River Hawks Make It a Weekend Sweep
LOWELL -- In a battle of heavyweights, the River Hawks soared thanks to an early knockout punch.
UML 3, UConn 0
After a sluggish start, UMass Lowell stunned UConn with two goals, just 31 seconds apart, in the opening 2:17 of their Hockey East game Saturday at the Tsongas Center en route to a 3-0 victory.
The game represented a clash between the two biggest teams in college hockey. UConn’s average player tips the scales at 194.23 pounds, with UML right behind at 193.83 pounds.
The difference was UML’s solid penalty kill (UConn went 0-for-6) and junior goaltender Tyler Wall, who stopped all 28 shots for his second shutout of the season.
“I thought the PK was the star tonight,” said UML head coach Norm Bazin, “to take nothing away from Tyler. He was a big part of that penalty kill.”
UML (6-5-1, 3-3-1) earned the sweep after defeating the Huskies on Friday, 5-2.
“It’s great getting points in Hockey East because it’s so difficult,” Bazin said. “Sweeps are tough and we’re pleased with the points.”
It was Wall’s fifth career shutout. Wall made the save of the game with 3:17 remaining when he pushed hard to his left and absolutely robbed UConn freshman forward Ruslan Iskhakov, a skilled player from Russia. When the River Hawks iced the puck, Iskhakov skated hunched over to center ice in disbelief, shaking his head.
“Usually when they look to the ceiling, you’ve done something right,” a smiling Wall said.
UConn carried play right out of the gate, but UML grabbed momentum with its two early goals.
The first came 1:46 on UML’s first shot. Junior Kenny Hausinger fired the puck from below UConn’s goal line and somehow it snuck past Tomas Vomacka.
“That was the mindset coming into the game, to get up early and to get pucks on their goalie. I knew the goalie wasn’t set, he was coming across so I figured I’d throw it on net. Maybe something good could happen,” Hausinger said. “It happened to go in.”
UML went up 2-0 just 31 seconds later on its second shot.
A Chris Schutz shot was deflected by a UConn player and the puck was picked up by freshman Reid Stefanson. Skating in alone on Vomacka, Stefanson lifted the puck over his right pad and under the crossbar at 2:17.
The River Hawks, who went 0-for-5 on the power play, squandered nearly seven minutes of man-advantage time between the first and second periods. But a short-handed strike by junior Colin O’Neill, his first of the season, made it 3-0 at 8:46 of the second.
Breaking into the zone with Nick Master, O’Neill uncorked a shot from the right faceoff circle which sailed past Vomacka, who was lifted in favor of Adam Huska after the goal.
Wall rejected a Wyatt Newpower bid at the right post late in the second period to keep his shutout intact.
He stopped Ryan Wheeler all alone about 30 seconds before his robbery of Iskhakov.
“I thought I was solid, square to pucks,” Wall said. “They kept the shots to the outside, which made my job easy. As long as I can see the puck, I usually can save it.”
“He was incredible all weekend for us,” Hausinger said. “He was really big for us back there when we needed him to be. He played a heck of a weekend. Hats off to him.”
UMass Lowell has now won two straight for the first time this season.
“We just wanted to be heavy on them, hit them a lot, wear them down,” Hausinger said. “I think the team’s hitting its stride now. We had a lot of young guys coming into this season and everyone’s trying to find their stride and I think we finally are as a team. It feels good to put two 60-minute efforts together and complete a weekend.”
Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter @BarryScanlonSun