On National TV, UMass Lowell's Streak Continues
By David Pevear
LOWELL -- Two freshman goalies drafted by NHL teams last June looked Big League Thursday night during a nationally-televised game at the Tsongas Center.
Not even a hot goalie, though, can chill UMass Lowell, which finally scored on its 35th shot at Providence's Jon Gillies, and ultimately skated off with a 2-1 victory before an NBC Sports Network audience and a crowd of 5,694.
UMass Lowell freshman Ryan McGrath scored his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 2:10 of the third period to make it 1-0. UMass Lowell junior defenseman Chad Ruhwedel scored his fourth of the season at 6:39 of the third, 26 seconds after Providence's Ross Mauermann had tied it.
UMass Lowell, ranked No. 18 in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll, extended its winning streak to eight games -- the longest current streak in the country, and the River Hawks' longest since a nine-game winning streak in 2001-02.
The River Hawks needed 50 shots to keep it rolling.
"When good things are happening, there's a domino effect; the same as when we were losing close games at the beginning of the year," said UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin, whose River Hawks improved to 12-7-1 (6-6-1 Hockey East).
Bazin added, "But, I think the hockey gods have their way of evening things out at times."
Good goaltending can be even more influential than the gods. And the River Hawks have two really good ones -- freshman Connor Hellebuyck and junior Doug Carr.
The 6-foot-4 Hellebuyck, a 2012 fifth-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets out of Commerce, Mich., made 31 saves Thursday night. He is 6-0-0 since a 5-1 loss at Denver in his first collegiate start on Oct. 19.
Recalling that night in Denver, Hellebuyck said, "I needed to get my feet wet. Denver's a great team, too. It was very eye-opening. It really set me into what I needed to do, and how I needed to work."
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice Thursday night, Providence's 6-foot-5 Gillies, a 2012 third-round pick of the Calgary Flames and the USA's backup to tournament MVP John Gibson at the recent World Junior Championships, made 48 saves. He came into Thursday night off a 44-save shutout against UMass Amherst last Saturday night.
"I thought both goalies played terrific," said Providence coach Nate Leaman. "Especially the beginning of the second period, we had three or four real good chances. And (Hellebuyck) came up with some big saves. Jon obviously came up with some big saves for us."
Gillies' father Bruce is a former UNH goalie. His grandfather Bruce Sr. is a former Norwich University goalie. His uncle Chris played goal at Denver.
The River Hawks through two periods poured 32 shots on Gillies of South Portland, Maine, without a red light. Finally, on UMass Lowell's 35th shot, McGrath made it 1-0 from the right circle, beating Gillies over his left pad to the short side on a power play, 2:10 into the third period.
"A tough component to play against," McGrath said of Gillies. "But we went over some film, kind of developed where to shoot. Fortunately when I shot it, it just found the back of the net."
McGrath fired six of UMass Lowell's 50 shots on net. Derek Arnold had nine shots without scoring a goal but was plus-one on the night with an assist.
The River Hawks had 12 power-play shots while going 1-for-5. They killed off both Providence power plays, extending their streak to 34 consecutive kills.
Providence (9-8-3, 7-4-2 HE) upset the River Hawks last season in the first round of the Hockey East Tournament.
"We pretty much picked up where the playoffs left off last year with the intensity of the game," said Leaman.