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Ex-UMass Lowell Players Shining in NHL

 Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck prepares to make a glove save on Penguins star Phil Kessel. Photo by AP
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck prepares to make a glove save on Penguins star Phil Kessel during action last Thursday. Hellebuyck is one of six former UMass Lowell players in the National Hockey League.

Lowell Sun
By Barry Scanlon

For a program which has always been proud of its blue-collar mentality, UMass Lowell has produced many star players.

Need an example? How about six?

That's how many former River Hawks are currently earning National Hockey League salaries.

UMass Lowell's long history of developing solid goaltenders is evident by the play this season of Connor Hellebuyck and Carter Hutton.

Entering Tuesday night, Hellebuyck and Hutton had combined to stop 289 of 307 shots for an eye-popping save percentage of .941.

Hellebuyck, 24, is in his third season with the Winnipeg Jets. He was 5-0-1 with a 2.05 goals against average and .937 save percentage. Hellebuyck is making a strong case he's Winnipeg's No. 1 goalie.

Hutton, 31, is with his third NHL team, the St. Louis Blues. The backup was 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .950 save percentage.

Three players who helped lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup last season remain in the NHL, two with new teams.

Defenseman Ron Hainsey, 36, is in his first season with Toronto, his seventh NHL team. Hainsey is fitting in well with the high-flying Maple Leafs, a young team starting to make some noise. In 12 games, Hainsey had seven assists.

Forward Scott Wilson, 25, was a major factor in Pittsburgh's run to the Cup, picking up six assists in 20 playoff games. Wilson began the season with the Penguins, but has now played four games with Detroit.
The lone ex-UML standout to stay with the Penguins is 27-year-old defenseman Chad Ruhwedel. Ruhwedel has dressed for 10 games this season, notching one assist.

Finally, another player who has changed NHL uniforms is defenseman Christian Folin, formerly of Minnesota and now with the Los Angeles Kings. The Sweden native has seen action in 10 games.

Four of the five players who turned pro from last season's UML team are in the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL.

Defenseman Michael Kapla is with Binghamton (4 games, 1-1-2), forward Joe Gambardella is with Bakersfield (6 games, 1-1-2), forward C.J. Smith is with Rochester (8 games, 2-4-6) and defenseman Dylan Zink is with Wilkes/Barre (4 games, 0-1-1).