STORRS, Conn. – The UConn Huskies got a pair of power play goals from freshman Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) on the way to upsetting the No. 5 nationally ranked UMass Lowell River Hawks, 4-3, Saturday afternoon in front of 4,811 fans at the XL Center. The Huskies snap the River Hawks nine-game unbeaten streak and deal them their first Hockey East loss of the season.
UConn improves snaps their season long eight-game losing streak with the win and improves to 4-10-0 overall and 2-7-0 in the league. UML is now 10-2-4 overall and 6-1-3 in Hockey East. The Huskies will look for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon from the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.
Thompson’s two-power play goals give the freshman six goals on the season, all coming on via the power play. He enters Sunday’s game sharing the lead in the country in power play goals with Andrew Poturalski of New Hampshire and Mike Barrett of Holy Cross.
The Huskies got 11 shots off in the first period and after the first 20 minutes led 1-0. Thompson scored his first of the night at 11:27, coming after a charging call on Ryan Collins. Thompson threw a wrist shot on goal and beat Kevin Boyle who was screened in front.
UMass Lowell struck quickly in the second, as C.J. Smith buried a rebound at 1:51 to tie it at 1-1. The River Hawks made it 2-1 late in the period as A.J. White buried a feed at the far post at 18:08. UConn struck right back just 21 seconds later and then again in the final minute of the period to take the lead back.
Sophomore Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) picked up a pass in the slot and buried a shot through some traffic for his third on the year, knotting it at 2-2. With 19 seconds left in the period, sophomore Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) got the puck behind the net, tried for a wrap-around that Boyle shut off but stuck with the play poking home the rebound for a 3-2 lead.
UMass Lowell again used a quick strike to even the game, scoring just 47 seconds into the third. Smith fired on net with Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) making a stop but the rebound found the stick of Ryan Collins who put it home for his first on the year.
The Huskies got their second power play chance of the night at 11:58 as Tyler Mueller was whistled for elbowing. Thompson delivered the game-winner, burying a one-time in the top right corner from the left circle off a cross-ice feed from classmate Joseph Masonius (Spring Lake, N.J.).
The River Hawks used at time-out with 3:18 left and pulled Boyle for the extra skater. The Huskies were up to the task as Nichols turned away four shots and UConn blocked five shots, two by senior Patrick Kirtland (Rocky Hill, Conn.) who was without his stick.
Nichols finished the night with 27 saves to her his fourth victory of the season. Boyle made 20 saves for UMass Lowell. The River Hawks finished with a 30-24 edge on shots.
The weekend series finale will start at 1:00 pm Sunday afternoon with the game being televised on the American Sports Network (ASN) and available on both NESN and SNY networks.
Post Game Quotes:
UMass Lowell Head Coach Norm Bazin
“I thought we got caught chasing the game tonight. It certainly wasn’t a perfect game for us. I thought several parts of our game that have been there for a couple weeks now, just weren’t there. One was urgency and I thought they had that urgency and we didn’t. I thought our third period was our best period but it was too little too late. And that’s how it goes when you give up two goals on special teams and you save your best effort for the third period alone, it’s usually not very fruitful for results.”
UConn Head Coach Michael Cavanaugh
“I was really proud of our guys. I said in the locker room afterwards, we focused on getting back to playing a blue collar style of hockey and I thought we did that especially in the first period. What I was most proud of our guys was that, they came out and scored a goal right in the beginning of the second period, then they get one towards the end of the second to go up 2-1 and we didn’t fold our tents. We came right back and scored 20 seconds after that. Corey (Ronan) and Spencer’s (Naas) line had a great shift, and then right after that we get another one.”
“I challenged Pat Kirkland as our captain to really drive the bus this week and I think you saw what he did at the end there. I don’t know how many blocks he had but he was just a warrior getting in front of that puck, with his stick, without his stick. He’s a terrific leader for us and even through this whole stretch he’s been rock solid and I’m really proud of his effort tonight.”