Manchester, N.H. – For the fifth time in six seasons, UMass Lowell will be one of the final eight teams in the country playing college hockey.
The River Hawks capitalized on their superior speed and skill to get in on the forecheck, force turnovers and finish the limited amount of chances they had to defeat Cornell, 5-0, in the first semifinal at the Northeast Regional.
“We’re excited to get by them. It was a hard fought battle. We got contributions from all four lines and our special teams. That helped us get over the edge,” said UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin.
At times, the Big Red were able to use their size to take away time and space from Lowell, a team that usually can generate quite a few chances in transition. While UML didn’t generate as many chances in transition as it usually does, it was opportunistic.
“They’re very good in transition. They get the puck from you and go the other way,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer.
“Part of [Cornell’s] identity is playing physical. They’re very strong and take up a lot of room out there,” said Bazin.
While Cornell was able to play physically and limit space in the neutral zone, it was unable to match the forecheck pressure and puck pursuit from UMass Lowell.
“They’re big. We wanted to keep moving. Move our feet and the puck. We were able to do that early on and throughout the game. We created some chances off the forecheck and off turnovers,” said freshman center Ryan Lohin who scored twice.
The first goal was a perfect example of how Lowell likes to get pucks in deep and go to work. Ryan Collins beat three Cornell players to a loose puck below the goal line. He quickly fed the puck out into the slot where Ryan Dmowski one-timed it home for the 1-0 lead at the 6:34 mark of the first period.
“We saw several things in the pre-scout that we were trying to alleviate. Part of it is they have some outstanding set breakouts and some timing associated with it. Fortunately for us we were able to force a turnover,” Bazin explained.
Lowell’s speed was on full display when Ryan Lohin made it 2-0 with 13:51 to play in the middle period. Kenny Hausinger’s quickness from the corner to the net front forced a Cornell player to hook him down. With the goaltender pulled on the delayed penalty, Lowell maintained possession in the attacking zone. From the right half wall, Michael Kapla hit Lohin right on the top for an easy finish.
The River Hawks extended their lead to 3-0 later in the second period on a pretty passing sequence. The play started with Joe Gambardella’s puck pursuit forcing a turnover in the neutral zone. John Edwardh gained the line on the right wing and pulled up. He found a seam between two Cornell defenders and sent a beauty of a pass to C.J. Smith for a tap-in goal.
With the game already out of reach and Cornell defenseman Patrick McCarron serving a five-minute major, Lohin added his second of the night and Connor Wilson scored to put the game on ice.
Lowell’s defense did a terrific job minimizing Cornell’s chances offensively. Freshman goaltender Tyler Wall was forced to make just 19 saves for his second collegiate shutout. There were very few grade ‘A’ chances. It was the first time all season the Big Red had been blanked.
“He had what I’d characterize as a solid performance today. I’d have to look back at the film to see just how many times he was really tested,” said Bazin. “At the same time you’re talking about a young goalie getting a shutout in a crucial game. It’s very important. It’s going to help his confidence.”
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country. They don’t give up a whole lot of offensive opportunities. We knew chances were going to be at a premium,” Schafer complimented.
The River Hawks will await the winner of the afternoon’s second game between No. 1 Minnesota and No. 4 Notre Dame. The East Regional Final is set for 3:30 ET Sunday on ESPNU.