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River Hawks overpower ASU to complete series sweep, 8-1

Sophomore C.J. Smith scored his first career hat trick as UMass Lowell earned a 8-1 victory over Division 1 newcomer Arizona State on Saturday at Tsongas Center.

Matt Dewkett

LOWELL, Mass. -- Hockey is a strange game.

UMass Lowell dominated the first period of Saturday night's series finale with Arizona State, but found itself facing a 1-0 deficit for the second consecutive night at Tsongas Center.

But the eighth-ranked River Hawks provided a prompt response and coasted from there.

Sophomore C.J. Smith scored his first career hat trick, leading five different River Hawk goal scorers in a 8-1 victory that finished off a weekend sweep. Lowell poured 57 shots on goal to ASU's 12.

"We're very pleased to get two wins on the weekend," UML head coach Norm Bazin said. "They're a first-year program, but they work extremely hard and they made us earn all our space over the weekend. I am proud of these four points and we are ready to move onto next week."

The win was Lowell's third in a row and sixth in seven January games. The River Hawks are now 16-5-4 on the season and return to Hockey East play against Northeastern next Friday night.

The River Hawks jumped out to a 19-3 shooting advantage in the first period, but freshman Anthony Croston scored on the visitors' first shot of the game at the 13:59 mark.

Croston's second goal of the season clanked off iron and tipped past UML senior Kevin Boyle, giving the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead.

"It's certainly not scripted (when) you outshoot an opponent 16-1 and they score on their first shot," Bazin said. "You don't worry too much about that. We go into every game looking for a good start and sometimes the opponent scores first."

Lowell responded in a snap as sophomore Jake Kamrass and senior Ryan McGrath lit the lamp 70 seconds apart to tip the scales for good in the game.

Kamrass scored his second goal of the season at the 15:37 mark, getting the last touch on a puck that a Sun Devil defenseman past Sun Devil freshman Ryland Pashovitz at the top of the crease.

The River Hawks scored all three goals in the second period, coasting to a four-goal lead after allowing ASU to hang around for the first 20 minutes.

Nick Master scored the fourth goal of his freshman season at 12:24, cleaning up a loose rebound at the top of the crease in front of Pashovitz to give Lowell its first two-goal lead of the night.

The Sun Devils were unable to capitalize on a pair of two-man advantages in the game, but Lowell extended its lead at 15:22 as Smith jumped out of the penalty box and banged a second-chance goal past Pashovitz.

Kamrass scored his career-high second goal of the contest just 70 seconds later, wrapping the puck around the net for an unassisted tally.

"Master and Chapie have been playing real well and just kind of helped me form into their line and what not," Kamrass said. "It's just kind of being in the right spot at the right time and they're talking me through it. I'm just getting to the net and getting gritty goals."

ASU head coach Greg Powers inserted fellow freshman David Jacobson into the net for the third period, but Lowell added three more goals for its largest margin of victory this season.

Smith scored the first two goals of the third period, scoring the first hat trick by a River Hawk since February.

At the 9:29 mark, Smith took a pass from senior A.J. White and scored five-hole after crashing down the left wing. Junior Joe Gambardella provided the play's initial set-up, tallying his team-high 20th assist of the season.

"I thought he was opportunistic," Bazin said of Smith. "He's certainly someone who relishes the special teams, whether it be shorthanded or power play. I haven't really given him a whole bunch of penalty kill situations until this year, and he'll get a little bit more of them as we go on here."

Gambardella also set up Smith's shorthanded goal, threading a pass through the neutral zone to start the clean breakaway.

Smith took a pass from senior Adam Chapie and spun around in the slot to post the hat trick goal at 15:03, while junior Evan Campbell closed the scoring by banging a loose puck past Jacobson on a two-man advantage at the 16:58 mark.

Boyle made just two saves in the first period and was counted on for just 11 in earning his 50th collegiate win, but Bazin liked his team's overall effort.

"I liked the effort tonight," Bazin said. "I thought our effort was very good, better than (Friday). Limiting any opponent to just 12 shots is certainly commendable, so it was a good defensive effort and it seemed to create some pretty good offense."

Powers knows just how important UMass Lowell's development under Bazin has been to college hockey and that is a road map for his program to follow through its first season transitioning to Division 1.

"What Norm (Bazin) has done here is incredible," Powers said. "The way they play, how he gets them to buy into his systems and play hard for 60 minutes, it's something we need to absolutely try to emulate."