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UMass hockey falls flat in 6-3 loss to Lowell

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts hockey team failed to convert on ample opportunities on its home ice Friday, dropping its second game in a row and into eighth place in the Hockey East with a 6-3 loss to Lowell.

UMass (10-14-2, 7-11-1 HEA) outshot No. 14 Lowell 29-19, but failed to make good on enough of those attempts to keep pace with a River Hawk team that had a response for every move the Minutemen made.

Though UMass rallied at times with scores of its own to help stop the bleeding, Lowell (15-9-2, 9-8-2) consistently took advantage of the Minutemen’s mistakes to keep the pressure on throughout the game.

“I think their goals were all directly result of very poor decisions,” UMass coach John Micheletto said. “Why that is, if it was coincidental to our goals and our mindset at the time, trying to come from behind, I don’t know that I have an answer for that.

“I just know it was uncharacteristically poor reads that led directly to their goals.”

Scott Wilson and Joseph Pendenza trickled in first-period shots underneath the pads of Minutemen goaltender Kevin Boyle to help set the tone early for Lowell and took what little intensity the 3,124 in attendance had out of the game early.

Michael Pereira cut the lead in half on an unassisted, short-handed wrap-around goal that pulled River Hawks goaltender Connor Hellebuyck out of position in the first.

But Lowell had an answer, this time in the form of a two-on-one opportunity in which Joe Houk found Derek Arnold on a left-to-right pass in front of the net that crossed up Boyle with just 57 seconds remaining in the period.

“I really like the fact that we responded,” River Hawk coach Norm Bazin said. “To respond after the opposition scores is a very good sign.”

Micheletto wasn’t pleased with the early and late goals of the period.

It’s “very difficult to generate energy and (have a) feel-good mentality when that happens,” he said. “You’re trying to get out of the box early, establish your game and then you’re obviously trying to get in the locker room and feel good about what just happened. ... When things happen in the first couple minutes of a game or the last couple of minutes of a period, it takes that wind out of your sails. Now you’re having to manufacture energy and confidence at that point.”

A Conor Sheary power-play goal 9:38 into the second frame off assists from Darren Rowe and Joel Hanley was nullified just under eight and a half minutes later when Arnold scored his second goal on a breakaway.

“The fact that we had three guys caught on one half of the ice and two guys pinching into the middle, leaving a guy wide open at the far blue line is a bad miscommunication and poor decision,” Micheletto said.

Rocco Carzo added a power-play goal 7:10 into the third period to cut the Minutemen deficit back to one, but was answered with scores from Riley Wetmore and Josh Holmstrom at 15:04 and 18:11, respectively.

The River Hawks can earn a season sweep of the Minutemen Saturday when UMass travels Lowell to complete the home-and-home series.

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