In what could stand out as the biggest upset of the season down the road, and certainly the biggest of this extremely young campaign, Sacred Heart took down No. 1 Massachusetts-Lowell by a final tally of 2-1 Friday night.
The Pioneers victory spoiled a banner-raising opening night before an attendance of 5,349 at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
“Wow,” was the initial reaction from Sacred Heart coach C.J. Marottolo. “I thought we played a really structured, discipline game. I was happy with our energy lever the whole game.”
The Pioneers are coming off a year in which the club earned a mere two victories. They halved that total with Friday night’s win.
Just a minute and a half after the River Hawks tied the contest with a third-period goal from Joseph Pendenza, the Pioneers picked up the eventual game-winner.
Off of an offensive-zone faceoff, Ben Lake won the puck and quickly sent it over to an open Drew George, who quickly fired a shot from the slot that beat Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
“The turning point for me was after Lowell scored,” said Marottolo. “They got a big lift, you could feel it. But our guys responded. I was proud of how we responded all night.”
“Ben Lake just won that draw right to me,” said George. “I had a lot of room on the blocker side and just put it right there.”
George’s game-winning goal was his second of the game.
The junior winger broke the ice with a power-play notch at 3:48 of the first period when an attempted clear was accidentally stopped at the blue line by Scott Wilson.
After a battle below the goal line, the puck was sent out to open space, destined to scale the length of the ice. However, an ill-advised knock down of the puck led to a turnover in the River Hawks’ zone. Freshman defenseman David Iacono then took possession and fired a wide shot that was tipped by George for the first goal of the season. The assist marked Iacono’s first career point.
“Once we got that quick lead, everybody just kind of looked around and said, ‘Hey we can play with these guys,'” said Marottolo. “We just fueled off of each other’s confidence.”
Early in the third Period, the River Hawks drew even when Pendenza tipped a shot from Michael Kapla past Alex Vazzano and into the net.
“I didn’t think we played very well,” said UML coach Norm Bazin. “Overall, I think when you give up a faceoff goal, a penalty goal against, and go 0-for-5 on the power-play, you don’t deserve to win.”
It is a quick turnaround for both teams. The Pioneers play host to RPI tomorrow afternoon, while Mass.-Lowell welcomes Massachusetts to the Tsongas Center.
“That’s the beauty of hockey,” said Bazin. “This is one game and you’ve got to put it behind you. Win, lose or draw, we’ve got to have a better effort. I’m thankful that we have a game tomorrow.”