No. 16 River Hawks Close Out Regular Season Against UNH

No. 16 River Hawks Close Out Regular Season Against UNH

Friday at UNH: Live Stats | Watch | Listen | Game Notes
Saturday vs. UNH: Live Stats | Watch | Listen | Tickets

LOWELL, Mass.—The No. 16 UMass Lowell men’s hockey team (18-9-3, 13-8-1 Hockey East) closes out the regular season this weekend, March 4-5, with a home-and-home series against New Hampshire (14-16- 1, 8-13-1 HEA). The River Hawks open the weekend on Friday with a 7 pm puck drop at the Whittemore Center before returning to the Mill City on Saturday for a 6 pm tilt.


As of Monday, February 28, spectators attending UMass Lowell Athletic Events at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, Costello Athletic Center and other facilities will no longer be required to wear a face covering, in unison with the updated university policy which ended on February 28 .


This is the final weekend of the Hockey East season and there is much to be decided across the Hockey East. No team has solidified its position. Only Massachusetts has clinched a first-round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals. Three teams (UMass, Northeastern and Merrimack) can still finish first. Seven teams can still earn a first-round bye. Six teams can grab one of four home ice spots for the quarterfinals. Eight teams can still get home ice in the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament. Only Vermont and Maine have been eliminated from the home ice game.


This is the final weekend and there is much to be decided for UMass Lowell and New Hampshire. Ten of the conference’s eleven teams will be in action with two game series playing both on Friday and Saturday nights. Only Providence has finished its regular season schedule. The top five finishers get an opening round bye, the top four earn home ice in the quarterfinal round. The River Hawks, sitting in fourth place, can finish anywhere between second and sixth; if they sweep they can finish in either second or third place. They are six points back on UMass and just one point behind Northeastern and Merrimack. Northeastern and Merrimack play each other this weekend. The River Hawks own the tiebreaker with the Huskies but not the Warriors. Three team are just two-points back of UMass Lowell. New Hampshire is ninth, one-point back of Boston College. The Wildcats can finish in eighth or ninth and will play BC, the only question is which team will host that game. BC has two-games with UMass this weekend.


This is the final weekend of the regular season and UMass Lowell has had success in games played on the final weekend of the year during the Norm Bazin Era. The River Hawks are 10-4-3 over the previous ten years. More often than not having a strong final weekend has allowed the River Hawks to hold their position in the standings. Once they’ve fallen back and once moved up. UMass Lowell went 1-0-1 in 2015 taking three points from Vermont but fell from third to fourth place in the standings. In 2017 the River Hawks entered the final weekend in fourth place and moved into first place by sweeping Boston College. The weekend also saw UMass Lowell move from 8th to 6th in the pairwise. The River Hawks two weeks later won the Hockey East Tournament for the third time in five years.


UMass Lowell enters tonight’s game with an 18-9-3 / 13-8-1 record after defeating LIU a week ago at the Tsongas Center, 5-1. The River Hawks go into this home-and-home series with an 8-6-0 record on the road and 10-3-3 on the familiar ice of the Tsongas Center. UMass Lowell currently sits in the number 16 slot in the DCU/USCHO Poll and is receiving votes in the USA Hockey Magazine Poll. It is the team’s 16th week in the Top 20. UMass Lowell is in fourth place in the Hockey East standings, six points back of first place UMass. The team is one-point back of both Merrimack and Northeastern who are tied for second. The River Hawks are two-points ahead of three teams tied for the fifth place. The club can finish anywhere between second and sixth. Hockey East Coaches, in their pre-season poll, placed the River Hawks seventh in the conference. Andre Lee leads the team in goals with fourteen and points with twenty-three. Matt Crasa is second in goals with eleven. Carl Berglund leads the team with sixteen-assists and is second in points with twenty-two. Defenseman Nick Austin is second in assists with fourteen. Allowing 2.10-goals per game the River Hawks are the second stingiest team in the conference. Goaltenders Henry Welsch and Owen Savory split time in goal evenly a year ago, but this year Savory has shouldered the heavier workload. Savory has gotten the call twenty-four times and has been among the nation’s best. He’s got a 1.86 GAA and a .926 save percentage. The senior has four shutouts. Welsch has started six times with one shutout and a 2.66 GAA and
a .893 save percentage.


New Hampshire is 14-16-1/8-13-1 after Saturday’s 4-3 home loss to Merrimack. The team is 7-7-0 since the winter break. The Wildcats are in the ninth place in the Hockey East standings, one-point back of eighth place Boston College in the fight for the final opening round home ice spot. The two teams will face each other in the HEA Tournament opening round, the only question is who has home ice. The Wildcats are 9-5-1 at the Whittemore Center, 4-11-0 on the road and 1-0-0 in neutral site games. New Hampshire has played well against tough opponents; They are 6-3-0 against Nationally ranked teams and 7-3-1 in games decided by a single goal. The club is 8-0-0 when leading after two periods. The Hockey East Coaches pre-season poll parked New Hampshire in eighth place. Nineteen different players have scored goals, six have six or more. Jackson Pierson leads the team with 12-goals and 23-points. Tyler Ward also has 23-points; his 16-assists leads the team. Goalie Mike Robinson has started twenty-five of the team’s thirty-one games. He’s got a 2.46 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. David Fessenden has made ten-appearances including six starts. He’s got 2.35.899 numbers.


This is the second of three meetings between these two teams this season and the 130th meeting in a series that dates back to 1983. UNH won this season’s first meeting, 3-0, and leads the series 66-45-18. But UML has won thirteen of the last twenty-four, including four by shutout. New Hampshire swept the series a year ago after UMass Lowell took three of four points from the Wildcats during the previous season. The two teams have met on numerous occasions in the post-season. UMass Lowell holds an 8-6-0 edge in HEA Tournament play including a 4-0 shutout to earn the 2014 Hockey East Tournament title. The River Hawks also defeated UNH 2-0, in Manchester, to win the NCAA Northeast Regional final and advance to the Frozen Four in 2013.


These two teams met in Durham less than three-weeks ago with New Hampshire emerging victorious, 3-0. UNH goalie Mike Robinson made 32-saves to earn the shutout. After a scoreless first period, Liam Devlin and Nick Cafarelli scored second period goals and Tyler Ward added an empty net goals to produce the 3-0 final. The River Hawks are 2-6-3 in their last eleven games against New Hampshire. The 3-0 loss to New Hampshire was the first time UMass Lowell had been shutout in nearly a year and then only occurrence this season. The last time the team was held off the scoresheet was in a 1-0 loss to UMass in the Hockey East Championship game, March 20, 2021. The team was shutout three times a year ago.


When UMass Lowell graduate student center Connor Sodergren steps on the ice tonight against at the Whittemore Center it will be his 150th game in a River Hawk uniform. That will put Sodergren 12th all-time, tied with Joe Gambardella and Nick Master. The played games leader is Michael Kapla who skated in 161 games during his four years ending in 2017. Kapla did not miss a game in his collegiate career. Saturday’s home game will be Sodergren’s 78th at the Tsongas Center, a school record. Last weekend he broke the 76 game record established by Kapla.


Eight different River Hawks have scored goals against New Hampshire. Andre Lee and Sam Knoblauch lead the way with two goals apiece. Lee tops the points chart with four-points in four-games. Ben Meehan is a plus-4 in just two-games against the Wildcats, both losses. Nick Austin has a goal and an assist in two games playing for Colgate against UNH. Both Owen Savory and Henry Welsch have started games in net against New Hampshire. Neither has a win, but Welsch’s numbers, 2.07 / .926 are strong.


These two teams have not been strangers when it comes to one-goal games when they get together. Nine of the last eleven games played between UMass Lowell and New Hampshire have been decided by one-goal or have gone in the books as a tie. The Wildcats hold a slight edge in those last eight one-goal games, 3-2-3.

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