By: Patrick Milne
Coach: Norm Bazin (7th Season)
Last Season: 27-11-3 (14-7-1 Hockey East, 1st), Hockey East Champions, Lost to Notre Dame in Quarterfinals of NCAA Tournament
Additions: D Croix Evingson, F Chris Schutz (Red Shirt Junior), F Charlie Levesque, F Eriks Zohovs, D Anthony Baxter, F Cole Paskus, F Connor Sodergren
Losses: D Michael Kapla, F Joe Gambardella, F Evan Campbell, F C.J. Smith, D Dylan Zink
Coming off a very successful season, the defending Hockey East regular season and tournament champion UMass Lowell River Hawks look to replicate their success and make an even deeper run in the NCAA Tournament. However, while the team did not lose many players, they did lose a lot of their talent, headlined by the loss of captain Michael Kapla. Lowell looks to replace the talent they lost with six incoming freshmen, including the 211th pick in the NHL draft, Croix Evingson (Winnipeg Jets), and red-shirt junior Chris Schutz.
Last season was full of success for Lowell, winning the Hockey East regular season title with a conference record of 14-7-1. Overall, they had a record of 27-11-3, they were tied for first with Northeastern in goals per game (3.68), they were second in goals allowed per game (2.32), they had the second-best power play (27%), and they had second-best penalty kill (85.8%). The Riverhawks were also able to win the Hockey East Championship for the third time in five years, defeating the University of New Hampshire, Notre Dame, and Boston College in the process.
At the NCAA tournament, Lowell was able to easily advance past the first round with a 5-0 win over Cornell. However, in the second round, the Fighting Irish were able to get revenge on the team that defeated them 5-1 in the Hockey East Semifinals. In the intense quarterfinal game, Notre Dame defeated the Riverhawks 3-2 in overtime, thanks to three assists from Anders Bjork, two goals from Cam Morrison, and a game winning goal Andrew Oglevie.
The team success also translated to individual successes with Joe Gambardella, Michael Kapla and Dylan Zink being named Second-Team Hockey East All-Stars. Additionally, forward C.J. Smith was named Hockey East Tournament MVP, and senior defenseman Dylan Zink was named a Second-Team All-American at the Frozen Four. Joe Gambadella was honored with the 65th Walter Brown Award, presented annually to the best American-born college hockey player in New England. Finally, the leader of the team, coach Norm Bazin, won the Hockey East Coach of the Year Award. All in all, it was a very impressive year for the UMass Lowell Riverhawks.
While Bazin would like to see his team make it to the Hockey East Finals for the sixth year in a row, he will have to deal with the challenge of replacing the seniors from last year, who made up a large portion of the River Hawks offense. Of their top five point getters from last year, four of them have graduated, including Joe Gambardella (18g, 34a, 52p), C.J. Smith (23g, 28a, 51p), Dylan Zink (10g, 26a, 36p), and Michael Kapla (3g, 27a, 30p). These four players were absolutely instrumental to Lowell’s success.
As a result, the River Hawks will look to senior forwards John Edwardh (19g, 20a, 39p) and Jake Kamrass (13g, 9a, 22p) to lead the offensive charge. They will also need production from sophomores Ryan Lohin (12g, 17a, 29p) and Kenny Hausinger (9g, 9a, 18p), both of whom had great rookie campaigns. Finally, Croix Evingson, who had 52 points in 59 games as a defenseman last year for the Shreveport Mudbugs in the North American Hockey League, will have to live up to high expectations in order for Lowell to be as effective offensively as they were last year.
On the defensive side, seniors Tyler Mueller and Chris Forney will be the main leaders. Sophomore Matias Goransson (5g, 18a, 23p) will also step into a top four defenseman role after having an impressive freshman year.
Finally, UMass Lowell will be relying heavily on their phenomenal sophomore goaltender, Tyler Wall. Wall, who started 34 games for the River Hawks last year, led Hockey East in goals against average (2.06), led in winning percentage (.716), and was 4th in save percentage (.918). Going into 2017-18 season, he is expected to be one of the top goaltenders next year.
Bottom Line: Going into the 2017-18 season, there are a lot of questions on whether or not this team will be able to replicate their success from last year. Having lost much of their offensive power and leadership, they will need their rising seniors to pick up where the graduated class left off. The River Hawks will also look to their sophomores, who had productive freshman years, especially goalie Tyler Wall, defenseman Matias Goransson, and forward Ryan Lohin, to further develop and be impact players all year. Furthermore, Norm Bazin has only been successful throughout his six-year tenure as head coach and has consistently found ways to be a top team in this very competitive Hockey East conference. In the end, while Lowell will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them to repeat, they will still be a formidable opponent.