After Massachusetts and Mass.Lowell combined for 13 goals in wins over top 10 teams Friday night, the 4, 239 at the Mullins Center Saturday expected to see a few goals in the game between the sister universities.
The goals didn’t come for either side like they did on Friday, or at all in UMass’ case. Mass.-Lowell defeated the No. 20 Minutemen, 2-0, behind 22 saves from net minder Nevin Hamilton, making his third consecutive start after Carter Hutton suffered an ankle injury last Saturday.
Saturday’s humidity in Western Massachusetts warmed the Mullins Center; the ice melted much faster as a result. Both teams rely on skating to drive their offenses, but both units are very different. The Minutemen play on a larger ice surface and like to spread their opponents out, while the River Hawks rely on a strong forecheck. The poor conditions limited UMass’ passing game, stymieing its offense for most of the game.
“I was very concerned with [containing UMass’ offense],” said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. “But I think out system worked well and our goaltender played very well.”
The River Hawks were still able to utilize their strong checking offense despite the soft ice. The game-winning goal, scored by freshman Michael Budd in his second career game, came at 9:37 of the second period.
After the puck bounced around the boards, UML center David Vallorani won a loose puck in the corner to the right of the UMass goal. Vallorani quickly slid the puck to Budd, stationed in the left face-off circle.
“We tried to get the puck down low and setup a cycle game,” Budd said. “Vallorani made a great play and just kind of slid it to me just under the circle. I just threw it on net, and it went five-hole.”
The score stayed 1-0 until the River Hawks doubled their lead at 12:03 of the second period. Vallorani picked up a loose puck and made a cross-ice pass to sophomore center Scott Campbell in the left faceoff circle. Campbell one-timed the shot glove side past UMass goaltender Paul Dainton.
Down 2-0, UMass’ best scoring opportunity came midway through the third period. Freshman Casey Wellman set up senior winger Chris Davis in the high slot; Davis had a clear path to the net and fired a hard shot toward the UML goal, but Hamilton snatched the puck with his glove.
“I don’t think [Hamilton] was overly tested in the first two periods but made some enormous saves for us in the third period,” MacDonald said. “Under the circumstances of us losing Carter Hutton and him having to come in and play, I think he’s done beyond an exceptional job.”
The second UML goal ended a UMass streak of 29 consecutive penalties killed. Saturday night’s loss, however, added to its streak of scoreless power plays; the Minutemen went 0-for-4, extending it to 16 straight power plays without a goal.
Junior defenseman Justin Braun created most of UMass’ offensive opportunities. Late in the game, Braun skated the puck into the UML zone rather than force it around the boards.
“I thought Justin Braun was immense all night long,” UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon said. “He made up his mind that he was going to adjust to the conditions; it really didn’t get in his way.”
The River Hawks host No. 7 Northeastern Friday before traveling to Merrimack on Saturday. The Minutemen and No. 5 Boston College play a home-and-home next weekend, starting Friday night in Chestnut Hill.