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Smith's shutout paces dominant River Hawk win at Northeastern

UMass Lowell finished off a three-point Hockey East weekend on Saturday night, posting a convincing 5-0 win at Northeastern's Matthews Arena. Freshman Jeff Smith made 20 saves in the contest for the first shutout of his college career.

Adam Chapie
Adam Chapie
Justin K. Aller

BOSTON -- UMass Lowell hadn't visited historic Matthews Arena in almost two years until Saturday night, but it was well worth the wait.

Freshman Jeff Smith posted his third straight victory and pitched the first shutout of his collegiate career, making an even 20 stops en route to a 4-0 decision over a Northeastern team still searching for its first win of the year at 0-7-1.

"It's an awesome feeling, but I think that was our best game defensively all year," the Maple Ridge, British Columbia native said. "They shut down a lot, blocked a ton of shots and you couldn't have asked for a better game from them."

The game was Lowell's first on St. Botolph Street since Jan. 25, 2013 as Northeastern's home game became the team's Jan. 11 Frozen Fenway meeting last season.

UML earned a 3-3 tie in Friday's game at Tsongas Center, so the road result improves its record to 6-1-2 on the season and keeps the River Hawks tied with Vermont at the top of the Hockey East standings.

"I thought it was a well-played hockey game," UML head coach Norm Bazin said. "We're glad we came out with two points. ... (Last night's result) was a point, and I thought both teams deserved that point. We didn't feel like we played 60 minutes, but tonight we felt like those 60 minutes."

The River Hawks drew first blood at the 5:46 mark as junior Michael Fallon scored his second goal of the season off a deflection in front of NU sophomore Derick Roy.

Sophomore defenseman Dylan Zink had the primary set-up with Fallon's puck finding its way in through a barrage of bodies in front on a five-on-three advantage for UML, which is now 5-0-2 on the season when taking a 1-0 lead on its opponent.

"We own the ability to be the dumbest team, right now, when we're down a man," Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. "In two nights, we've given up three 5-on-3's. ... You can't live in this league giving up 5-on-3's like we're giving up. It's our better players and our penalty killers who are taking the penalties, so we're losing momentum there."

Northeastern has as good an opportunity as possible at 10:34 as sophomore Ryan Rosenthal was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down by rookie Tyler Mueller coming in for a breakaway. UML freshman goaltender Jeff Smith got a stick save on the Vermont transfer's attempt to keep the River Hawks up by a goal.

A two-goal lead had made Lowell virtually unbeatable in Bazin's head coaching career and that's exactly what freshman C.J. Smith made happen at 12:52. Sophomore Dylan Zink's point shot deflected right to Smith's stick in Roy's right circle for an easy wrister on the power play.

Under Bazin, the River Hawks are 66-2-1 when holding a two-goal lead at any point in a game.

Freshman Jake Kamrass netted the first goal of his collegiate career at the 16:34 mark to give the River Hawks a 3-0 lead, capping a 3-on-2 rush with a score off a centering pass from junior Michael Colantone.

"From a standpoint of different guys getting on the scoresheet, that's a good sign," Bazin said. "We're still trying to build our team, put some different combinations together, seeing where there's chemistry and where there isn't. It's a good sign that different guys are contributing, so we'll see if we can't keep that going."

Senior assistant captain Jake Suter dished a head man pass to second-year centerman Joe Gambardella at 8:28, giving the UML a 4-0 edge with a shorthanded breakaway goal. Suter became the 18th different River Hawk to score a goal this year, finding the back of the net from the point off a cross-ice pass from classmate Terrence Wallin with just 31 seconds to play to equal the final 5-0 score.

After playing two road games against Penn State last November, the River Hawks welcome the Nittany Lions to Lowell for a two-game weekend series next Friday and Saturday. PSU will be the third Big Ten team visiting Tsongas Center for the first time ever after Michigan State and Michigan paid visits in the final weekend of October.

The Huskies have another tough challenge ahead next weekend with a home-and-home series against New Hampshire. Friday night's game marks a return to Whittemore Center, where the Wildcats ousted NU from Hockey East playoff contention in a three-game quarterfinal series in March.

"We need to be better from top to bottom - coaches, players," Madigan said after his team was shutout for the third time in eight games. "If we're going to compete in this league, we're going to need more from our better players ... and we've got to get tougher to play against."