More Maturity, More Goals for Lowell
by Matthew Conyers/CHN Reporter
Massachusetts-Lowell’s Scott Campbell doesn’t like to look at statistics.
For the most part, none of the River Hawks do.
"We don’t really play a lot of attention to the stats," Campbell said. "We just focus on one game at a time."
But that doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to what is happening this season in Lowell.
In just 13 games, the River Hawks have seen their offensive production shoot through the roof. With just two months of the college hockey season in the books, the River Hawks lead Hockey East in scoring offense with 3.88 goals per game. The mark is nearly a goal better then what UMass Lowell had last season.
"We go in every day and work, and we’ve worked hard to fix some things from last year," Campbell said. "We’re an older team — a more experienced team."
Campbell is right about that. The River Hawks lost no seniors to graduation.
"It’s basically our maturity," junior Kory Falite said. "We’re mostly juniors and seniors on offense. We're more understanding of what we need to do. The defense and goaltending has always been there for us, it’s just been a matter of the offense stepping."
Early on, the juniors and seniors have certainly done their part. But they haven’t been alone. Atop the score sheet for UMass Lowell are three freshmen — David Vallorani, Mike Budd and Matt Ferreira — that are undeniably making their mark on Hockey East.
"With the addition of three great freshmen, we’ve been able to mix skill with maturity and it’s been great for the team," Falite said.
It also didn’t hurt that the freshmen bought into the system UMass Lowell was trying to execute out on the ice.
"The three freshmen are very talented but also very hard workers," coach Blaise McDonald said. "They’ve made the most of their opportunities through effort and hard work."
At the moment, Falite and Vallorani lead the River Hawks with 13 points each. Falite has 10 goals and three assists and Vollorani has three goals and 10 assists. Ferriera is out this weekend with a shoulder injury.
"Coming into the year, we looked at our offense as collectively driven," McDonald said. "We knew we didn’t have the luxury of a big show stopper and we didn’t know what would get right at the start. But we’ve done pretty well distributing the points around."
Done ‘well’ might be an understatement. UMass Lowell has seven players that have nine or more points this season. Right behind Falite and Vallorani is Campbell, who has seven goals and five assists. Just this week, Campbell was rewarded for his play by being named the Hockey East Player of the Week. Against RIT, Campbell recorded a career-high five points (3 goals, 2 assists), including his first career hat-trick in a 6-3 win. He also won 30 of 40 faceoffs in two games.
Campbell credits the change in intensity from last season for some of the increased production.
"I think we saw last season as a learning process, we were disappointed with how we finished [UMass Lowell failed to get out of the Hockey East quarterfinals]," Campbell said. "We knew scoring goals was a big factor."
"This season we’ve been able to get better puck support and have better spacing. Our point of attack has been better also and we’ve benefited from that."
But the River Hawks are not entirely caught off guard by the results.
"We’re not surprised," Campbell said. "We had high expectations, everyone did. "We had the same core group back and not one forward graduated."
"We’re pretty much doing the same as the past with tiny variations," Falite said. "We’re covering a lot more."
McDonald easily sees the maturity translating out on the ice.
"We have a good transition because we think we have very skilled defensemen and we’ve been able to use them," McDonald said.
Falite also credits the overall team speed.
"Everyone has speed," Falite said. "Our main asset is our legs."
UMass Lowell has also flourished on the power play. It is ranked first in Hockey East at 25.7 percent.
Some of this team success can be linked back to the coaching staff that added legendary NHL Player and Team USA hero Sawn McEachern as an assistant coach.
"I coached him a long time ago in the stone ages [at Boston University]," McDonald said. "He brings a lot of wisdom. He really got it and we have a team that is very receptive. Our team has a similar style to how he believes hockey should be played."
Still, the River Hawks are the first to point out how many games have been played and how many are left to be played.
"It’s only 13 games," Falite said. "You’re never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think. As a team, we just want to continue to be consistent game in and game out. We can’t lose that focus."
"I think [the offense] could still get better — we still haven’t reached our goals," Campbell said. "We could be shooting more and we’ve got to keep developing."
Not to mention, the River Hawks have to survive the injury bug. Just last weekend, in addition to Ferreira, UMass Lowell lost Jason DeLuca and Mark Roebothan to injuries. The trio will be out at least this weekend.
"No one can really control their own destiny, but I think we can try and effect our future," McDonald said.
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