Hockey East Preview: UMass Lowell

UMASS-2NDARY-LOGO-UMLRHCoach: Norm Bazin–8th season (168-87-21)

Last Season: 17-19-0 (11-13-0 in Hockey East, 7th place); lost to 10th-seeded Merrimack in first round of Hockey East Tournament

Losses: Tommy Panico (D), Chris Forney (D), Tyler Mueller (D), Jake Kamrass (F), Ryan Collins (F), John Edwardh (F)

Additions: Dominick Procopio (D), Sam Knoblauch (F), Chase Blackmun (D), Jon McDonald (D), Austin O’Rourke (F), Reid Stefanson (F), Cale List (D), Michael Dill (F), Lucas Condotta (F), Nolan Sawchuk (D), Seth Barton (D), Eric Green (G)

Projected Finish: 7th

by Milton Posner

Last season was a difficult one for UMass Lowell’s men’s hockey team. With all the members of their 2014 Hockey East championship team finally gone, the River Hawks posted their first losing record in six seasons (their lowest winning percentage during that span was .615). They limped into the Hockey East Tournament as the seventh seed and were quickly eliminated in the first round by 10th-seeded Merrimack College, their longtime rival.

The primary reason for their lackluster play was the disparity between their offense and defense. Lowell’s offense ranked sixth in the 11-team conference with a respectable 2.83 goals per game. They also logged a solid 19.1 power play percentage, good for fifth in Hockey East. But it was defense that doomed the River Hawks. They tied for last in Hockey East in scoring defense, allowing 3.12 goals per game. That imbalance makes this year’s roster turnover a worrisome development for coach Norm Bazin’s squad.

Four of the River Hawks’ seven leaders in points (Tommy Panico, Chris Forney, John Edwardh and Tyler Mueller) graduated. Their departure makes offense–which kept Lowell from the bottom of the standings–more difficult. To overcome this exodus, the River Hawks will have to rely in large part on their mob of incoming freshman.

A few players stand out among the dozen first-years, ten of whom stand taller than six feet. Seth Barton, labeled a four-star recruit by Neutral Zone, is a third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings. Goalie Eric Green posted a 1.75 goals against average and a .941 save percentage during his senior year of high school at Northfield Mount Hermon. Dominick Procopio was the third-leading scoring defenseman in the North American Hockey League and was the South Division’s Defenseman of the Year. Reid Stefanson, another Neutral-Zone-labeled four-star recruit, can play all three forward positions. How they adjust to the rigors of college hockey will prove pivotal in the team’s fate.

Bottom Line: UMass Lowell had a difficult season last year, one in which their middling offense shone in comparison to their poor defense. With several key players graduating and a crowd of mostly unproven freshmen replacing them, the River Hawks’ outlook for the 2018-19 season isn’t too bright. With Hockey East adopting a new tournament format–the top eight seeds make the tournament instead of all 11–Lowell will likely be right on the bubble come March. If they make the tournament at all, expect a swift first round exit at the hands of a conference championship contender.

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