LOWELL, Mass. -- It was not over until the fat lady - and a Tsongas Center all-time record crowd of 7,013 fans - sung on Saturday night, but the Northeastern Huskies gave the host River Hawks all they could handle on home ice in a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win to take three massive league points from the weekend.
"It was an exciting hockey game tonight," UML head coach Norm Bazin said. "We certainly made it dramatic, more than the coaches would like but obviously it went our way. I think it was a tale of two games – the first one, we definitely lost and the second half we didn’t."
"When you are talking about a crowd like this, you get something to cheer about. You score five goals in a period and a half, it’s exciting, and a finish like this is a nice way to top it off."
Rookie Christian Folin took a long drive from the point at 3:07 of the overtime for his second score of the season, giving the River Hawks a victory in the extra period for the first time since the second game of the 2012 Hockey East quarterfinals against Providence.
The Huskies jumped to a first-period lead for the second straight contest against the River Hawks as rookie Ryan Belonger scored his second goal of the season at 11:15. Junior Braden Pimm fired a hard, on-target initial shot on UML junior Doug Carr that careened all the way into the center slot for a wrister over his shoulder. The goal snapped a 19-game skid without a point for the Green Bay, Wisc. native, dating back to Oct. 13, 2012 against Boston College.
Junior Braden Pimm doubled NU's lead just 56 seconds into the middle stanza as he banged in senior VInny Saponari's initial shot on the crease for a 2-0 buffer and his fifth of the year.
Veteran Garrett Vermeersch dropped his second goal in as many games by the recently struggling Hanover, Mass. native, putting home the initial chance from classmate Steve Morra, whose assist extended a four-game point streak that matches the previous total for his entire career.
UML finally solved NU senior Bryan Mountain for its first goal of the contest at the 15:32 mark of the second period as junior Josh Holmstrom got the last laugh on a scrum in front of the net, banging a third or fourth effort on the goal mouth, after Mountain made several saves in a full split.
For the second straight period, NU scored in the first minute as Morra posted a goal for the second straight game, capitalizing on an offensive-zone turnover at the 0:48. The River Hawks came all the way back from a 4-1 deficit at the start of the stanza to capture the overtime victory and hand NU a loss when it led after two periods for the first time this season.
Junior Joseph Pendenza continued what would turn out to be a career night, breaking the ice on UML's third-period barrage at 8:53, whizzing down the right wing and snapping a wrister by Mountain for his ninth of the year and the second of the game for the Red, White and Blue.
At 13:59, Pendenza's junior classmate and fellow Bay State native Derek Arnold turned the same trick with a wrister from the opposite side of the ice, converting for Lowell's lone power-play strike of the night without assistance.
Senior captain Riley Wetmore had the tying goal with 55.3 seconds left in regulation as he had the final touch on Folin's initial shot from the point, potting it past Mountain off a net-mouth scramble to keep pace with Pendenza for the team goal-scoring lead with nine.
With assists from sophomore Jake Suter and Pendenza, Folin ripped a one-timer into the top corner of Mountain's net to clinch the victory and keep UML rolling to its 11th in a row unbeaten.
"It was a great team effort and we found a way to come back," Folin said of the contest. "It was a great win...It is great. We have a great team with a lot of spirit and we just keep finding ways to win."
Despite struggling early in both nights of the weekend and allowing eight total goals, the River Hawks found their way to capture league points and remain on such a hot streak. UML allowed its four goals in the closing half of the series on just 17 shots, with Carr making 13 stops. "When you take three of four points on the weekend when we’re not playing our best hockey, I think it says a lot about our team," Carr said.
Heading into a crucial Friday contest at Merrimack's Lawler Arena on NESN, UML looks to keep up the momentum with more strong contributions from its freshman class.
"It’s after Christmas now and they’ve been with us long enough, so we really don’t see them as freshmen but they are working really hard," Carr praised. "It’s starting to pay off and I’m really happy because we have everybody contributing. That’s really the key to the team’s success."
Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.