Photo Credit: Matt Dewkett
Fresh off their first Hockey East sweep of the year, the Northeastern Huskies take a trip up to the Tsongas Center tonight for a single game against the UMass-Lowell River Hawks. The game is set for a 6 PM start time, as it will be aired on ASN/NESN. For all of our devoted fans in Canada, the game will also be airing in the True North on TSN2.
UMass-Lowell enters the game ranked seventh in the nation and in sixth place in the Hockey East standings, with 15 points through 13 games. Last weekend they were swept in a home-and-home series against Providence, with both losses coming by a single goal. Prior to that, the River Hawks had won 7 consecutive games, although one game at UNH was the only relatively difficult contest they played in that stretch. Their last victory against a quality opponent was a 4-1 win over Notre Dame on 11/17, before losing to split the series the next night. Judging from their past results, Lowell is beatable. Having said that, the Huskies have had a measure of difficulty turning “Beatable” into wins this season.
The River Hawks are led by the entire defensive corps that led them to the Hockey East championship game and an NCAA tournament appearance last year, with the addition of freshman Mattias Goransson, who may very well be the best defenseman on their roster other than Dylan Zink. Behind the defense, Lowell features four underclassman goaltenders who have all seen time this year. Freshman Tyler Wall, a New York Rangers draft pick, will most likely be the one who gets the nod. In 21 games this season behind the vaunted Lowell defense, Wall has a .921 save percentage and a 2.08 GAA. Defense and goaltending are always a strong suit under Norm Bazin, and this group is no different.
The forward group, however, is where this group departs from the typical Bazin team. Senior Joe Gambardella has 34 points on the campaign and is one of the leading scorers in Hockey East this season, and C.J Smith and John Edwardh have both cracked the 20 point barrier already (along with defenseman Dylan Zink). Although their scoring is top heavy, like Northeastern’s, a Lowell team having this much firepower is unusual, and frankly, scary. Ryan Shea and whoever happens to be on his right side (most likely Garrett Cockerill) will have to do a good job shutting down the first line if Northeastern is going to come away with this game with a point, much less a victory.
The game will likely come down to which defense performs better against the opposing superstars and, as always, goaltending. Ryan Ruck has posted three good games in a row for NU and will need to keep his hot streak alive as NU continues their fight to gain back ground in the Hockey East standings. Tyler Wall has been solid but, with the exception of one game against UNH, hasn’t faced off against the top offenses Hockey East has to offer. As is usually the case, the team with the better goaltender will most likely be the team that comes out on top.
Davis (11-9-2): UML 2 NU 0
Downie (11-7-4): UML 3 NU 2
Fallon (13-7-2): UML 4 NU 2