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March 4, 2013

Merrimack continues its tailspin against Lowell

NORTH ANDOVER — Two weeks ago the mood inside Lawler Rink was vastly different than it was yesterday.

Instead of battling Boston College with first place on the line, the Warriors were trying to stop a tailspin yesterday that has seen them plummet from the top spot in Hockey East down to sixth.

They did themselves no favors yesterday, falling to UMass Lowell, 3-1, at Lawler Arena. They’re now 0-4-1 in their last five games, scoring just six goals over that span.

Josh Holmstrom put the River Hawks on the board twice in the first period. First, sneaking out from behind the net as Joseph Pendenza fired a puck towards the crease off the left-wing wall and tipping the incoming puck past Rasmus Tirronen.

Then 4:22 later, he stood on the doorstep and had both the opportunity to tip an incoming Scott Wilson shot, and then whack away at the rebound before finding a hole through Tirronen.

“The start is extremely important against these guys,” Lowell head coach Norm Bazin said. “That was a major point. Scoring on the power play was a major point and being 100 percent on our penalty kill was a big deal.”

The River Hawks killed all three Merrimack power plays in the first period.

“Different guys came to the forefront on those PKs to give us some life,” Bazin said. “We used that PK as momentum shifts for our game, but I can’t tell you it was easy. It was a very difficult came to play.”

Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy agreed, but didn’t believe that his team “joined the battle” until the midway point, saying, “It took took long for us to join the battle. Once we did, we made a game of it, but you have to play hard.”

Shawn Bates scored the Warriors’ lone goal. Rhett Bly picked the pocket of a Lowell defender and raced in with Bates, feeding him the puck as they entered the offensive zone and Bates rifled it past Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who won his 12th straight game.

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