LOWELL -- The fundamental flamboyance of Joe Pendenza's game is a wonder to behold for hockey purists.

UMass Lowell's multi-talented senior forward can't be judged by his numbers.

Although Pendenza leads UMass Lowell in scoring with 25 points (13 goals) and has compiled 105 points (48 goals) in 148 career games, it is the little things the Wilmington resident does to help win games, many of which don't show up on the stat sheet, that truly separate him from his peers.

"Joe is one of my absolute favorite players," said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin. "He pushes you on offense. He's great defensively.

UMass Lowell’s Joe Pendenza (14) skates with the puck during a game this season against UMass Amherst.
UMass Lowell's Joe Pendenza (14) skates with the puck during a game this season against UMass Amherst. (SUN / JULIA MALAKIE)
He takes key draws. He plays every significant situation on the ice and he eats up minutes.

"He's a coach's dream. He's somebody who plays in every situation and you can depend on him to do the right thing. He will be sorely missed when he no longer plays here. But for now, he's still playing here so we'll enjoy him while we can."

Pendenza's freshman season was a rough one, as UMass Lowell only won five games during the 2010-11 campaign. But over the past three seasons, Pendenza has been one of the driving forces of a senior class that helped the River Hawks' program take flight.

Friday at 5 p.m. at the TD Garden, Pendenza and his teammates will begin defense of their Hockey East Tournament title when they play Notre Dame in a semifinal.


The River Hawks hope a strong showing at the Hockey East Tournament will serve as the launch point to a second consecutive trip to the Frozen Four.

"It's definitely a huge thing to help turn this around," said Pendenza. "It's great to be a part of what the program has become these past four years. My class has been part of all the ups and downs we've gone through. Hopefully, we can get the job done this weekend.

"It's been a dream come true playing here. I grew up watching Hockey East, going to the Hockey East Tournament. Staying local and playing here in Lowell has been unbelievable. I wouldn't have it any other way."

Pendenza, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 190 pounds, played at Arlington Catholic and the Boston Junior Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League before calling the Tsongas Center home. Although he was an EJHL all-star, he wasn't highly recruited, but he has developed into one of Hockey East's best two-way forwards.

"I wasn't a highly touted recruit, that's for sure," said Pendenza. "I talked to Northeastern and Bentley, but Lowell was the only school that offered me and really gave me a chance. I am so grateful to (former UML coach) Blaise MacDonald and his coaching staff for giving me a shot to prove I could play at this level."

Pendenza is strong in all aspects of the game. He makes his presence felt on special teams, with four power-play goals and one shorthanded tally, and is a plus-6. In UMass Lowell's quarterfinal series win over Vermont, Pendenza won 49 of 71 faceoffs (69 percent).

"He's a complete player," said senior linemate Josh Holmstrom. "He's very good in all three zones. He wins a lot of faceoffs.

"He's very fast so we can get pucks up to him and he can start the rush. He'll go in there and win some pucks. He does a lot of things well. And he's always working at trying to round out his game. He's never satisfied."

Pendenza, who became the 42nd player in UMass Lowell history to reach the 100-point plateau on Jan. 25 against Providence, is quick to credit the role former River Hawk players had on his development.

"It's very humbling to reach 100 points, knowing the players who have done it before me," said Pendenza. "Riley Wetmore (111 points), Dave Vallorani (114), Kory Falite (106), these are all guys I watched before I committed here. They're great players.

"I was able to be under a lot of guys' wings, including Matt Ferreira and Scott Campbell, who taught me a lot. The things I learned from them is reflected in my play on the ice, and I was just lucky to get 100 points during my four years."

A student-athlete in the truest sense, Pendenza will graduate from UMass Lowell with a degree in finance this spring. Although he's eager to someday join the 9-to-5 working world, Pendenza hopes to get a chance to play professional hockey.

"I want to give (pro hockey) a shot," said Pendenza. "We'll see what happens at the end of the year. But right now I'm focused on helping UMass Lowell win."

Which means Notre Dame is all that's on Pendenza's mind right now.

"He's one of the key components of our team, and he has been ever since I've been here," said Bazin, who is in his third season as UML's head coach. "He's someone who can play wing. He can play center. He never complains. He's a very valued member of our team."

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