“Thank God,” was the reaction from New Hampshire coach Dick Umile after the Wildcats’ upset win over No. 8 Massachusetts-Lowell on Saturday night at Tsongas Center, despite being outshot 45-16 by the River Hawks. UNH goaltender Danny Tirone (43 saves) completely stood on his head throughout the entire game and was the difference.
Tirone’s phenomenal play did not go unnoticed, as Umile complemented his man between the pipes following the win.
“We gotta give this one to Tirone,” said Umile. “He stood tall and gave us a chance to win. There are a lot of areas we need to work on, but we’ll take the two points, especially against a good team like Lowell, who has given us a lot of problems the last few years.”
UNH drew first blood just 30 seconds into the contest when Andrew Poturalski slammed home the rebound of a Tyler Kelleher shot from the slot. Umile praised the play of Poturalski, a sophomore from Williamsville, New York, after the game.
“He is terrific with the puck on his stick, just a great goal scorer. He’s become a really big part of this team and is still young in his career.”
At 8:38 of the second period, Lowell’s Dylan Zink covered a lose puck in his team’s crease with his hand, resulting in a penalty shot for the Wildcats. Kevin Boyle came up tall for the River Hawks, stoning Andrew Poturalski with a left pad save and keeping the game 1-0.
However, the Wildcats were able to get another puck past Kevin Boyle at 10:10 when Shane Eiserman fed a cross ice pass to Jamie Hill, who one-touched a pass back to Eiserman breaking to the doorstep of the net. Eiserman tapped the puck past Kevin Boyle for a 2-0 Wildcats lead, and the River Hawks found themselves down two goals after two periods of play despite outshooting UNH 29-12 at the second intermission.
Lowell played with reckless abandon right out of the gate in the third period and dominated the time on attack. Sadly for the River Hawks, it was just one of those nights, as at 9:45, UNH’s Ara Nazarian stole the puck in neutral zone off the stick of Lowell’s Tommy Panico. Nazarian broke into the Lowell zone, cutting in front of the net and ripping a wrist shot to give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
After falling behind by three goals, Lowell played with desperation, and unlike the first 50 minutes of Saturday night’s game, the River Hawks started clicking on offense. Just 22 seconds after the Nazarian goal for UNH, Lowell’s Jake Kamrass buried the rebound of an Adam Chapie shot at 10:07 to cut the lead back to 3-1.
Still down two goals, the River Hawks pulled Kevin Boyle for the extra attacker with 2:25 to play. With 1:15 to play, Lowell cut the UNH lead to one when Nick Master punched home the rebound of a shot from the point by Joe Gambardella.
The River Hawks were unable to generate another solid scoring chance in the game’s final minute, however, as the Wildcats held on for the 3-2 win. After the game, Lowell coach Norm Bazin stated that he liked his team’s effort, but felt they just ran out of time.
“It was a good hockey game; we just ran out of time,” said Bazin. “We allowed a 20-goal man (Poturalski) to score first. We need to have a better start next game, but I liked the effort and the fight our guys showed tonight.”
Bazin also gave credit to the play of Tirone and the coaching of Umile.
“Credit to coach Umile and his staff, they played a really good hockey game. Both their goaltender and ours played well, but 43 saves is about as solid as a goaltender can play in a hockey game.”