Head coach Norm Bazin earned the win in his debut with UMass Lowell on Friday night, knocking off Minnesota State in Mankato, MN, 4-2. Junior captain Riley Wetmore (Swanton, Vt.) scored twice to lead the River Hawk offense.
"I thought the guys battled hard and I was just glad they could pull it out," said Bazin. "We have lots of areas to improve upon, special teams to name one, but we'll keep working at it."
UMass Lowell improves to 1-0-0 on the year, making Bazin the third head coach in program history to win his debut. Minnesota State dips to 1-2-0 on the year, losing its second consecutive game.
The Mavericks were able to crack the scoreboard first, finding the net at 6:21 into play. After ringing a shot off of the crossbar, Minnesota hung tough and continued to pepper Brian Robbins (Scotrun, Penn.) with two more shots. The second finally found the net as Zach Palmquist (South St. Paul, Minn.) put a shot over top of an outstretched Robbins for his first goal of the season.
The young River Hawks stayed undeterred as they continued to pressure the Mavericks' net. The persistence paid off at 13:27 as Wetmore scored the first goal of UMass Lowell's 2011-12 season. Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) corralled the puck behind the net and dished to Wetmore at near the post. The veteran skater held the puck out of the goaltender's reach, allowing Austin Lee (Bloomington, Minn.) to commit before skating around the edge of the crease and dumping the puck into the open net.
Wetmore wasn't finished, scoring again in the second period in a perfectly executed wraparound at 4:12. Robins fed Chad Ruhwedel (San Diego, Calif.) in the defensive end, who then passed to Wetmore as he raced up ice into the offensive zone. The junior skated hard to the near post, faked a jam attempt that fooled Lee and skated around the backside for an uncontested wraparound tally.
With just over three minutes remaining in the second period, Josh Holmstrom (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was whistled for a five-minute major, putting UMass Lowell on an extended penalty kill. The club held tight to the buzzer in the second and then killed off the remaining 1:54 in the third.
After the momentous penalty kill, the River Hawks kept up the offensive pressure, scoring at 11:32. Terrence Wallin (Yardley, Penn.) and Stephen Buco (North Providence, R.I.) passed back-and-forth behind the goal line, drawing the defense down. Wallin then made a head's up play, dishing to Matt Ferreira (Brampton, Ont.) who had curled in front of the net and nailed a top right shelf goal to extend the score to 3-1.
With the team flying high on a two-goal lead, Wallin dashed the crowd's hopes of a comeback at 15:29. On a turnover in UMass Lowell's zone, Ferreira hit Wallin with the breakout pass and the rookie closed in on the goaltender alone and slipped the puck under Lee's pads.
"I thought (Wallin) came out of his shell a little bit tonight," said Bazin. "The goal was a big goal for us. He played with a more urgency and that's how he's going to have to play to have success in this league."
The Mavericks didn't give up, scoring once more before the night was over. Jean-Paul Lafontaine (Oxford, Mich.) filled the net at 16:43 from Justin Jokinen (Carlton, Mass.).
UMass Lowell finished with four goals in its first game, after reaching the total in just seven outings in all of last season.
As the River Hawks held on for the win, Robbins earned the victory in his first collegiate game. The rookie stopped 25-of-27 shots and held off Minnesota State's lone power play chance.
The Mavericks' Lee finished with 33 saves as he dropped to 1-1-0 on the season, but held UMass Lowell scoreless in five opportunities with the man advantage.
The River Hawks have the chance to pick up the weekend sweep tomorrow night, battling the Mavericks at 7:07 CT in the Verizon Wireless Center once more.