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May 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 6 UMass Lowell for third time this season

Caroline O’Connor/Collegian

For the third time this season, the Massachusetts hockey team was bested by its in-state rival UMass Lowell.

The No. 6-ranked River Hawks (20-9-3, 12-7-1 Hockey East Association) controlled the game from the opening puck drop until the final horn sounded. After two late-third period goals from the Minutemen (5-25-2, 2-17-1 HEA), UML held on for a convincing 5-2 victory Saturday evening at Mullins Center.

“It was a frustrating game for me, as a coach,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “This is the third time we’ve played that team, and we have a pretty good understanding of what they’re trying to do. There was a stretch there where I thought our gameplan was effective but our execution was not very good.”

UMass held its ground through the first period, outshooting the River Hawks 9-5 in the first 20 minutes of play. C.J. Smith dropped a perfect left-to-right pass for John Edwardh who scored his first of two goals after he buried a one-time shot past Minutemen goaltender Ryan Wischow (19 saves) for the lone tally of the first period at 6:57.

UML never had full control of the contest until the second period, where its special teams began to flex its muscles and the talent differential took its toll on the Minutemen.

The River Hawks converted three consecutive power plays – one in the second period off Connor Wilson’s stick to push the UML lead to 2-0, and twice more in the third period to take a commanding 5-0 lead into the final seven minutes of play.

“I felt the goals they got – they scored a lot on the power play and defensive zone breakdowns and penalty kill breakdowns and those are things that we actually broke down on video this week – so it’s kind of frustrating,” Carvel said. “It’s kind of a broken record at this point. We compete hard, but it’s just not good enough. We’re trying to get better every game. Every night we’re trying to be harder to play against. The biggest issue is that we make mistakes that are very easily preventable and other teams quickly put pucks into wide open nets on us. I think right now the mental part of the game is our biggest hurdle.”

“Obviously when you go 3-for-4 [power play] it’s a helluva game,” UML coach Norm Bazin said. “We’ve been fortunate that the power play has been good this year and it continues to be hot and hopefully it carries on. The stretch is hard, and the games are getting even tighter so when you can make the difference on the power play it helps you.”

The Minutemen scored its two goals in the waning minutes of the final period on even strength tallies from Joseph Widmar and Steven Iacobellis, but it was all for naught. Despite outshooting UML 25-24 for the contest, UMass made too many mistakes to keep pace with the River Hawks, who saw three players register multi-point games – Edwardh (two goals), Chris Forney (two assists) and Smith (goal, three assists).

“We’re thrilled to get two points tonight,” Bazin said. “Sweeping any team in Hockey East during the regular season is very difficult and I thought that team battled right to the end. I give them a lot of credit. They’ve had a tough season, but they didn’t stop. They battled for 60 minutes and it was a tough game.”

UMass plays its two remaining regular season games this weekend for a home-and-home with No. 10 Providence College. The Friars travel to Amherst for a 7 p.m. puck drop at Mullins Friday.

Kyle DaLuz can be reached at kdaluz@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Kyle_DaLuz.

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