By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
He is not the flashiest of skaters. He’s not the biggest, the fastest, or the most prolific scorer of any college hockey player in the country, but Joe Pendenza is an effective presence on the ice.
The senior forward for UMass-Lowell (16-7-2, 6-4-1 Hockey East) has been a steady and important contributor to his team. This season, Pendenza has 21 points in 25 games. He crossed the 100-point threshold and now has 101 heading into Friday’s game against Merrimack at the Tsongas Center.
Pendenza, 23, isn’t one to toot his own horn, he just wants the River Hawks to succeed. After a record-setting season last year when the team advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in history, he said the team is that much hungrier for more.
“The lesson we took out of that is we have to come to work every day,’’ said Pendenza, who grew up in Everett and Wilmington and attended Arlington Catholic. “We can’t take it easy one day, we can’t have any lapses, we have to come every day and work hard and strive to get better.’’
It wasn’t as if the players didn’t work hard last season, but the goals they had for themselves weren’t met.
“It did feel like we [worked hard] but I think at the end of the year, we all thought we could have given a little bit more,’’ said Pendenza. “We did come up two wins short. That was kind of the feeling going through the summer, we can definitely work harder and do a little bit more to get that much better.’’
Pendenza said even though the River Hawks didn’t win the title, they did enjoy the journey.
“We all had fun, looking back on it,’’ he said. “It’s all something we want to experience again, that’s for sure. To be able to go back there would be awesome, but we know it’s a long road ahead.’’
But this is a new season and the River Hawks have five freshmen on the roster who didn’t go through that experience.
“All throughout the summer we told them we needed to strive to get better because we weren’t OK with being a [good] team,’’ said Pendenza. “We want to be the best that we can be and to be that, we have to work hard. We’re not going to be able to outskill teams, we’re going to have to outwork every team every night. That’s a huge reason for our success.’’
Another reason is the coaching of Norm Bazin, in his third year at the helm. Pendenza said Bazin has been extremely supportive.
“He’s very upfront with guys,’’ Pendenza said. “He’s going to tell you what you need to do to get better and I think that’s why guys react so well to him. He is very to the point and when we’re in this kind of environment, that’s what guys want.’’
On Monday, three Hockey East teams and one ECAC team will be competing in the semifinals of the Beanpot Tournament. Although Lowell isn’t one of them, Pendenza said he enjoys watching it.
“I think I’m more into it than anyone else,’’ he said. “I grew up in Everett [until halfway through high school when his family moved to Wilmington], so I have followed ever since I was a little kid. I’m a pretty big fan of it.’’
Making an impact
The River Hawks, in concert with Team IMPACT, will be hosting a group of nearly a dozen young people who are battling illnesses, and they will be recognized before Friday night’s game. The youngsters have been linked with players from both Lowell and Merrimack. Other varsity teams from both schools are also part of the program.