UMass hockey shuts out Lowell for first time since 1970

  • Niko Hildenbrand, front, of UMass, scores against UMass Lowell goalie Christ Hernberg in the first period, Saturday at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen won 3-0. J. Anthony Roberts

  • Brett Boeing, left, of UMass, battles for control of the puck along the boards against UMass Lowell’s Tommy Pancio, right, and Chris Forney in the first period, Saturday at the Mullins Center. The Minutemen won 3-0. J. Anthony Roberts

For the Gazette
Saturday, February 10, 2018

AMHERST — Goaltender Matt Murray made 30 saves and earned his third shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over UMass Lowell, Saturday at the Mullins Center.

With under three minutes left, Niko Hildenbrand and Philip Lagunov both scored empty-net goals to help clench the Hockey East win.

“Every shutout is a team victory,” Murray said. “The guys in front of me did a phenomenal job keeping most of the shots to the outside and cleaning up in front of the net. And, without them, (we) definitely wouldn’t be able to get that one.”

The Minutemen (13-16-2, 7-12-2 Hockey East) snapped an eight-game losing streak to the River Hawks (16-14-0, 10-10-0) and bounced back from an 8-3 loss on Jan. 6.

It was UMass’ first shutout against UMass Lowell since Nov. 24, 1970, a stretch of 70 games.

When the River Hawks failed to clear their zone twice, Hildenbrand scored his seventh goal of the season to give the Minutemen a 1-0 lead at 6:49 in the first period.

Jake McLaughlin “threw it at the net, and I just happened to be right in front and got a tap-in into a wide open net,” Hildenbrand said. “So, I think that (goal) was more of a product of those guys.”

With four minutes left in the first, the Minutemen had an outbreak of shots in front of the net, but River Hawks goalie Chris Hernberg kept his composure in the scramble to keep it a one-goal game.

The Minutemen killed two penalties in the second period.

Minuteman defenseman Mario Ferraro was called for cross-checking early in the second period, but the River Hawks failed to convert on the power play. A holding call on Ivan Chukarov gave the River Hawks their third power play with 3.51 left in the period. Down a player, the Minutemen sustained their momentum to keep the River Hawks scoreless.

Lowell coach Norm Bazin called timeout with 3:40 remaining in the third. Following the ensuing faceoff, Lowell pulled its goalie and managed a couple shots on Murray. But Lagunov made it 2-0 with an empty-net goal with 2:52 left.

Lowell pulled its goalie again with under two minutes left and Hildenbrand scored from John Leonard for a 3-0 UMass lead.

“I’m happy for them. Kids like Niko have been with me for two years,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “He’s sacrificed a lot. It’s nice to see the kids get rewarded.”

UMass will host Boston College Thursday at 7 p.m.