The UMass Lowell River Hawks made the trek to Storrs to play the Huskies at the Freitas Ice Forum in what became a very close game. This rivalry hearkens all the way back to 1969 when both teams were playing in Division 2. UMass Lowell holds the edge in the all-time record, holding it at 25-11-3 before the game on Monday night. Since joining Hockey East, UMass Lowell has beat UConn in 7 out of 14 meetings.
Coach Mike Cavanaugh touched on their history with the team.
“Before the game started I told the kids, ‘If it’s any indication of how our last games have gone against Lowell, it’s going to be a one-goal game and we’re going to have to make a play late in the third period to win a hockey game,’” Cavanaugh said.
In this game it was especially noticeable just how physical the Huskies were on the ice. Hockey East is generally considered, like the ECAC, to be a much less physical conference. Unlike more Western teams, Hockey East teams tend to play a more technical brand of hockey, with a greater emphasis on skill and movement than physical defense.
Cavanaugh made note of this identity.
“That’s just part of our identity,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s how we play. I think when we play that way, we create more scoring chances because when you knock a guy over, he’s out of the play and you can beat him to the net.”
As we saw with the series against Boston College, this physical brand of hockey is able to grind down and frustrate the other team and allow the Huskies to maintain greater puck control. This physical drive let UConn (1-3-1) lead the shots on goal of the game. UConn outshot UMass Lowell (1-1) 32-26.
UConn faced a big problem during the game in their inability to make use of power plays. There were several opportunities where the Huskies were up a man on the ice, like after UMass Lowell forward Lucas Condotta was called for holding early into the second period. The River Hawks were able to kill this penalty. Consistently over the course of the three periods, the River Hawks put constant pressure on the Huskies and took the puck away from their zone. Both teams ended the game 1-for-4 on power play success.
Both goaltenders were a huge part of the success of each team. The Huskies’ junior goaltender Tomas Vomacka made 24 saves and UMass Lowell freshman Henry Welsch made 31. This game remained close for the entirety of play in large part due to the inability of forwards to make it past high quality goaltenders.
The scoreboard opened after a power play goal from River Hawks forward Carl Berglund 12 minutes into the first period. The Huskies did not wait long to catch up, with junior forward Carter Turnbull scoring only four minutes into the second period. UMass Lowell scored the game winner after Lowell forward Zach Kaiser caught the puck off of an attempt to clear the UConn zone. With only 2:50 left in regular play, Kaiser was able to get it past Vomacka.
“They made the play late in the game,” Cavanaugh said. “They won a scrum battle, and the puck took a funny bounce and went way up in the air and I think Jachym [Kondelik] lost sight of where the puck was and the kid made a terrific shot to win the hockey game.”
The Huskies were unable to really force a comeback by pulling Vomacka due to Marc Gatcomb serving a penalty for cross checking at the end of the game. UConn had to play a man down until there were only 50 seconds left in play and were unable to pull Vomacka until there were but 40 seconds left. Ultimately, the comeback was never able to come to fruition, and UConn fell 2-1.