LOWELL -- After two weeks off waiting to see who they would play in the Hockey East quarterfinals, the UMass Lowell hockey team returned to action in defense of their 2013 conference crown against the University of Vermont before 3,888 fans (including former NHL greats Mark Howe and Steve Yzerman) at the Tsongas Center in the first game of a best of three series.
In a game that featured a little bit of everything, the River Hawks overcame a one-goal deficit on an Adam Chapie power-play goal with 1:17 remaining in the third period Friday night to defeat the Catamounts, 3-2, and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
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Game 2 will take place Saturday at the Tsongas Center (7 p.m.)
Chapie has become UML's Mr. Clutch this season. The team is 13-2-3 when he scores a point.
"Well, we won the draw and got the puck to the point and I ended up getting the puck along the boards from (Christian) Folin," Chapie said when asked to describe his goal.
"I tried to make a pass to (Zach) Kamrass but it hit a skate. Luckily, it went right to Wils (Scott Wilson) and I just went to the net and Wils gave me a great pass and I was just trying to hit the net and it went in."
Wilson also contributed a goal to go along with his assist. Evan Campbell had a goal and an assist as well.
Vermont was first on the board as Brady Shaw saw a loose puck laying in the UML crease and with River Hawks goaltender Connor Hellebuyck down and out of position, Shaw put a backhander into the gaping net. Colin Markison was credited with the assist. The lamplighter came at the 5:10 mark of the period.
After the UVM goal, the River Hawks began to assert themselves with their speed and puck management. The club's efforts paid off when Scott Wilson tied the game 11:24 into the period with a wrist shot that eluded Catamount netminder Brody Hoffman. It was Evan Campbell's cross crease pass that set up Wilson's sixth goal of the season. Christian Folin also garnered an assist.
UML continued to dominate play for the remainder of the period but could not put another puck past Hoffman.
In the second period, Shaw struck for his second goal of the night off a two on one with Nick Luukko. Shaw received a pass from H.T. Lenz and carried the puck into the River Hawks zone. He elected to shoot instead of pass to Luukko and Shaw's shot sailed past Hellebuyck's blocker and into the net to give the Catamounts a 2-1 lead.
The rest of the period belonged to Vermont. They were the faster team and played a very sound defensive game. UVM was first to loose pucks resulting in their firing 14 shots at Hellebuyck while giving up just six UML shots.
The third period saw the River Hawks return to their relentless style of play especially in the offensive zone. They put together flurries of action which forced Hoffman to come up with key save after key save.
Campbell found the back of the twine 11:17 into the period as he pounced on the rebound of Zach Kamrass' point shot to tie the score 2-2.
After Campbell's tally, UML ratcheted up the tempo forcing UVM to go on the defensive.
The River Hawks caught the game's biggest break when they went on the power play at 18:08 and Chapie scored what proved to be the game winner.
Following the game, UML coach Norm Bazin was happy with the victory but wants to see improved play from his squad in Saturday's contest.
"We came in after a long layoff, I thought that we started very well," the coach said. "I thought there was a real lull in the second period and we finished the game off strong.
"We're ecstatic to start the series up 1-0 but it's two out of three so we realize how tough it is to get the second game in this league. We feel thankful that we had two (good) periods and we, certainly need to remedy some of those lulls and make sure we play three periods tomorrow. You have to have that desperation and play hard. We did that for most of this game but we'll need more of an effort tomorrow."