UNH Drops Hockey East Opener to #15 UMass-Lowell
LOWELL, MA - Over the first five games of the 2013-14 season, UNH faced stiff competition from some of the best teams in the new Big Ten Conference and the ECAC. UNH earned a win against Clarkson and a tie against Michigan. After a loss to Minnesota in the Ice Breaker Tournament and consecutive loses to Michigan then RPI, the Wildcats were hoping to open the Hockey East portion of their schedule on a positive note.
Despite outshooting the Riverhawks of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell in each period tonight, UNH was on the losing side of the 5-3 battle. The rafters of the Tsongas Center are sporting two new banners. One to commemorate UML's Hockey East Championship and another for making the Frozen Four. With 7 returning seniors and 7 juniors, plus one of the best goalies in the country in Connor Hellebuyck, the Riverhawks are poised for another strong season.
UNH nabbed the early lead on a highlight reel play from senior Dalton Speelman and junior Trevor van Riemsdyk. 6 minutes into the game, Speelman carried the puck through the face off circle to Hellebuyck's right, on a 2-on-1 break, and threaded a perfect pass to TvR in the opposite circle. TvR slid a backhander past Hellebuyck.
Last season, UNH had the fewest penalty minutes in Hockey East and the most efficient penalty kill. So far this season, UNH is committing more penalties and paying for it. With Kevin Goumas in the penalty box - UNH's second penalty over the first 7 minutes of the game - UML tied the game. TvR blocked an initial shot from Zack Kamrass but UNH failed to clear the puck out of the slot, and UML Captain Josh Holmstrom beat junior goalie Casey DeSmith low to his glove side.
A minute and a half later, UML took the lead which they would not relinquish. Scott Wilson slid a pass from one side of the low slot to Adam Chapie to DeSmith's left. DeSmith had no chance as Chapie banged it into the open side. At the end of one, Lowell lead 2-1 despite being outshot 8-11.
During the opening 5 minutes of the second period, UML turned up the offensive pressure. DeSmith made a sequence of three outstanding saves, two with his left leg pad and one to his gut. At 8:15, defenseman Jake Suter sent a slap shot through a screen of players past DeSmith. UML 3, UNH 1.
The Wildcats badly needed to get one back before the end of the second period and they did. With 6 minutes left in the period, TvR drew an interference penalty. On the power play, Kevin Goumas and Matt Willows pressured Hellebuyck just outside the crease to his right and Goumas flipped a backhander off Hellebuyck's pad and into the net. UNH outshot Lowell 14-11 in the second.
At the 15 minute mark of the third period, Brett Pesce rifled a shot from the high slot which appeared to come very close to glancing off the post. Seconds later, Nick Sorkin made a strong move toward the crease, fired a back hand shot, and drew a slashing penalty. As the video above shows, the top power play unit of TvR and Eric Knodel at the points and the Dalton Speelman-Grayson Downing-Tyler Kelleher line moved the puck smartly and registered a few strong bids. But Hellebuyck was up to the task.
With about 8 minutes left in regulation, freshman Matias Cleland, who has skated a regular shift on defense since day one, stretched out at the blueline to keep the puck in the UML zone. The puck just barely eluded Cleland and Ryan McGrath gathered the puck on the fly. McGrath broke in on DeSmith and beat him with a backhand shot. It was a back-breaking goal as UML regained a 2-goal lead. 23 seconds later, Lowell generated a play behind DeSmith in the corner and Scott Wilson beat him with a shot from the slot.
Senior Nick Sorkin would got one back in the waning seconds on an outstanding individual effort. Sorkin carried the puck strong toward the net and managed a one-handed shot while being pulled down. Final Score: UML 5, UNH 3. Shots on Goal: UNH 37, UML 27.