Lowell Legless in Loss
Not Even Two Quick Goals Could Swing Momentum
by Scott McLaughlin/Senior Writer
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PITTSBURGH Two goals in 14 seconds. It should've been a huge momentum swing. Up until Riley Wetmore scored with 5:22 left in the second, Massachusetts-Lowell had been totally dominated by Yale. The River Hawks had been outshot 19-8 to that point, and they had just completed a lackluster power play that had failed to produce any quality scoring chances.
But now they had life. On the very next shift, Joseph Pendenza took a drop pass from A.J. White and rifled a shot into the top corner to tie the game at 2-2. The River Hawks were wide awake now, and suddenly it was the Bulldogs who were back on their heels.
At least that was how the next few minutes should've played out. They didn't, though. The River Hawks couldn't keep the pressure on Yale, and by the time the second period came to an end, the Bulldogs were back to being the aggressors.
"It should have been (more of a momentum swing)," Pendenza said. "We definitely tried to get pucks in deep on their D, and their D played a really good game. They just kept kind of coming in waves. They did what we usually do to other teams, so a little taste of our own medicine kind of. They just got to the pucks first tonight, and they played a hell of a game."
Things only got worse for the River Hawks in the third period. Instead of fighting to score the go-ahead goal, they found themselves fighting just to get the puck out of their own zone. They struggled just to get to center ice so they could dump the puck in and not get called for icing.
Despite getting outshot 16-3 in the final period, the River Hawks managed to force overtime, due almost entirely to the excellent goaltending of Connor Hellebuyck. Getting to overtime could've given the River Hawks new life. It could've given them a chance to regroup and breathe a sigh of relief.
But once again, they just couldn't swing momentum. Yale continued to dominate in overtime, registering the first seven shots of the extra session. The seventh wound up in the back of the Lowell net, as Andrew Miller got behind the Lowell defense and slipped a backhander through Hellebuyck's five-hole.
"I almost thought it was going to swing our way for that exact reason," Lowell coach Norm Bazin said of Yale's dominance late in the game. "I thought they carried the play, but you know, in overtime it's usually a greasy goal that gets scored, a bobbled puck or a broken play. I stayed positive with the guys.
"I said we couldn't have possibly played worse in the third period. I thought we were due for some good play. We've done it all year. We've been down by scores of 4-2 or 4-1, and we've come back to pull it off. So I believed until the very end. Unfortunately it didn't go that direction tonight."
It was clear that the River Hawks just never got their legs under them on Thursday. As a result, they couldn't do any of the things that had gotten them this far in the first place. They lost one puck battle after another in the defensive zone. They were slow through the neutral zone. And when they did get the puck in deep, more often than not they had to settle for changing lines instead of forechecking.
After the game, no one could explain why Lowell was so off. Players said they weren't overwhelmed by playing on such a big stage. They said Yale didn't do anything they hadn't seen on tape. There was no illness running through the team or anything like that.
"It's something we will think about a good part of this summer," Bazin said. "The tables were turned tonight. We've ended the season for three or four teams the last couple weeks, and unfortunately tonight it was our turn.
"But as far as not having our legs tonight, there's no excuse for it. Both teams had the same amount of time off. We should have been very fresh because we have a good skating club. We just didn't have it."