Hot Goalie - River Hawks Have One in Finland’s Hernberg
LOWELL -- Coach Norm Bazin has said all season he has confidence in both his goaltenders.
UML hockey notes
Junior Tyler Wall had his moments in the first half. But senior Christoffer Hernberg is playing like he wants to be the guy between the pipes for UMass Lowell down the stretch.
Since the Christmas break, the native of Espoo, Finland is 3-0 with an eye-popping 97.6 save percentage, having stopped 81 of 83 shots in a 2-1 win at then second-ranked UMass, and then 3-0 and 4-1 wins last weekend at Colgate.
“Hernie’s played some great hockey for us. I think this is his best hockey since he’s been here. That’s a huge testament to his work ethic and his detail. It’s great to have a hot goalie,” Bazin said.
Hernberg is 6-2-0 with a 2.16 goals against average and .919 save percentage this season. Wall is 5-6-1 with a 2.22 GAA and .916 save percentage.
“As a team we’ve really stepped it up in the second half,” said Hernberg, downplaying his recent play. “I think we can step it up even more and really make a push. The guys have made it really easy, especially the past couple of games. When you’re in a zone, the game kind of slows down a bit.”
Hernberg stopped a Colgate breakaway in both games when the outcome was in doubt.
Even though he rarely played his first two seasons at UML, Hernberg is fifth all-time in program history with seven shutouts, trailing only Connor Hellebuyck (12), Carter Hutton (10), Kevin Boyle (10) and Cam McCormick (8).
SCOUTING VERMONT: The River Hawks will host Vermont on Friday (7:15 p.m.) and Saturday (7 p.m.).
The Catamounts are scuffling with three straight losses and a 1-8-1 record in Hockey East.
Bazin said Vermont’s overall record (8-11-1) is deceiving. Vermont has an outstanding goaltender in Stefanos Lekkas, who sports a .930 save percentage. Max Kaufman (6-6-12), Alex Esposito (5-6-11) and Liam Coughlin (4-7-11) lead the offense.
“This weekend’s challenge is we’re playing a very good Vermont team. They’re 3-3 after the break. They lost one of those games with 19 seconds left in overtime. Yeah, it’s Hockey East. It’s tough to get points in Hockey East,” Bazin said.
UML (11-8-1, 5-4-1) has won a season-best three straight and is up to 20th in the all-importing PairWise rating.
“I think the team is coming together as a whole,” said junior co-captain Ryan Lohin. “We’re playing more Lowell hockey.”
HOME NOT-SO-SWEET HOME: UML is 9-3 on the road, but just 2-5-1 in the formerly friendly confines of the Tsongas Center.
The River Hawks hope to get better results at home starting this weekend.
“No question. We love our fans,” Bazin said. “We love the Tsongas. We always have good support and we feel very comfortable here.”
UMass Lowell has lost its last three home games.
“I’m not sure, to be honest,” said junior defenseman Mattias Goransson said when asked to explain UML’s home vs. road record. “I wish I had an answer. We love playing at home and hopefully we’ll start winning at home.”
“We have a passionate fan base and we get good attendance every night,” Lohin said. “We kind of feel we owe it to them to come out hard and get some wins at home.”
LOOSE PUCKS: Tewksbury native Connor Sodergren picked up three points against Colgate and is now second on the team in scoring (4-8-12) behind Lohin (8-9-17), who leads the River Hawks in goals, assists and points. Sodergren leads UML with a +10 plus/minus rating, just ahead of fellow sophomore Charlie Levesque.
“I like him a ton and I think he’s got even more in him,” Bazin said of Sodergren. “He’s playing his best hockey of the season.”
Bazin said the line of Sodergren, Ryan Dmowski and Nick Marin was the team’s best both nights at Colgate.
“They were just tenacious on the puck. They were smart defensively,” he said. ... Tip of the cap to athletic trainer/iron man Artie Poitras for working his 1,400th UML game last weekend.
Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter @BarryScanlonSun