Block Party Can Be Painful, but Worthwhile
LOWELL -- No trophies are handed out for blocking shots.
Just ice packs.
Through 12 games this season, UMass Lowell leads Hockey East with 151 blocks, an average of 12.58 per game. (BU leads in average blocks per game at 14.56).
“Everyone is just committed to the system. You’re not out there skating around trying to block a shot, but we talk all time about being in the (shooting) lanes and being in the right spots. If you are, the puck will hit you,” said junior defenseman Mattias Goransson. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far. It’s absolutely something we take pride in.”
Goransson leads the team with 16 blocked shots. Sophomore defenseman Anthony Baxter and junior forward Ryan Lohin are second and third with 13 and 11, respectively.
“We pride ourselves on playing hard hockey,” head coach Norm Bazin said. “That’s part of it. When it’s your turn to block, you’re expected to block a shot. This club has been better than most that we’ve had here in the seven years as far as commitment for one another and that’s a big piece of being a good hockey club.”
By contrast, last year’s team blocked 131 shots at this point, an average of 10.92 per game.
Bazin said teams today place a far greater emphasis on blocking shots then when he skated for UML.
It’s not a glamourous job, but a key blocked shot could save a game.
“It hurts sometimes,” Goransson said with a grin. “But usually it hits you where you have padding.”
And when it doesn’t?
Goransson said the adrenaline of a game usually masks pain.
“It’s more the day after when you wake up and you’re sore,” he said.
SCOUTING RPI: The River Hawks will face ECAC member RPI twice this weekend. Both games will start at 4 p.m. UML hosts the Troy, N.Y., school on Friday, with RPI hosting the rematch Sunday.
RPI (3-6) is 0-3 against Hockey East schools and coming off a weekend in which it did not play.
Jacob Hayhurst leads RPI with 11 points and 10 assists. No teammate has more than four points.
RPI averages just 1.78 goals per game, ranking the Engineers 54th in the country. UML is the 15th best defensive team in the nation, allowing an average of 2.25 goals per game.
GOOD BALANCE: The River Hawks have featured solid scoring balance among its four classes.
The freshmen lead with 26 points, followed by the juniors with 25, the sophomores with 20 and the seniors with 19. Seven freshmen have already registered at least one point. Defenseman Cale List joined the club with an assist against UConn last Saturday.
The sophomore class only has one goal, which was off the stick of Tewksbury native Connor Sodergren.
ON THE BOARD: Bazin broke into a huge grin when asked about junior forward Colin O’Neill after Saturday’s 3-0 win over UConn. O’Neill capped the scoring with the team’s second shorthanded goal of the season. It was his first goal of the season. “I was certainly happy for him. He’s worked hard. He’s one of our best forwards and he finally got rewarded,” Bazin said.
Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter@BarryScanlonSun