No. 13/14 River Hawks face 4-2 setback at No. 7/8 UConn

No.  13/14 River Hawks face 4-2 setback at No. 7/8 UConn

HARTFORD, Conn.—Despite goals from freshman Scout Truman (Lethbridge, Ontario) and senior Zach Kaiser (Orangeville, Ontario), the UMass Lowell men’s hockey team (8-5-0, 5-3-0 Hockey East) dropped a 4-2 decision to No. 7/8 Connecticut (10-2-3, 7-2-2) on the road Saturday afternoon at the XL Center.

Kaiser and Truman were the only River Hawk scorers in Hartford. Truman’s second-period scoop-and-score was credited as an unassisted tally, while graduate student Jon McDonald (Livonia, Mich.) and sophomore Owen Cole (Dunnville, Ontario) got helpers on Kaiser’s third-period snipe.

Defensively, sophomore Brehdan Engum (Burnsville, Minn.) led the team with a season-high four blocks. Junior Henry Welsch (Lakeville, Minn.) suffered the loss after making 22 saves in net. Despite the loss, UMass Lowell’s penalty kill unit remained flawless throughout the two days with the Huskies, shutting down all six UConn power plays this weekend.

The River Hawks controlled the flow of the game in the opening minutes. Freshmen Owen Fowler (Tewksbury, Mass.) and Scout Truman (Lethbridge, Ontario) had a pair of Grade-A chances in the first 1:33 of the top-15 matchup. UConn slipped past the UMass Lowell defense for a pair of breakaway attempts, but Welsch and McDonald worked to keep both opportunities fruitless for the Huskies.

Fowler and sophomore Matt Crasa (South Setauket, NY) kept the pressure high for the River Hawks, testing UConn’s Arsenii Sergeev with solid shots just wide of the goal. Once again, the Huskies returned the favor with two back-to-back hits on Welsch. After a first attempt from Chase Bradley was denied by Welsch, Nick Capone went for the second touch only to be gloved down once against by the Minnesota-born netminder.

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Although strong forechecking kept UMass Lowell high in the offensive zone, UConn struck first with two unanswered. After the Huskies failed to capitalize on an offensive zone possession, the River Hawks tried to reset the play and send the puck back down the ice. A mistake by the defense gave UConn’s Ryan Tverberg an opportunity for a layup that missed. Hudson Schandor followed up with another push that was pushed away by Welsch as he popped out for the puck, but Jake Percival snuck a stick under Welsch’s pad to steal the 1-0 lead. The Huskies added to their total 59 seconds later off a wrist shot in the slot from Justin Pearson to send the River Hawks into the locker room trailing 2-0.

A penalty kick at the end of the first against senior Marek Korencik (Zilina, Slovakia) sent UMass Lowell on a killing spree in the first two minutes of the second. Although down a man, the River Hawks held the puck in the Huskies’ defensive zone for just over 1:30 of the two-minute penalty period. Senior Jake Stella (Karlstad, Sweden), sophomore Owen Cole (Dunnville, Ontario) and Fowler all recorded contact on Sergeev, while the Huskies only recorded one on Welsch during the man-up window. Welsch capped off the impressive shift on the penalty kill with a last-second glove save to keep the Huskies’ power play scoreless.

Truman broke the UMass Lowell scoring drought with his first of the weekend 3:37 into the frame. Truman stayed his man and kept the pressure on UConn’s Roman Kinal as he tried to initiate the Huskies press. Kinal, unable to keep the puck, knocked it just out of his reach for Truman to capitalize on. The freshman scooped up the loose puck and made a quick move to the net, taking a touch before twisting it past Sergeev to cut the score to 2-1. However, the Huskies responded quickly to keep the two-goal margin as the teams skated away to the final intermission.

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Opening the third in extra man, UConn’s Schandor and Spetz were quick on offense with back-to-back shots placed on goal. Welsch stayed steady between the pipes, closing both with quick reactions to the follow-ups.

Kaiser breathed life into the UMass Lowell offense just 7:25 into the final 20. After receiving a pass from McDonald from clean across the neutral zone, Kaiser took up space in the right channel and slid up to the right faceoff circle. Kaiser ripped a quick wrister from the point, sliding one past the Sergeev glove side to bring the River Hawks within striking distance.

UMass Lowell turned up the energy as time ticked off the game clock. The River Hawks pulled Welsch in favor of a sixth forward and continued to try to break through the UConn back line in hopes of forcing another overtime period. An unfortunate foul came when Huskies’ forward Ryan Tverberg took a bad deflection and put the puck into the net to hand UMass Lowell a 4-2 loss.

The River Hawks head overseas for their next round of games when they return to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the 2022 Friendship Four at the SSE Arena. The team opens the two-day tournament against rival Massachusetts on Friday, May 25. November. They then return on Saturday, Nov. 26 to face either Quinnipiac or Dartmouth on the final day of action.

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