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The senior River Hawk skaters shined in one of the last home game's of their careers, netting four of the five UMass Lowell (18-14-3, 12-11-3 HE) goals in a 5-2 win over Vermont (15-12-6, 9-11-6 HE) on Friday night. Chris Auger (Belleville, Ont.) led the way, burying the Catamounts with a pair of insurance goals in the final 30 minutes of play.
Scott Campbell (Navan, Ont.) broke up a choppy first period with the River Hawks' first goal at 14:54. UMass Lowell skated into the Vermont zone as its power play was ending and David Vallorani (Hamilton, Ont.) dished a pass to Riley Wetmore (Swanton, VT) down low. Wetmore sent the puck to the weak side for Campbell to clean up for his 14th score of the season.
The Catamounts managed to even the game back up before the end of the first with an excellent one-timer by Colin Vock (Orlando, FL). Tobias Nilsson-Roos (Malmo, Sweden) got behind the net and hit Vock perched to Carter Hutton's (Thunder Bay, Ont.) right for the quick strike at 18:44.
Vermont seemed poised to take control of the game after netting another goal at the start of the second. Off of the face-off win, Vock sent a pass to Brayden Irwin (Toronto, Ont.) at the far point. Irwin ripped a shot that seared through the defense for the score, landing the Catamounts a 2-1 advantage.
The tide turned quickly in UMass Lowell's favor when Kory Falite (Billerica, MA) caught Vermont off guard, stripping Chris McCarthy (Collegeville, PA) at the blue line. Falite skated in on Rob Madore (Pittsburgh, PA) for top left shelf goal at 5:03.
The game-winner happened just a few minutes later as Ben Holmstrom (Colorado Springs, CO) cleaned up a loose puck in the crease. Patrick Cey (Saskatoon, Sask.) beat the Catamounts to the corner on an excellent fore check, finding Falite streaking to the net. The senior forward put a back-handed shot behind Madore that went across the crease and hit the far post. The puck then sat in the crease as Madore thought he already gave up the score, allowing Holmstrom to tap it in. The senior captain's eighth goal of the season put UMass Lowell up 3-2.
Auger put the game out of reach with two goals in two very different situations. His first came on the power play late in the second, a wrist shot a few feet in from the middle of the blue line. The score was set up by Campbell and Vallorani down low to the goalie's left.
The evening's final goal was an empty net score at 16:46. Auger emerged from the penalty box and picked off Nick Schaus' (Buffalo, NY) clear attempt as the Vermont defenseman sat back waiting for it. Auger blew past the Catamounts and buried the shot to seal the game with a final score of 5-2.
Hutton picked up his 12th victory of the season, stopping 25-of-27 shots while blanking all six Vermont power play attempts. The Catamounts' Madore made 22 saves as he fell to 11-10-6 on the campaign. The two teams tied in shots on goal with 27 each.
The victory clinches a Hockey East playoff berth for the River Hawks. If UMass Lowell wins again tomorrow night, they will also clinch home ice in the conference quarterfinals.
The River Hawks and Vermont will square off once more tomorrow night in the final game of the regular season. The contest will serve as Senior Night for UMass Lowell with the puck drop scheduled for 7:05 p.m.