WARRIORS ERASE TWO-GOAL DEFICIT BUT FALL IN SERIES OPENER; STANDING-ROOM-ONLY TICKETS LEFT FOR TOMORROW!
LOWELL, Mass. – The Merrimack College men's ice hockey team erased a first-period two-goal deficit, but eighth-ranked UMass Lowell responded with the final two tallies of the contest to take the opening round of a weekend Hockey East home-and-home series, 4-2, on Friday night at the Tsongas Center.
Score: #8 UMass Lowel 4, Merrimack 2
Records: Merrimack (7-14-3, 2-8-2 HEA) | #8 UMass Lowell (17-7-2, 7-4-1 HEA)
Location: Tsongas Center | Lowell, Mass.
How It Happened
Entering Friday night with just one road win in 12 previous tries, those struggles did not change against the River Hawks, as UMass Lowell hopped out to a two-goal lead after the opening period before Merrimack tied it with two goals in less than two minutes late in the second.
But the hosts and reigning Hockey East champions took the lead right back at the end of the second and padded two more to their advantage in the third, as the River Hawks won their third straight game against Merrimack dating back to last season.
Derek Arnold, Joe Houk and Gregory Amlong all tallied two-point night for the home side, which scored the first two and the last two goals of the contest. Joe Gambardella's tally at the end of the second period stood as the game-winner, with Arnold registering an assist on the third marker before burying an insurance strike early in the third. Houk opened the night up with a goal at 4:27 of the first and nearly scored again before settling for an assist on the second strike at 11:17.
Meanwhile, senior Mike Collins (Boston, Mass.) and junior Justin Mansfield (Arlington, Mass.) each found the twine for the Navy and Gold, with the former registering his team-leading ninth goal and 19th point of the year in the process. Junior Rasmus Tirronen (Espoo, Finland) finished with 31 saves, while counterpart Connor Hellebuyck turned away 23 for the win in net.
For the third road game in a row, a slow start doomed Merrimack, as the River Hawks rushed out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of tallies in just under 12 minutes. Houk put the home side on the board at 4:27 off a tough-angle shot that clanked in from the near dot, and later on, Evan Campbell deflected in a wrister from Houk to give the River Hawks a two-goal lead at the midway point of the period.
The damage could have been worse if not for an overturned goal call just 30 seconds after the opening marker; the officiating crew ruled that the puck had been picked in by a Lowell skater. Still, the River Hawks maintained much of the pressure in the first frame and held a 12-1 lead in shot attempts at one point and entered the first intermission with a 12-5 advantage in the category.
But Merrimack came out much stronger to start the second, as both sides went back-and-forth through most of the period before the Warriors broke through
First, Mansfield buried his third tally of the season at 13:40 to get the visitors on the board, and just 1:48 later, Collins tied things up at 2-all when his shot from the left wing got through traffic and past Hellebuyck at 15:28 to draw the Warriors even. Junior Rhett Bly (Regina, Saskatchewan) and sophomore John Gustafsson (Ljungby, Sweden) assisted on the first goal while sophomore Vinny Scotti (Vineland, N.J.) and freshman Jonathan Lashyn (Camrose, Alberta) help set up the second.
UMass Lowell, however, staked itself another lead with under a minute to play in the frame after Joe Gambardella picked up a rebound in front and scored what proved to be the game-winner to send the River Hawks into the second intermission ahead by a 3-2 margin.
The River Hawks padded their lead just more than six minutes into the third period after Arnold beat Tirronen on a 2-on-1 rush from the far circle, padding UML's advantage to 4-2 to establish the final margin of victory.
The Turning Point
Lowell scored two goals in the opening 12 minutes of the contest and held a 12-1 lead in shots on target as part of a commanding first period that helped the River Hawks establish an early lead. Those two goals proved to be invaluable after Merrimack roared back just to tie the contest, but UML would have the last laugh with the final two tallies of the game.
A Closer Look
- After leading in shots on target by a 12-5 margin after the first, UMass Lowell ended with a 35-25 advantage in shot attempts in the game
- In addition to the three two-point scorers for the River Hawks, three other skaters for UML tallied a point to account for six different scorers for the home side; Merrimack also saw six different point-collectors, as three different players figured into both of Merrimack's goals
- Both sides went a combined 0-for-5 on the power play, although Lowell (0-for-4) had more opportunities than the Warriors (0-for-1)
- Four different Warriors finished with a team-high three shot attempts, while five different River Hawks tallied four shots apiece for UML
- Lowell finished with a 40-28 advantage in the faceoff battle
The two sides will return to action tomorrow night (Feb. 1) back in North Andover to conclude the weekend home-and-home series, as Merrimack welcomes Lowell to Lawler Rink for a Saturday evening showdown. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.