Lowell, Mass. -- The River Hawks scored two goals in the first 1:04 of the hockey game as UMass-Lowell cruised to a 6-1 victory over upset-minded American International on Tuesday evening at the Tsongas Center.
"We made [getting off to a good start] a real emphasis in the dressing room. Our leadership core did a very good job of getting each other going. I was pleased. Our game plan was to have an excellent first 10 minutes. Fortunately for us, a couple goals went in quickly, and we kept after it all 60 minutes," said UMass-Lowell head coach Norm Bazin, whose team now owns a six-game winning streak.
The River Hawks wasted no time finding the back of the net as Ryan McGrath tipped home a Jake Suter shot from the point just 15 seconds into the game. Derek Arnold also assisted on the goal.
"Our forwards did a great job taking the goalie's eyes in front. I kind of just threw it on net. I don't think the goalie saw it and it just kind of found its way in," said Suter.
The score was 2-0 before some of the fans were even in their seats. 49 seconds later A.J. White regained the puck he lost in the slot and wristed it over the shoulder of AIC starting goaltender Ty Reichenbach.
"We had an offensive zone faceoff there. We tried to run a play and it broke down. I got lucky that I got the puck there. I saw [Adam] Chapie wide open in front of the net. I bobbled the puck so I just had to throw it at the net," said White of his goal that ended up being the game-winner.
Terrence Wallin scored his first goal of the season late in the first period when he collected a rebound off a shot and quickly deposited the puck into the back of the net. Josh Holmstrom picked up the other assist on the goal that gave the River Hawks a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Wallin had a huge freshman season with eight goals and 17 assists. While he has been a little snakebitten in terms of finding the score sheet lately, but his coach is pleased with his overall play.
"I think he's been back on track for quite some time. Sometimes it doesn't manifest into points, but ironically we had a conversation yesterday where I told him that he's playing the best hockey of his career. Regardless of all the points his freshman year he's playing a more complete game and doing all the little things," said Bazin.
"[UMass-Lowell] is a very good team. Obviously you don't want to be down 3-0 as quickly as we were. Lowell played very well and in various areas of the game we had some difficulty," said AIC head coach Gary Wright.
Arnold gave the home fans reason to cheer again just 3:34 into the second period when he tipped in a Zack Kamrass blast from the blue line for a 4-0 Lowell lead.
Two freshmen got into the act late in the second period to give the River Hawks a 5-0 lead after 40 minutes. Chris Maniccia jammed home a shot from defenseman Michael Kapla with 3:33 to play in the period.
Carson Grolla, arguably the best player on the ice all night for AIC, put the visitors on the board when his shot from the point found its way past UMass-Lowell goaltender Doug Carr.
"[Grolla] is a freshman. He's a point on one of our power plays. He's a really good young defenseman. He has a lot of poise for his age and being a freshman. He's a very good player and sees a lot of ice time. The fact that we're giving him that much responsibility is telling," said Wright of his goal scorer.
Adam Chapie regained the five-goal lead for the River Hawks just over a minute later when he banged home a centering feed from A.J. White.
The last time American International and UMass-Lowell faced off prior to tonight was December 12, 1981. The River Hawks, or Chiefs as they were called back then, defeated the Yellow Jackets, 22-0. Bill Riley's team would go on to win the NCAA Division II National Championship that season.
"I didn't realize we had ever played them to be honest," said Bazin. "In college hockey there is such a fine line. You guys saw it by the score earlier this year with Sacred Heart. You saw it by the game the other night between Holy Cross and Boston College. We don't take anything for granted," added the third-year head coach.
"Considering that UMass-Lowell was eighth in the country last week and seventh this week that enhanced this opportunity. It's really good for our program particularly with the fact that Lowell was a Frozen Four team last year. I wish we had performed a little bit better. Overall it was a good experience. It's disappointing in the short term, but hopefully this will help in the long run," opined Wright, who is in his 30th season behind the bench at AIC.
UMass-Lowell (11-4-0) travels to Orono to face the University of Maine at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
American International (3-8-0) will make the long bus ride out to western New York this weekend to take on Atlantic Hockey Association foe RIT in a two-game series.
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Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, NCAA recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.