UMass Lowell tops UMass hockey on buzzer-beater

By Nick Canelas

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian
Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

LOWELL – Of all of the Massachusetts hockey team’s losses to UMass Lowell in the last three years, this one may hurt it the most.

The Minutemen rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to tie the game, but fell in heartbreaking fashion with a 3-2 loss thanks to a last-second goal by Joe Houk.

Joseph Pendenza led the breakout into the attacking zone as the final seconds were running off the clock. With Joel Hanley occupying Pendenza, A.J. White came out in front with Colin Shea out of position. White possessed the puck off a rebound after Pendenza pinched in from the wing and shot the puck. White took a hack at the net himself and Houk came in to bury the rebound as the horn sounded for the walk-off win.

The goal was the reviewed, but the officials didn’t take long to confirm it as the puck crossed the line with one-tenth of a second left and sent the No. 7 River Hawks bench and Tsongas Center crowd of 4,640 into a frenzy, handing UMass arguably its most devastating loss of the season – it’s ninth straight against UML.

“Losing is no fun, no matter how it happens or when it happens,” a visibly dejected UMass coach John Micheletto said after the game. “If you’re a competitor, losing is the worst thing in the world. (Friday night) is no different than any other.”

When asked about what happened on the winning goal, Micheletto said, “We need to defend away from the puck. … You can’t focus on the puck, you can’t play skates down, you can’t suck down to the puck and not have second layer or have weak-side coverage.”

Evan Campbell scored twice for the River Hawks, while Adam Phillips and Conor Sheary each scored power-play goals for the Minutemen. Sheary’s goal marked his 100th career point.

Despite allowing the game’s biggest goal, goaltender Steve Mastalerz was strong in net, making 29 impressive saves against a strong River Hawks attack. His counterpart, Connor Hellebuyck, made 24 saves for his 12th win of the season.

With the Minutemen’s loss and Notre Dame’s tie with Providence, UMass (8-18-4, 4-10-3 Hockey East) drops to ninth in the Hockey East standings.

Trailing 2-0 late in the second period, Zack LaRue was assessed a five-minute major and game-misconduct for hitting from behind, leaving UMass in a difficult position entering the third period.

The Minutemen finally broke through six minutes, 51 seconds into the third when Phillips finished a one-timer with a blast from the point off a pass from Joel Hanley to cut the deficit in half.

Sheary tied the game roughly three minutes later with a shot from the slot.

UMass’ fortunes against UML appeared to finally be reversed, but the effort was all for naught thanks to Houk’s last-second heroics.

“I looked at the clock and saw double zero’s on the clock,” Houk said. “Obviously when you get in the line, it’s like a you’re a little kid. You’re all excited whenever you score a goal. I kind of enjoyed that. I was just hoping there was enough time on the clock when it went in.”

The River Hawks (20-7-3, 10-4-2 HEA) opened the scoring with 48.5 seconds left in the first period when Campbell received a pass from Adam Chapie along the wall on the right side, took the puck up ice, moved across the crease and put the it beyond the outstretched pad of Mastalerz with the forehand to give UML the 1-0 lead.

Campbell extended the River Hawks’ lead to 2-0 17:25 into the second on a 2-on-1 led by Fallon, who fed the puck to Campbell on Mastalerz’s blocker side. Campbell then ripped a snap shot into the top-right corner of the net.

The Minutemen return to Mullins Center Saturday at 7 p.m. to take on Northeastern.

Nick Canelas can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.