Led by two goals and an assist by junior forward Kory Falite, the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks (3-2-0, 1-0-0 HEA) cruised past the Quinnipiac Bobcats (1-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) 4-1 on Thursday night.
The River Hawks again looked sharp on the power play, netting two more goals with the man-advantage as freshman T.J. Massie provided solid play in goal for the River Hawks by making 27 saves in his collegiate debut.
“It felt great. It was a good game,” said Massie. “Right away I got a couple shots and got into it. The team played great in front of me, so it made it easy.”
“T.J. is a sample of our entire team,” said UML head coach Blaise MacDonald, who won his 200th career game as a coach on Thursday night. “We have a lot of quality depth for the first time in a long time. Guys have got to get in there, but it’s tough to jam guys in the lineup.”
The River Hawks almost dug themselves into an early hole, though. Assistant captain Barry Goers went to the penalty box for hooking 1:18 into the game, and fellow assistant captain Jeremy Dehner followed him into the penalty box for tripping at 2:23, to give the Bobcats an early five-on-three opportunity. But the River Hawks’ defense clamped down, and the closest the Bobcats got to a goal was a Bryan Leitch shot off the right post.
“Our special teams are critical, like everybody else,” said MacDonald. “Our PK has been outstanding, and that starts with the goaltending. And faceoffs were another key element to defining this game because there are so many more offensive-zone and defensive-zone faceoffs. We did an unbelievable job in beating them in faceoffs.”
After killing the penalties, an energized River Hawks squad capitalized on its lone power play of the period, when Falite put it past Bobcats goalie Bud Fisher at 8:35. Ben Holmstrom had the puck in front of Fisher, and then slid it to Falite at the right post, where he shot it in.
“I gave it up to [Paul Worthington], and just ran my route,” said Falite. “Benny [Holmstrom] tipped it off [Fisher’s] pad, and it went right to me and I just put it in the net.”
The River Hawks added two more first-period goals at 11:58 and 13:57 on similar plays. Holmstrom got credit for the tally at 11:58, and then Scott Campbell at 13:57.
Both goals came through traffic in front of the net, with an aggressive River Hawks attack throwing everything they could at the net. The goal at 13:57, which put the River Hawks up 3-0, knocked Fisher out of the game; he was replaced by freshman Nick Pisellini.
The River Hawks made it 4-0 in the second period when Falite struck again on the power play, at 2:04. Play went to four-on-four at 1:31 in the second when River Hawks forward Mike Potacco and Bobcats defender Matt Sorteberg went to the penalty box for hitting after the whistle, and to four-on-three six seconds later when Bobcats forward Eric Lampe went to the penalty box for tripping.
Taking advantage of the wide-open ice, Worthington sent a pass from just in front of the left dot through the slot and over to Falite, who was stationed next to the right dot. From there, Falite caught Pisellini out of place and rifled in his second goal of the evening.
“We work on that a lot,” said Falite. “Worthington had a great pass to me, and he can find you. Then I just had to put it in an empty net.”
“[Falite] had a much better week in practice,” said MacDonald. “So now he’s started to pick it up as a result, and I think was able to put some points on the board.”
Falite’s second power-play goal would be the last goal of the evening for River Hawks. The Bobcats managed to get one goal on the board late in the third, when right winger Spencer Heichman converted a shorthanded bid at 12:53 to make the score 4-1. After that, play got heated, with 14 penalties handed out in the game’s last six minutes.
“It was a real challenge for our guys to hold their discipline,” said MacDonald. “I was really proud of them based on how our opponent was playing. We want to play an honest game and I know we did. So I give our guys big kudos for how they held their composure based on how the game unfolded.”
Among the penalties, Zach Hansen and Dan Henningson took 10-minute game misconducts for the Bobcats, at 15:59 and 18:18, respectively. Scott Campbell picked up the River Hawks’ lone 10-minute game misconduct at 18:18.
The River Hawks are off the rest of the weekend, and will gear up for a big weekend next weekend. They host the Boston University Terriers next Friday night and the Vermont Catamounts next Saturday night. The Bobcats will try to regroup from the loss, and prepare to take on the Connecticut Huskies on Saturday night.