Owens and the game-winning goal by Matt Crasa in the second period, which widened their lead on second-place Massachusetts.
“Getting a win in Hockey East is very valuable, especially this time of year,” said UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “That’s a good team we played. Very happy about the points.”
The River Hawks netted the lead at 10:47 of the first period when Owens, the team’s extra skater, fired off a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that beat T.J. Semptimphelter at the far post for his first NCAA goal. Brehdan Engum and Owen Cole assisted the 5′-10″ Midlothian, VA native’s goal.
Semptimphelter (30 saves) made his first NCAA start in goal for the Huskies. The 6′-1″ freshman from Marlton, NJ, came into the game with 20 minutes of action under his belt. He made 11 saves on 11 shots in one period of relief of Devon Levi during last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the defending National Champion Minutemen.
“I like T.J.’s game a lot,” said Northeastern coach Jerry Keefe. “I thought he battled in there and gave us a chance to win. No doubt. For him to go in and play well in his first start gave our guys a lot of confidence. They have a lot of confidence in him. Good on him to go in like that, in his first game, and play really, really solid for us.”
Levi is currently with Team Canada, preparing for the upcoming 2022 Olympics in Beijing, China. Levi had started all of the Huskies’ previous 24 games this season.
The Huskies had a push after the UML goal, but Savory turned back any N.U. attempt.
A bad pass by Jordan Harris in the Huskies defensive zone led to the River Hawks pulling ahead 2-0 at 11:11 of the second period. Harris tried to no-look a pass back to defensive partner Julian Kislin, but it went straight to River Hawks’ Crasa, who beat Semptimphelter with a deke for his third goal of the season.
“He had a good game,” said Bazin of Crasa’s overall performance. “I thought several guys had the battle intensity we were looking for because we weren’t satisfied with our play last weekend.” Lowell dropped two to Merrimack in a home and home series.
“I thought it was a good bounce back effort,” added Bazin. “And Matt Crasa was certainly one of the guys that stood out that way. I thought (Sam) Knoblauch was another guy, I thought Chambo (Brian Chambers), I thought (Reid) Stefanson, and I thought (Blake) Wells, those are the guys that come to mind right away as far as winning pucks.”
The Huskies pulled one back less than a minute later when junior Matt DeMelis redirected a Jeremie Bucheler shot from the blue line past Savory to make it 2-1 at the 12-minute mark of the second.
“We’re extremely disappointed in that loss, we were excited to play back in front of the fans tonight,” said Keefe. “To go out and only find a way to get one goal is disappointing tonight. we knew it was going to be a close, checking game. I just think we didn’t find a push in the third period that we needed to find.”
That would be the extent of the scoring for the evening. Savory was stellar in between the pipes for UMass-Lowell. The 6′-0″ senior from Cambridge, Ontario, did not have to stop many Grade-A chances. Still, the fact that he made 26 saves and played all 60 minutes after getting hit by Huskies forward Matt Choupani in the second period and then crashed into by N.U.’s Harris with just under five minutes remaining was all the more impressive.
“I thought he played very well, I think he’s one of the premier goalies in the country and he proved it again tonight,” said Bazin of Savory.
With the loss, the Huskies drop to fourth place behind Providence by a point, as the Friars defeated the Minutemen in Amherst on Friday 2-1.
The River Hawks will host the second-place Minutemen on Sunday at 1:00 pm at Tsongas Arena. The Huskies are off until next Friday when they host the Vermont Catamounts at Matthews Arena.