Ledyard Bank Classic: UMass-Lowell overpowers Dartmouth for title

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UMass-Lowell looked every bit deserving of its No. 7 ranking Saturday in winning the 28th Ledyard Bank Classic at Thompson Arena. The River Hawks defeated host Dartmouth, 7-4, scoring on 3 of 5 power plays and adding another tally during a stretch of 4-on-4 competition.

“They were on today, really the whole team,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin, whose squad is 12-5-3. “When you move to open space and the puck follows, everything gels. But these type of games are few and far between, having this much success on special teams.”

Thank goodness, say future River Hawks opponents. Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet wished his 900th career game behind the bench had turned out differently but realized his club had run into a buzz saw.

“They scored on us in special situations and that’s a special team,” Gaudet said. “Our kids battled and they’re disappointed that we lost, but we lost to a great team with some really good shooters.”

Dylan Zink’s sharp-angle, under-the-bar tally five minutes before the second intermission was the night’s prettiest play. The senior drifted into the lower third of the right circle, received a feed from high in the slot and ripped a laser over the shoulders of both kneeling defender Cameron Roth and goaltender Devin Buffalo (36 saves) for a power-play goal.

Zink’s strike put the River Hawks up, 4-3, after they’d blown a 3-1 lead earlier in the middle stanza. Lowell started backup goaltender Garrett Metcalf, who was replaced by starter Tyler Wall after Dartmouth forged a 3-3 tie midway through the second period.

Dartmouth wasn’t done after Zink’s gem, however. Charlie Michalowski skated out from behind the net and sent a loose puck to Daniel Warpecha in front for his second goal of the game. An announced crowd of 2,192 cheered the 4-4 tie with 13 minutes remaining.

The beginning of the end for Dartmouth came four minutes later when Zink scored again, this time slipping lower and closer to Buffalo’s left and  crushing a one-time shot into the net’s open, near side. The River Hawks tacked on a pair of empty-net goals late, dropping Dartmouth to 4-6-3.

“They move the puck really fast and like it’s on a string,” Gaudet said of Lowell. “It’s the passer but it’s also the receiver. That subtle movement of his feet to get a puck that’s six inches off target on his forehand. They’re stick-ready and always prepared to shoot.”

Lowell, which had lost in the Ledyard final twice before, surrendered the game’s first goal when Michalowski drove around the net from right to left and threw it out front during the third minute. The puck deflected off a Lowell skate and to Warpecha, who’s tied for the team lead with five goals. Those tallies have all come in Dartmouth’s past six games.

Lowell’s C.J. Smith scored twice in two minutes to put his team up, 2-1, eight minutes into the contest and Joe Gambardella scored his team’s second power-play goal of the night six minutes after the first intermission. Dartmouth’s Clay Han pulled the hosts to 3-2 with a high, power-play shot through a crowd midway through the stanza. Roth notched his first collegiate goal 41 seconds later, a fluttering effort that trickled in after striking the bottom of Metcalf’s glove.

Army 4, Colgate 1

The revival of Army men’s ice hockey continued in the consolation game as the Black Knights pinned a 4-1 defeat on Colgate. The Raiders scored first but Army improved to 10-6-2, its best record to this point of the season in 20 years.

Not since the 1996-97 campaign had the Black Knights entered the holiday break with as many as nine victories. Now, building off last season’s appearance in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, Army is looking to improve to 11-4 in conference play when it visits Bentley for two games this weekend.

Army coach Brian Riley said he and his assistants rejiggered their recruiting approach several years ago and more consistently challenge bigger, more storied programs for the country’s top recruits.

“We started rebuilding with the group that is now our junior class and we’ve been climbing ever since,” Riley said. “It’s about identifying top-notch student athletes that we were maybe backing off before. If we can get them to visit West Point, they’re usually impressed with what they see.

“We’re pleased with our start but our goal is to be playing our best hockey coming down the stretch. We were able to do that last year.”

Tim Harrison scored for Colgate before Trevor Fidler, Zach Evancho, Brendan Soucie and Dominic Franco tallied for Army, the last goal coming into an empty net.

All-Tournament Team

Tim Harrison – Colgate

CJ Smith – UMass Lowell

Dominic Franco – Army West Point

Daniel Warpecha – Dartmouth

Dylan Zink – UMass Lowell

Parker Gahagen – Army West Point

MVP: Joe Gambardella – UMass Lowell

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