LOWELL, Mass. -- January was not the best of months for UMass Lowell, but one weekend is all a team needs to change its ways ― for better, or for worse ― in Hockey East.
In this case, it was for the better. Much better.
The River Hawks followed up a well-fought victory at Northeastern with an offensive outburst Saturday night at the Tsongas Center, as seven different players found the back of the net in an 8-2 win over New Hampshire.
“I thought it was a vastly different game than what we played yesterday,” UML head coach Norm Bazin said. “Yesterday, we had to fight through some adversity, but today we benefitted from puck luck and a good third period. Both of those things came to fruition and we were able to get a few goals, something that probably feels pretty good in the dressing room right now.”
Junior Jake Kamrass was Lowell’s only two-goal scorer, while freshmen Nick Marin and Mattias Goransson each scored a goal and added two assists for the River Hawks, who scored five times in the third period to improve to 17-9-3 on the season and 9-7-1 in league play.
The Wildcats used an early two-man advantage to take the game’s first lead at the 8:01 mark as junior Michael McNicholas one-timed senior defenseman Matias Cleland’s pass past Lowell goaltender Tyler Wall from the bottom of the right circle.
Lowell’s offense took several minutes to get going and was outshot 10-6 in the opening frame, but Kamrass and Goransson scored goals to lift the hosts through 20 minutes.
Kamrass scored his 11th goal of the season at 8:54. Behind the goal line, Marin fed the junior a perfect pass that Kamrass punched past UNH junior Danny Tirone from just outside the crease on the left side.
Goransson tipped the score Lowell’s way with a power-play strike at 15:33. After senior Michael Kapla’s shot hit the post square, the puck bounced to Goransson in the left faceoff circle, where he blasted home his fifth goal of the year.
At night’s end, the River Hawks were 3-for-5 on the power play on which they generated 12 shots on goal.
“I thought they moved the puck effectively tonight,” Bazin said. “The power play’s been pretty decent the last few weeks, so that’s not my area of concern. ... When the power play does its job, that’s contributed to our scoring column.”
Despite a dominant 22-8 shot advantage in the second period, the River Hawks still only took a one-goal lead into the final intermission as the the teams traded power-play goals.
Joe Gambardella extended Lowell’s lead to 3-1 at 8:53. Goransson initially shot the puck towards goal, but the senior crashed the net and picked the puck out of Tirone’s pads to bang in his 12th goal of the season.
“Mattias made a great play to get the puck to the net and I was lucky to get a stick on it,” said Gambardella. “Any time we can generate goals, especially on the power play, it’s always good. And, it’s always nice to see a lot of contributions on the scoresheet.”
The Staten Island, N.Y., native broke a seven-game scoreless drought with his third game-winning goal of the season. However, the senior assistant captain having a quiet scoring stretch is hardly a concern for Bazin because he brings so much more to the table.
“Joe Gambardella does so much for this hockey club that I never worry about him,” Bazin said. “He’s going to get his points, but more importantly he brings such a selflessness to our lineup. … He’s one of the top threats in Hockey East because he can take faceoffs, check, and works so hard.”
Matias Cleland brought the visitors back within a goal at the 18:41 mark as he ripped a shot over Wall from in tight after senior Tyler Kelleher fed a pass. The goal was only Cleland’s second this season, but his 27 points lead all Hockey East defensemen.
From there, it was all Lowell. A 3-2 lead became 5-2 in less than a four-minute span before a pair of goals in the final 90 seconds lifted the River Hawks to their most convincing win of the season.
Junior C.J. Smith picked up his 16th goal of the season at 2:36, corralling a loose puck after John Edwardh fanned on a one-timer. Just over a minute later, at the 3:44 mark, rookie Ryan Lohin finished Kenny Hausinger’s feed at the bottom of the right circle.
At 7:11, Marin sent an extra pass cross-ice right onto the tape of sophomore Nick Master below the left circle for an easy finish, ending Tirone’s night after he allowed six goals on 31 shots over the first 47-plus minutes.
“We left (Tirone) out there to dry, to be quite honest,” UNH head coach Dick Umile said. “They were just passing the puck around us and shooting. We couldn’t do a thing to stop them, but I give them credit. They looked great and we stunk.”
Marin scored his first collegiate goal unassisted at 18:27, while Kamrass added one more off a faceoff with just 5.4 seconds remaining.