Frozen Fenway: Pimm, Witt lead Northeastern past UMass Lowell

Northeastern senior Braden Pimm (left) battles UMass Lowell's Michael Kapla for the puck. - Matt Dewkett (mrd-photos.com)

Picked to finish dead last in the preseason, Northeastern is now tied for second place in Hockey East.

Boston - Northeastern's game plan was simple coming into Saturday afternoon's contest at a soggy and not so frozen Fenway Park. The Huskies wanted to keep it simple, go north and south and cut out the fancy plays.

That they did as the Huntington Hounds skated to a 4-1 victory over UMass-Lowell to jump into a tie with Providence for second place in the Hockey East standings.

"We wanted to play a simple game. We're a directional school if you look at Northeastern. We wanted to play a directional game, a north-south type of game. We wanted to simplify and make short passes," said Northeastern coach Jim Madigan.

Despite the poor ice conditions and the rain falling from above, Northeastern was able to enjoy its Frozen Fenway experience, especially picking up a key two points in the league standings.

"I thought it was a great game. We're in the same community as Fenway Park. Our kids are over here an awful lot in the spring and summertime watching games. To be able to play in it is a great opportunity and experience. We talked earlier today that the experience and memory is lasting when you win. We competed hard."

"It was amazing. The whole atmosphere was really exciting. It was fun to be part of. It's something I'll tell my grandkids about. The conditions, the buildup, the change in times, all the distractions, having to deal with it and doing it with a really good group of guys was exciting," said goaltender Clay Witt.

Northeastern was able to get out of the first period unscathed despite giving up 20 shots and allowing several point blank chances from UMass Lowell where pucks bounced off sticks or were turned away by Witt.

One golden chance the River Hawks had came in the closing minutes of the opening frame when Joe Pendenza couldn't get the puck squarely on his stick to pull the trigger.

"Taking off my stuff I was five pounds heavier because of all the water. I should have just beared down more. I had plenty of chances to score and wish I could have capitalized on one," said Pendenza.

After weathering the storm in the first period, Northeastern scored three times in a span of 8:27 in the second period to blow the game open.

Braden Pimm started the scoring for Northeastern 7:23 into the second period. He received a pass from Mike Szmatula before skating into the zone and ripping a wrist shot inside the far post.

Less than two minutes later Matt Benning found himself in the right place at the right time. With the Huskies on the power play and entering the zone, Kevin Roy passed the puck to Szmatula whose shot on goal was saved, but the puck dropped right down in the crease for Benning to slide it in.

Moments after Northeastern successfully killed off a two-man advantage for Lowell, Josh Manson scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box with the Huskies still down a man. The defenseman skated in alone and flipped a wrist shot above UMass Lowell goaltender Doug Carr's glove.

Zack Kamrass' goal with five seconds to play in the wild second period gave Lowell a glimmer of hope heading into the final frame. Kamrass took a feed from Joe Pendenza and wristed it top shelf as he was falling down.

"They took advantage of their second period and made us pay," said a disappointed Norm Bazin.

Pimm, who added an empty net goal in the third period, echoed Madigan's comments on keeping the game simple.

"Once the game started you stopped thinking about [the rain]. You just play your game and deal with it and make the simplest play you can. On a two-on-one instead of trying to make a fancy play you just put it on net," said Pimm.

Witt earned his second consecutive victory over a top ten opponent, making 47 saves, a large number, but one that has become customary this season for the junior from Brandon, Fla.

"We're a team that is going to give up a lot of shots. Teams like Providence and Lowell get a lot of pucks to the net. Clay did a very good job of collecting his rebounds and not leaving them out there. When the rebounds were out there our defense did a good job of moving pucks and bodies away.

"Clay is an athletic and strong young man. He was really tight to his post and strong in the crease area," said Madigan.

Witt said he and his goaltending coach, Ed Walsh, went over the game plan before the game to discuss strategies in the poor weather conditions.

"I tried to stay down a lot so nothing beat me low. It was pretty easy to slide around because of the water," said Witt.

"Their goaltender had a strong game," said a complimentary Bazin of Witt.

Northeastern (13-6-3) returns home next weekend to face Vermont for a pair of games while UMass-Lowell (14-6-1) also has some home cooking with Maine and Boston University heading to Tsongas Center next weekend.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.

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