The UMass Lowell River Hawks (2-2-0, 1-0-0 HE) played their home opener in front of 6,193 fans on Friday night, defeating the Providence College Friars (1-2-0, 0-2-0 HE), 4-1. Four different River Hawks recorded goals in the contest, while junior goaltender Carter Hutton made 26 saves to backup a defense that went six-for-six on the penalty kill.
“Some keys to the game were some solid goaltending from Carter Hutton, number one, and number two is six-for-six on our penalty kill, which is terrific,” said River Hawks’ Coach Blaise MacDonald. “And I’ll tell you, the atmosphere in here was electric. There was a lot of energy we were able to capture from the crowd and it was a real fun game for our guys to play.”
The River Hawks got the large crowd into the game early, getting on top 1-0 just over six minutes into the game. Friars senior right-winger Pierce Norton went to the penalty box at 4:47 for hooking, giving the River Hawks their first power play opportunity of the night. After the River Hawks moved the puck around the offensive zone, defenseman Nick Schaus got the puck on the doorstep from David Vallorani and chipped it up past Friars’ goaltender Chris Mannix’s right side.
“We ran a backdoor play, and Dave Vallorani just found me streaking backdoor, I just caught it off my skate, and just put it up top,” Schaus said. “I think after we scored a power-play goal, we settled in and relaxed a little bit.”
Despite committing the game’s next four penalties, the River Hawks were able to kill off all four penalties, as the Friars weren’t able to get much going with the extra attacker. In the middle of the four straight River Hawks penalties, it was River Hawks defender Maury Edwards hit Mike Potacco with a pass as he was crossing the blue line and making his way into the offensive zone. Potacco then found Marc Roebothan in the slot, where he took it to the net and slid it past Mannix at 7:19 of the second period to put the River Hawks up 2-0.
The River Hawks tacked on another goal just 35 seconds after Barry Goers’s hooking penalty expired at 10:38. Jonathan Maniff had the puck in the slot and made a move around Friars’ defenseman David Cavanagh before putting it past Mannix on the backhand.
“After [the River Hawksâ€™ first goal], we settled the game down,” said Friars’ Coach Tim Army. “I thought we played really well towards the end of the first period, and probably had the better of the play in the second period, but we made a couple mistakes, and we misplayed a couple of two-on-ones, and then you’re down 3-0.”
It wasn’t until 14:16 into the third period that the Friars were finally able to get on the board. Kyle Laughlin managed to get the puck past Hutton in a scrum in front of the net, but it proved to be too little, too late.
Down 3-1 in the game’s final moments, the Friars had an extra attacker on the ice in an attempt to tighten the game up. They got some good looks, but couldn’t get anything in. After the Friars lost control of the puck in the neutral zone, River Hawks’ junior Paul Worthington put the victory on ice with just 25 seconds to go, winning a race to the puck at mid-ice and going all out to poke the puck into the empty net, almost from his knees.
“Generally, it’s going to come down to special teams,” said Army. “The power-play goal sets the tempo for the game, so advantage to them on the specialty teams. Ultimately, I think that decides the game, and the momentum of the game.”
“The student section at the game tonight was awesome,” said MacDonald. “That was something that our guys were so pleased, and felt so compelled to put on a great show because the students were out in groves and it was awesome. We hope they continue to come out next Thursday night.”
Next Thursday night is when the River Hawks are back in action against the Quinnipiac Bobcats at Tsongas Arena, while the Friars are back on the road tomorrow night to take on the Holy Cross Crusaders in Worcester.