Steve Slonina tallied the game winner 1:59 into overtime and freshman Dominic Smart made 27 saves as Massachusetts-Lowell beat out Northeastern, 3-2, Saturday in Hockey East action in front of 1,637 fans at Matthews Arena.
The game winner marked the second career deciding goal for Slonina at Matthews Arena. Slonina netted the game-winning goal on Jan. 4, 2001 in a 2-1 win over the Huskies.
“It’s great for the players, they’ve faced a lot of challenges from the coaching staff all week,” said head coach Blaise MacDonald on the win. “They took it upon themselves to dig down tonight, really support each other, and just plain old outwork our opponent.
“We had a nice lead with a couple minutes left, and Northeastern took that away from us. I think a lot of teams would have folded in that situation, but we stuck with it.”
Northeastern had the momentum early on, picking up a power-play opportunity in the first few minutes of the game. The Huskies were primed to put a marker on the board, however a spectacular save by Smart kept Northeastern off the board, if only for a few minutes.
The Huskies finally got on the board at 2:58 of the first, converting on their first power-play of the game. Mike Ryan sent a pass from the slot to a wide-open Jason Guerriero at the face off dot on the left side. Guerriero made his opportunity count, lifting his shot high over the shoulder of Smart.
UML tied the game at one moments later. Freshman Andrew Martin collected a loose puck in the slot and backhanded a shot high over Northeastern goaltender Keni Gibson at 5:10.
The River Hawks took the lead just before the end of the period with a power-play goal at 19:14. Martin sent the puck from the right side dasher to senior defenseman Baptiste Amar at the point. Amar rifled a shot at net through traffic, and freshman Danny O’Brien got enough of the puck to put home his sixth goal of the season. The tally snapped a 10-game scoreless skid on the power-play for the River Hawks, their first goal in 35 previous chances. UML went into the break outshooting Northeastern 20-8.
A scoreless and a hard-hitting second period carried over into the beginning of the third. The Huskies stepped up the offensive pressure midway through the third, finding the back of the net at 13:56 when Guerriero redirected a shot in front of the net for his second power-play goal of the evening, tying the game at two.
UML looked to have put the game-winner on the board at 17:25 after Slonina sent a laser top shelf from the left side, however a linesman had ruled that there was a River Hawk penalty before the goal, nullifying the marker. The game went into overtime with the Huskies out-shooting the River Hawks in the third 10-3.
UML looked to be in dire straights after being assessed a penalty just before the end of regulation. Although the Huskies continued to press, it was Slonina that netted the game-winner at 1:59 of overtime.
Smart made 27 saves in the win for UML, while Gibson stopped 34 shots for the Huskies. Both teams saw a little offense on the power play, with the River Hawks going 1-for-6, while Northeastern was 2-for-6.
“He’s been getting better and better, he’s on the right track,” said MacDonald on his freshman netminders stellar performance. “He’s got great competitive spirit, the team means everything to him, and tonight, without Dominic Smart, we don’t win.”
Next week UMass-Lowell (9-13-1, 2-11-0 HEA) will travel to play Maine, while Northeastern (7-13-2, 2-11-1) will play a home-and-home series against Massachusetts.