MANCHESTER, N.H. — UMass Lowell may have finished the regular season as Hockey East’s No. 1 seed and then proved its mettle by winning its third league championship in five years, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the all-star teams.
Not a single River Hawks player was named a Hockey East first-team all-star. And while forward Joe Gambardella and defensemen Michael Kapla and Dylan Zink were recognized on the second team, the honors ended there. Lowell placed no one on the third team. (C.J. Smith did earn honorable mention.)
Number of River Hawks on the Hockey East All-Rookie team? Zero.
And while Gambardella was honored with the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born college hockey player in New England, he wasn’t named a Top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
But Lowell just wins, baby, as evidenced by its dominating 5-0 victory over Cornell on Saturday in the Northeast Regional opener. And the way the River Hawks did it spoke volumes about the team’s strength.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, make no mistake about it,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer, whose team hadn’t been shut out previously all season long. “We knew chances would be at a premium. We had to capitalize on our scoring chances.
“They’re exactly what you want in a hockey team. They can stay above you, they’re good defensively. But they get the puck away from you and they can go the other way. They are a selfless group of players and they play very, very well as a team.
“We couldn’t get anything going, but give credit to the other hockey team. They did exactly to us what they’ve done to other teams.”
Although the shot totals, 21-19, indicated a closely contested game, the reality was anything but. Lowell dominated puck possession in a convincing win by a complete team.
“You try to have puck possession time as much as you can in the offensive zone,” said Norm Bazin, who has earned accolades as Hockey East coach of the year three times. “As the game wore on, we got a little bit better from that standpoint. It’s about guys moving their feet, not wishing for ‘hope’ passes, and making sure that they connect with communication and with their teammates, whether it’s low-to-high in offensive zone schemes or cycle plays.”
What’s more, the scoring came in typically Lowell fashion.
The first goal came six minutes in after a hustling play by Ryan Collins behind the offensive net led to him feeding Ryan Dmowski in front for his eighth goal, and ninth point, of the season.
The second came from freshman Ryan Lohin on a delayed penalty at about the same point in the second period. Lohin centers an all-freshmen line, ostensibly listed as the fourth line on score sheets, but Bazin contends he has “four second-lines,” a contention befitting a team strong top to bottom.
“It’s definitely good to get contributions from all four lines,” said Lohin. “You see Gams [Gambardella] and CJ [Smith] scoring, [but] guys are just as excited when Dmowski and our line scores. We’ve done a good job of spreading out the scoring as of late.”
Which is not to say that the River Hawks are synonymous with the proverbial chopped liver. Smith scored the third goal, all but putting the game out of reach. It was his 23rd of the season. He and Gambardella have both topped 50 points this year, and Zink and Kapla form a formidable one-two punch offensively and defensively from the blue line.
Nonetheless, at awards time, there always seems to be another player with a few extra points and a bit more flash.
But if the River Hawks keep winning, they certainly won’t care.