UML's Pendenza Thrives Turning Defense to Offense
by Joshua Seguin/Staff Writer
See all of CHN's Tournament coverage: articles, brackets, history and more.
MANCHESTER, N.H. When Joseph Pendenza steps on the ice for Massachusetts-Lowell on Friday night, he will do so as a junior leader and as the scoring leader for his River Hawks. But Pendenza has impressed UML coach Norm Bazin in more than one way.
“He’s been better as the year has progressed because he has paid more attention to team defense,” said Bazin. “He will continue to get better the more he concentrates on defense, and that isn’t saying he is a bad defensive player, he is just paying more attention to it. His offensive production is increasing because of it.”
It’s a funny thing to realize that better defensive play can directly affect offensive production, but it has really been the story of Lowell’s season. Early in the year, the River Hawks struggled on both ends of the ice, but that has certainly not been the case for most of the second half. Lowell sits sixth nationally in scoring defense, while scoring three goals a game of their own. Defense is always a recipe for success, especially when coupled with timely scoring.
“To generate good offense, you need good defense,” said Pendenza. “I try to be as good defensively as I can, and it is something you control. On offense you sometimes get bounces or don’t. Defense is what helps or hurts the team the most. You don’t have to score points to have a good game.”
With Pendenza’s defensive improvement, one can see the team aspect to an individual’s performance. The River Hawks have been arguably the best defensive team in the country during the second half of the season, and most of it has stemmed from the team aspect of the game. Individuals buying in to a team defense mantra can go a long way, and Pendenza’s example can be seen throughout the team, locker room and every player that steps on the ice for UML.
“The big reason we are where we are is because we cracked down defensively,” said Pendenza. “We had to just stay with it and stick to systems. Everything started to click, and it all started defensively.”
Commitment to defense quickly led to a more potent offense — and a more potent Pendenza. Lowell has won 12 of their last 13 games, and the defensive commitment of the team has led it to this point. Pendenza has 19 points in his last 16 games, on five goals and 11 assists. He may not have the flashy goal numbers expected of leading scorers, but points aren't all Pendenza is about.
Despite leading the River Hawks in points, with 36, it takes four consecutive perfect games by a team to accomplish the goal of a national title. Pendenza is an important piece for the River Hawks, and his numbers show it. Bazin looks to Pendenza and his junior classmates as the team's core.
“The junior class is a talented class, but it depends on what game you watch to find how important they are,” said Bazin. “They are an important part to the whole puzzle, though.”
The River Hawks will take on the one team in this tournament that may be on a more impressive roll. UML plays Wisconsin on Friday night, and the River Hawks know the challenge in front of them because of the similarities they share with the Badgers.
“We don’t really know too much about them,” said Pendenza. They are big, strong and physical and have some good skill. We know it’s going to be a good contest, and we are looking to give them our best. Most important thing is taking it one game at a time this time of year.”