UMass Lowell hockey player Ryan McGrath confers with coach Norm Bazin during practice session Wednesday.SUN/BOB WHITAKERSun staff photos can be ordered by
UMass Lowell hockey player Ryan McGrath confers with coach Norm Bazin during practice session Wednesday. SUN/BOB WHITAKER

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

LOWELL -- Take a look at the Hockey East scoring leaders.

Start at the top. Look at the middle. Scan down to the bottom. Good luck finding a UMass Lowell player -- there isn't one in the top 20.

That lack of high-end firepower didn't stop the eighth-ranked River Hawks from finishing second in Hockey East.

If UML (21-9-4) is able to get past 15th-ranked Vermont (19-12-3) this weekend in a best-of-three quarterfinal series which starts Friday at the Tsongas Center, it likely will be due to a balanced scoring attack.

And that's fine with head coach Norm Bazin.

"We have good depth and we keep coming at you with four lines," Bazin said. "And at playoff time, that's very, very important."

Senior Joseph Pendenza leads the River Hawks with 24 points. Only one other player has more than 20 points, sophomore Adam Chapie with 22.

"All year we haven't worried about who's done the scoring. We don't have one guy we have to rely on," said senior capt. Josh Holmstrom. "We've been able to rely on our depth and just come at teams with four even lines."

Pendenza's 24 points are by far the fewest for a team leader of the eight teams left in the Hockey East playoffs.

BC's Johnny Gaudreau leads with 64, followed by UNH's Kevin Goumas (45), Northeastern's Kevin Roy (43), Maine's Devin Shore (41) and Vermont's Chris McCarthy (40). Providence's Ross Mauermann and Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan are tied with 33 points.


UML's offense figures to get a boost from junior Scott Wilson, who returned to the lineup two weekends ago after missing eight games due to injury.

"It takes a few games to get in sync and get up to game speed after missing such an enormous amount of time," Bazin said. "We feel he's going to be almost back to 100 percent and we could really use him. He could be a very dangerous player come playoff time."

Wilson has seven points in seven career playoff games.

UML is ranked 29th out of 59 Division 1 teams in scoring offense (2.82 goals) per game. Defensively, UML has allowed an average of 1.94 goals, third best in the country.

NET GAIN: Bazin is famously tight-lipped about announcing his starting goaltender, but it would be a surprise if sophomore Connor Hellebuyck doesn't get the call over Doug Carr. Hellebuyck owns the nation's best save percentage (.939) and fifth best goals against average (1.86). He played in eight of UML's last nine games.

Brady Hoffman (1.95 GAA, .928) has manned Vermont's net down the stretch.

SCOUTING VERMONT: The Catamounts defeated UMass Amherst, 2-1, in a one-game playoff to advance.

After not seeing each other all season, UML and Vermont met twice two weekends ago in Burlington, Vt. UML won, 1-0, before Vermont took a 3-2 victory the next night.

"You can throw the regular season right out the window," Bazin said. "There's a whole new urgency in the playoffs. We're hoping we have a next gear of anticipation, next gear of enthusiasm, and fire.

"They're very strong structurally," Bazin said of Vermont. "They came at you with depth. They have very good goal scorers in (Mario) Puskarich and McCarthy, and they've got a big defensive corps with good goaltending. We have to get to their defensemen."

Puskarich (18-16-34) is the second leading scorer among HE freshmen.

UML leads the all-time series over Vermont, 18-15-6, and the River Hawks have won the only two playoff games in the series.

LOOSE PUCKS: It's not a glorious role, but there's no one better at faceoffs in Hockey East than UML freshman forward Chris Maniccia, a 5-9, 170-pound native of St. Catharines, Ontario.

Maniccia has won a league-best 62 percent of his draws. BC's Michael Sit is second (57.5 percent).

"It's definitely something I've had to work on a lot," Maniccia said. "I feel it's a big role because if you can start out with the puck it gives you an advantage right from the start." Maniccia said he watches Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron whenever he can. ... UML is 8-0-3 in its last 11 home games. ... Holmstrom and Derek Arnold have each played in 147 games at UML.

Follow Barry Scanlon on Twitter and Tout at BarryScanlonSun