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River Hawks Opponent Features Strong Top Line

October 12, 2018

Erik Brown ... 29 goals for RIT last season Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Two things are obvious about UMass Lowell’s first opponent of the 2018-19 hockey season.

One, Rochester Institute of Technology loves Canadian players -- 24 of the Tigers’ 27 players hail from north of the border.

Two, RIT features a dangerous first line. The all-senior line of Erik Brown, Gabe Valenzuela and Abbott Girduckis will command attention every time they hop over the boards at the Tsongas Center on Friday (7:15 p.m.) and Saturday (6 p.m.).

Brown netted 29 goals last season, the second most in the nation. He finished with 42 points in 37 games. Valenzuela (35 points) and Girduckis (27 points) also scored more points last season than any UML player.

“Very, very heavy shot. He has an outstanding release,” UML head coach Norm Bazin said of Brown. “He’s a force to be reckoned with.”

UML (17-19-0) and RIT (15-20-2) were both picked to finish seventh in their respective leagues.

Bazin said opening the season against the Tigers will be a “test.”

“I’m impressed,” Bazin said of RIT, which returns 20 skaters from last season’s team.

UMass Lowell leads the all-time series 5-1-1, but the River Hawks haven’t played the Rochester, N.Y., school since Jan. 2, 2015, a 7-3 UML victory during a tournament in Minnesota, the season before UML’s current seniors arrived on campus.

RIT played Hockey East teams tough last season, including an impressive shutout win over Providence and a tie with a strong Northeastern team.

Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter@BarryScanlonSun

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