UNH hockey: Lowell drops No. 9 Wildcats, 2-1, in Durham

  • UNH goaltender Danny Tirone drops down to stop a puck against UMass-Lowell in Durham on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. JOEY WALKER / UNH Athletics

  • UNH forward Ara Nazarian skates with the puck during a game against UMass-Lowell in Durham on Friday night. JOEY WALKERUNH Athletics

Monitor staff
Saturday, November 11, 2017

DURHAM – The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team has done well in short-handed situations this season. But with a pile of injuries leading into Friday’s game against UMass-Lowell, the Wildcats felt like they were playing short-handed all night.

With three of his top six forwards on the mend, UNH Coach Dick Umile had to shuffle his lines in preparation for Lowell. By the end of the first period, another forward went down as Brendan van Riemsdyk skated to the trainer’s room after colliding with a pair of River Hawks at center ice.

Ara Nazarian slid into van Riemsdyk’s spot on the left wing with Liam Blackburn and Patrick Grasso and gave the Wildcats a one-goal lead in the second period. The celebration was short-lived as Ryan Lohin potted the tying goal 25 seconds later and delivered the go-ahead tally in the third, lifting the River Hawks (5-6-0, 2-5-0 Hockey East) to a 2-1 win over the No. 9 Wildcats (6-2-1, 3-1-1) in Durham.

“We had a chance to win it,” Umile said. “Injuries or no injuries, you can’t feel sorry and you’ve got to find ways to pull it up.”

Shane Eiserman and Marcus Vela, two-thirds of the second line they typically share with Nazarian, were ruled out earlier this week. Eiserman is dealing with knee issues and Vela is recovering from an appendectomy. 

The group of forwards dwindled by one more when freshman top-line winger Charlie Kelleher went down with a shoulder injury Wednesday in practice. 

Neither Eiserman, Vela nor Kelleher will see the ice this weekend, and Umile doesn’t expect van Riemsdyk to be skating again until next week. 

Van Riemsdyk, one of Umile’s top penalty killers, stepped back onto the ice in the early minutes of the second period when Lowell earned a power play. The Wildcats killed it, but van Riemsdyk’s shoulder flared up when he sent a clear down the length of the sheet. 

“We had already rearranged them going into the game and then van Riemsdyk went down,” Umile said. “He went back out for one shift and when he cleared the puck, he knew he just couldn’t do it.”

Justin Fregona filled in for Kelleher on the first line with Michael McNicholas and Jason Salvaggio. The line managed just two shots in the game, both from Salvaggio, who is searching for his first goal since Oct. 14. 

“The guys are competing and have that next-guy-up kind of attitude,” Umile said. “Overall, the guys did a good job. I’m not disappointed in their effort, just disappointed in the outcome.”

Umile will have to manage a short bench again Saturday night on the road against No. 15 Boston University. The Terriers are hungry for a win after falling to No. 13 Northeastern, 6-1, Friday night.

UNH started the game with four lines but had to cut it down to three by the end of the first period.

“Whenever you can roll four lines, it’s good for everyone,” Nazarian said. “It’s hockey, stuff happens. You just have to deal with what happens and play as hard as you can.”

UNH dealt Lowell a pair of losses their opening weekend in October. The River Hawks avoided the season sweep Friday as Lohin, a sophomore and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, scored his third and fourth goals of the year, bringing his season point total to 13.

Nazarian snuck a shot through Anthony Baxter’s legs and past netminder Chris Hernberg with four minutes left in the second period for a 1-0 lead. Lohin answered quickly for the River Hawks, scoring off a feed across the slot from Colin O’Neill to knot it up.

Lowell’s offensive attack continued to heat up as the Wildcats cooled down. The River Hawks outshot UNH 13-8 in the second period and 9-5 in the third. Danny Tirone (26 saves) kept the Wildcats’ hopes alive as they battled to at least extend the game into overtime and get a point in the standings. Tirone’s heroic stops, of which there were many during Lowell’s offensive flurry through the second half of the game, came up short at the end.

Controlling the puck in UNH’s end, Tyler Mueller collected the puck at the left point and sent a darting pass to the slot where O’Neill was waiting. O’Neill chipped the puck toward the net and Lohin was there on the doorstep to tip it past Tirone. 

The score gave Lowell a 2-1 lead and the River Hawks survived the final 3:45 to seal the win.

“The last time we came here … we weren’t able to get pucks to the net,” Lowell Coach Norm Bazin said. “They (UNH) does such an outstanding job of deflecting and blocking shots that it’s tough to get pucks to the net.”

Lowell outshot UNH, 28-20, through three periods Friday.

Umile pulled Tirone for the extra skater with 1:53 left. The Wildcats stormed down the ice and fired four shots toward the net. Michael McNicholas rang one off the post and Ryan Lohin blocked Max Gildon’s hard shot from the point.

After playing BU on Saturday, UNH has just two games over the next two weeks. Boston College comes to Durham on Friday and then the Wildcats travel to Yale on Nov. 25.

A light schedule should lend itself to Umile’s roster situation as he waits for key players to return from the inactive list. 

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)