BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - UConn sophomore goaltender Rob Nichols (Dallas, Texas) posted 35 saves but late goals in the first and third periods lifted the No. 7 nationally ranked UMass Lowell River Hawks to a 3-1 win in the championship game of the Frozen Holiday Classic Sunday evening from the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. The Huskies fall to 4-9-4 overall with the loss.
UML sophomore defenseman Dylan Zink was named the tournament MVP after giving his team a 1-0 lead late in the first period. The Huskies lone goal of the night came with just 13 seconds left to play as senior Cody Sharib (Needham, Mass.) scored his second goal in as many nights to spoil the shutout for River Hawk goaltender Kevin Boyle who made 23 saves.
The two teams played an even first period before Zink gave his team a 1-0 lead with his fifth goal of the season at the 17:53 mark. The Huskies threatened to strike first as freshman Corey Ronan (Franklin, Mass.) burst up the right boards through the neutral zone and sent a cross-ice pass to classmate Spencer Naas (Minnetonka, Minn.) who just snapped a wrister wide about 6:30 into play. The River Hawks capitalized on a late scoring opportunity as Michael Fallon kept the puck in at the blue line and shoveled it to Zink who skated into the slot and ripped a wrist shot through traffic past Nichols.
UConn got the only power play chance of the night in the second period when Ryan McGrath was called for interference at 12:33. The Huskies got a pair of shots on goal but couldn't crack Boyle. The River Hawks extended their lead to 2-0 with just over three minutes to play in the third. Colantone and Fallon were loose on a 2-on-1 chance and UConn's Ronan tried to recover on defense. Colantone was able to get his stick on the puck and chip it on net, just getting a piece of Nichols before it took a UML bounce and hit the post and in for his fifth of the season and a two-goal advantage.
The Huskies pulled Nichols for the extra skater but A.J. White collected a loose puck along the left boards just over the blue line and rifled a shot in to the empty net for his sixth of the season to ice the game away at 3-0. The Huskies kept pressing and avoided being shutout for the third time this season. Off a Ryan Tyson (Harleysville, Pa.) face-off win, freshman David Drake (Naperville, Ill.) blasted a shot from the point that Boyle was able to stop. Sharib was waiting in front to clean-up the rebound for his third on the season and second of the tournament, producing the 3-1 final.
Nichols made 13 saves in the first period and 15 saves in the second on the way to a 35 save night. Over the two games, the sophomore netminder stopped 72 of 76 shots he faced. For UConn, senior Jacob Poe (Arlington, Texas) and Naas were both named to the all-tournament team.
The Huskies return to Hockey East action on Friday, January 2nd when they travel to Amherst, Mass. to take on the University of Massachusetts.