By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 26, 2013
On Saturday, No. 4 Michigan’s best start since the 2005-06 season was halted after a 2-1 loss to No. 18 UMass-Lowell. Freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort made 33 saves in the second-ever meeting between the Wolverines (4-1-1) and the River Hawks (3-3-0).
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“I thought Nagelvoort was outstanding, and he gave us a chance all night,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “There were too many chances at each end of the ice to blame the goalies. But on the other hand, we’ve got score more than one goal at home.”
The game took a turn when Michigan was forced to kill a five-minute major penalty 7:35 into the third period after junior forward Phil Di Giuseppe received a game misconduct for checking from behind. The Wolverines were 37 seconds away from erasing the major penalty until the puck drifted out to the left circle. UMass-Lowell forward Adam Chapie was there to hammer home the loose puck for the game-winning goal that sailed over Nagelvoort’s shoulder.
“Killing a five-minute penalty is tough,” said senior defenseman Mac Bennett. “I thought we almost had it but it was a little bit too little, too late, and they capitalized.”
Bennett added that his team gets excited to kill penalties, but the Wolverines simply couldn’t rebound after the deflating goal.
Following a scoreless first period, Michigan and the River Hawks exchanged goals 24 seconds apart to begin the next frame. Sophomore forward Ryan McGrath put Umass-Lowell on the board first with another power-play goal coming from a wide-angle shot that trickled into the right corner of the net past Nagelvoort.
Freshman forward Evan Allen evened things up when a loose puck found him standing all alone in front of the net. Allen found the twine with a backhander under the arm of River Hawk goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for his second goal of the season.
The freshmen trio of Allen, Tyler Motte and JT Compher has been clicking all season, and has been the Wolverines’ second-most productive line with 11 points thus far.
“We’re all the same age and we’ve all been together for a few years,” Allen said. “Me and Tyler have been together before that, so I think we have a lot in common on the ice and off the ice.”
It looked as if more goals were bound to come, but missed opportunities from both sides characterized the rest of the second stanza. Senior forward Derek DeBlois and sophomore forward Andrew Copp both found themselves wide open in front of the net on separate occasions, but couldn't finish.
DeBlois received a pass on his forehand in the slot minutes before Copp received an equally great chance on his backhand, standing a foot in front of the crease. Both chances looked promising, but Hellebuyck was there to stonewall DeBlois for one of his 38 total saves. Copp’s backhand chance just got a piece of a UMass-Lowell defenseman to send the puck over the net.
For a penalty kill unit that allowed just three goals coming into Saturday’s contest, two power play goals became the difference despite Nagelvoort’s stellar effort in place of the starting goaltender, injured sophomore Steve Racine.
“We’ve seen in other games where we kill two minutes and that’s a big momentum shift for us,” Bennett said. “We almost had that five minute one too.”
Just 37 seconds separated Michigan from a massive momentum swing and a quality shot at its fourth win against the Hockey East conference. Instead, a mistimed check in the offensive zone and the inability to convert timely opportunities in front of the net forced the Wolverines to finally feel the sting of a loss.