River Hawks Soar

03/12/2009
By From the Lowell Sun

By Chaz Scoggins

If Jack Parker, the coach of Hockey East regular-season champion and top-ranked Boston University, is accurate with his prediction, UMass Lowell should be headed to Boston Garden for the Lamoriello Trophy Tournament semifinals for the first time in seven years.

"Whoever wins any of these series has to have good goaltending and good special teams," Parker said earlier this week as he assessed the four first-round series.

Both the Terriers and the River Hawks, who finished fifth in the standings, seem to fit Parker's criteria perfectly.

BU and UML finished one or two in the league in every important category but one. The River Hawks finished third in team defense behind BU and Northeastern.

BU and UML were one-two in offense and power-play efficiency. UML was the top penalty-killing team in the league (89.1), and BU was second.

While the top-seeded Terriers will take on eighth-seeded Maine at home in their best-of-three quarterfinal round series, the River Hawks will have to beat fourth-seeded Vermont on the road, beginning tomorrow night. All three games, if necessary, begin at 7 p.m. and can be heard on 91.5 FM.

Inconsistent goal-scoring and a string of one-goal losses in December and January prevented the River Hawks from finishing higher in the standings and getting home ice for the first round. But they went 8-3-2 in their last 13 games.

"We have been streaky scoring goals. But our defense has been solid, and we finished the season pretty strong after a six-game losing streak," said UML coach Blaise MacDonald. "A lot of those games were on the road, which builds confidence for us."
The River Hawks took three of four points from Vermont in Burlington three weeks ago.

Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon knows his seventh-ranked Catamounts are in for a struggle against the unranked River Hawks.

"We had a very difficult time against Lowell this year," Sneddon admitted. "Their strength is they believe in their systems and don't make a lot of mistakes.

"If you're a transition team that capitalizes on mistakes, you're going to get pretty frustrated. And their goaltending stood up really tall against us."

While goalies Nevin Hamilton and Carter Hutton were ranked third and fourth in Hockey East, respectively, UML defensemen are also offensive catalysts. River Hawks defensemen have tallied 89 points in 34 games, and only BU's defensive corps has scored more.

Sophomore defenseman Maury Edwards is UML's leading scorer with 27 points, including 10 goals. He was the top-scoring defenseman in the league and eighth overall.

Exaggerating only slightly, Sneddon has said that Edwards possesses "the hardest shot of any man alive."

The River Hawks take a 15-13-2 record into the series. Vermont is 20-9-5.

Edwards (10-17-27), sophomore Scott Campbell (11-13-24) and freshman David Vallorani (8-16-24) are UML's leading scorers. Hutton (2.05, .916) and Hamilton (2.23, .924) have been splitting netminding duties.

Hutton has two shutouts in his last three starts, including a 1-0 victory over the Catamounts.

Viktor Stalberg (22-18-40), Peter Lenes (13-16-29) and Brian Roloff (10-17-27) top the Vermont scoring list. Stalberg finished third in the HEA scoring race and led the league with 19 goals.

Rob Madore (2.30, .915) handles most of the net work for the Catamounts.

This will be the first time the River Hawks and Catamounts have met in a post-season game since Vermont scuttled Lowell Tech 7-0 in the ECAC Division II playoffs back in 1972.

The River Hawks are 51-47-4 all-time in post-season play but are just 1-10 in the first-round of the Lamoriello Trophy Tournament over the last five years.

Second-seeded Northeastern hosts seventh-seeded UMass Amherst, and third-seeded New Hampshire entertains sixth-seeded Boston College in the other first-round series.