January 11, 2014

Huskies stay hot with win at Fenway over River Hawks

By Joshua Kummins

Only one of Lowell's 48 shots made it past Clay Witt on Saturday. (Photo: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Final: Northeastern 4, UMass Lowell 1

Recap: Despite some sloppy and slick ice conditions due to early rain, the teams skated to a very entertaining first period with the River Hawks holding a 20-13 shots on goal advantage. NU junior Clay Witt was outstanding with stops on all 20 shots, including a point-blank save on senior assistant captain Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.).

The Huskies jumped out to a solid lead with two goals in less than two minutes midway through the second period. Senior Braden Pimm capped off a 2-on-1 with freshman Mike Szmatula at 7:22, while Bruins prospect Matt Benning banged in a rebound at 9:03 off an initial shot from Szmatula.

Senior captain Josh Manson’s shorthanded goal at 15:49 gave NU command as he slid one past UML senior Doug Carr (Hanover, Mass.) for a 3-0 lead.

The River Hawks scored a massive goal with just about four seconds remaining in the second as junior defenseman Jake Suter drove to the net and beat Witt low to break the shutout and make it a 3-1 game.

Pimm potted his second goal of the game at the 17:44 mark as UML head coach Norm Bazin opted to pull Carr in favor of an extra attacker at an earlier-than-usual stage. After a block in the defensive zone, the senior punched the puck forward and coasted to an empty-net goal - his 14th of the season.

Records: Northeastern 13-6-3 (6-4-1 Hockey East), UMass Lowell 14-6-1 (4-3-0)

Key Play of the Game: Although Benning’s goal turned out to be the game-winner, much of Lowell’s momentum was sucked out after Manson banged in a shorthanded rebound for the NU squad’s fourth man-down goal of the season.

Commendations: The Huskies poured on three goals and took command in the second period, behind an outstanding goaltending performance from Witt. The effort fell just shy of his season-high 52 set on Dec. 6, 2013 against Providence at Matthews Arena. … Pimm, who was issued an assistant captain’s letter before the game for his outstanding leadership on the ice and in the locker room, had huge day for the Huskies with two goals for second star honors. The British Columbia native extended his point streak to five games (6-3-9).

Critiques: Following the game, Bazin faulted his team’s inability to cash in on its numerous offensive opportunities and that ultimately did catch up to the River Hawks as they surrendered a trio of goals in the middle stanza. 20 of UML’s 33 offensive chances were on-goal opportunities, but was unable to find the back of the net at any point.

Notes: Clay Witt finished the afternoon with 47 saves, marking the seventh time in nine games he has eclipsed the 30 mark. … The win gives Northeastern a season series sweep over Lowell after also earning a 4-2 victory at Tsongas Center on Nov. 9, 2013 and also exceeds its conference win total from all of last season.

Final Thoughts: The ice may have been slippery but the Huskies picked up a crucial two points and passed Providence (which the Huskies beat in a road overtime game on Tuesday) in the league standings.

Next: The Huskies return home next Friday and Saturday for consecutive games against the University of Vermont, while the River Hawks welcome Maine and Boston University to Tsongas Center. 

Twitter: @JoshuaKummins
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