Burlington, Vt. -- UMass-Lowell took a few minutes to regain game shape after a 20 day layoff, but the River Hawks came on strong for a 5-2 victory over Canisius College in the first game of the Catamount Cup at the Gutterson Fieldhouse.
"There was a little rust. We didn't have the start we wanted, but we got it going after a few minutes and played well from there," said Christian Folin.
Canisius struck first on a power play goal by Taylor Law 6:56 into the game. Stephen Miller and Patrick Sullivan assisted on the goal that came after a sustained flurry from the Golden Griffins.
"The first five minutes anyways we relied on our goalie much too much. They took the play to us, but we settled down there and got better as the game went along. We started moving our feet," said UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin.
With the River Hawks starting to tilt the ice back in their favor Joseph Pendenza scored on a nice play set up by Folin and Zack Kamrass.
A.J. White tipped in a slap shot from the blue line by Folin to give UMass-Lowell its first lead of the night with three minutes remaining in the first.
Midway through the second period Folin connected on a blast from the point that cleanly beat Canisius goaltender Tony Capobianco. Kamrass and Wilson assisted on the tally that gave UML a 3-1 lead.
Folin had a hand in the first three River Hawks' goals, but was quick to deflect attention from his effort that earned him the Catamount Cup Player of the Game award.
"Our whole "D" core is doing a good job joining the play. I was just lucky tonight and got a few bounces my way," said a modest Folin. "I just try to play a solid defensive game and go from there," he added.
"[Christian] is growing as a player and when you can get contributions from your back end you are a much better team," said Bazin.
Canisius cut the lead to one less than a minute later on a broken play. Duncan McKellar's shot from the point was blocked, but Kyle Gibbons got a stick on it and tossed it towards the net. The puck slid to the side of Hellebuyck allowing Cody Freeman to deposit it into a virtually open net.
Josh Holmstrom finished off a beautiful passing sequence to give Lowell its two-goal cushion back. Pendenza was going down the right side when he pulled up and patiently waited before zipping a pass cross-ice to Michael Kapla. The defenseman shot the puck on net, but Josh Holmstrom tipped it between Capobianco's pad and the post.
Ryan McGrath took advantage of a mishandled puck by a Canisius defender to streak in alone and forehand it above the blocker of Capobianco for a 5-2 lead. Kamrass was credited with the assist as it was his clearing attempt that could not be contained.
The goal with 1:34 to play in the second period gave UML two goals in just over a minute to take control of the game.
UMass-Lowell out shot Canisius, 37-23, but Golden Griffins head coach Dave Smith wasn't displeased with his team's play.
"I think our team played very well. We had some lulls in the game that a good team like UMass-Lowell capitalizes on. I liked our energy and our game for 50 minutes," said Smith.
"We don't need to change much for [Sunday]. We need to continue to do what makes us effective: extreme work ethic and simple hockey. We have good players," he added.
Smith was impressed with UMass-Lowell's ability to take advantage of opportunities. "Lowell is very good. They're effectively simple. They're fast and tenacious. They capitalize on mistakes. We didn't make a boatload, but they capitalized on the ones we made. They could have had a few more."
It was the first game for Lowell in nearly three weeks when they lost, 4-2, at Maine the last time out.
"It was nice to have a little Christmas break. We were all really excited to be back. It was a lot of fun to play tonight and we got a good result. We just have to win [Sunday]. It's a new game and a new challenge. We'll look to win a trophy [Sunday]," said Folin.
UMass-Lowell (12-5-0) will face Clarkson in the first game on Sunday while Canisius (5-9-1) will take on Vermont in the nightcap.
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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.