LOWELL, Mass. -- After No. 14 UMass Lowell squeaked out an exhibition victory over New Brunswick last Sunday, its start to the regular season on Friday night was quite a bit different.
The River Hawks dominated the first two periods against RPI and weathered some offensive pressure from the opposition in the final period, but senior Kevin Boyle held on for a 27-save shutout in a 3-0 win at Tsongas Center.
The victory marked UML head coach Norm Bazin’s 100th as the head coach of his alma mater. He is the third coach in UMass Lowell program history to reach the century milestone.
"It was a great start to the season," Bazin said. "I didn’t think we gave that much up in the first and second (periods). At the same time, in the third, we gave up a few chances that could have gone in. … But I’m proud of the guys. I thought the effort was very good overall."
The River Hawks dominated the opening period, taking out a 1-0 lead on a 12-4 shots on goal advantage. After junior Evan Campbell hit the outside of the post in the opening minute, he came back and set up UML’s first goal of the season at 4:03.
RPI senior Jason Kasdorf made an initial save with Campbell in on the play, but sophomore linemate Michael Louria picked up the rebound at the side of goal and snuck it inside the right post.
Campbell doubled Lowell’s lead just 14 seconds into its second power play of the night, bursting into the offensive zone and tucking a wraparound goal by Kasdorf.
"I was wheeling around at the top of the zone and got a shot on net there and (Louria) picked up the rebound and threw it out front," Campbell said. "On (my goal), same thing. I was coming around the net, tried to wrap it around and I got a fortunate bounce there. I think it hit off the D-man’s skate. Two fortunate bounces, but it was nice to have that start."
Although their only goal came just 2:06 into the second period, the River Hawks controlled the pace of play once again while putting 16 more shots on Kasdorf.
After the RPI senior stopper and Sabres prospect held the fort early on another power play chance for Lowell, senior assistant captain Adam Chapie made it a 3-0 game as he took a pass from junior defenseman Michael Kapla.
Lowell sophomore C.J. Smith fed sophomore Tyler Mueller with a beautiful cross-crease pass about four minutes into the third, but Kasdorf made one of his seven third-period saves and 35 overall to keep the score at 3-0.
RPI’s deficit was not for a lack of opportunities as it came out fast in the third, but could not beat Boyle on 13 shots on goal.
"They had a real good start in their building and put us on our heels early, with good tenacity, forcing us into some turnovers," Appert said. "I thought in the last seven minutes of the second, we started to turn that and had some good chances. Boyle made some good saves on screen shots and traffic shots."
The Engineers caught Boyle out of position in the slot about halfway through the period, but a centering pass to sophomore Jared Wilson bounced off his stick and into the opposite corner of the ice.
Sophomore Kenny Gillespie worked a step ahead of the Lowell defense a short while later and drew a penalty, but Boyle held down the fort and preserved the fourth shutout of his career.
"It was a great effort," Bazin said. "Any time you get a shutout in college hockey, it’s a heck of an effort. I thought it was a team shutout as much as it was an individual shutout, but he kept his composure and there wasn’t a big lapse. … It was a very good game by him, and a good start."
Boyle was there for the River Hawks all the way through and some fortunate bounces went their way. As Bazin said, "that’s hockey."
When the game was said and done, Bazin saw last weekend’s close game as a big positive in helping to keep a positive mindset. The River Hawks showed an improvement defensively as the period concluded and kept the shutout intact.
"I thought the second half of that third period was better and I was happy about that," Bazin said. "Last weekend against New Brunswick, I thought it being a close game helped us tonight because it’s not the first time they get under those conditions."