By: Kyle Williams
Head Coach: Norm Bazin (5th season)
Last Season: 21-12-6 (HE: 11-7-4); 4th place
Losses: F Terrence Wallin, D Jake Suter, D Zack Kamrass
Newcomers: F Guillaume Leclerc, F Evan Anderson, F Ryan Dmowski, F Tyler Sifferlen, D Niklas Folin
Over the last four years, UMass Lowell has been, without a doubt, the most consistent team in Hockey East. Since they finished at the bottom of the conference in the 2010-2011 season, they’ve won at least twenty games and finished no lower than fourth every year. They have routinely finished with a top four scoring offense despite lacking a top-five scorer, and they give up less penalty minutes than almost every other team in the conference. Last season was no different; they finished second in scoring offense (3.44 goals per game), last in penalty minutes (8.4), finished fourth in Hockey East and made a run to the conference finals before losing to the national runner-up in BU.
The River Hawks look poised to make another run at the Hockey East title this year. They return their top three lines, including their top six scorers from last season, and their only notable departure is senior defenseman and captain Zack Kamrass. Lowell will look to sophomore C.J. Smith to lead them in scoring again; he had thirty-five points last year, the best among every rookie not named Jack Eichel. On the defensive end, they will rely more on Dylan Zink, a two-way threat who was the fifth leading scorer from the blue line, and second only to Matt Grzelcyk in plus/minus rating for defensemen. The goalie situation should be solid again this year, with Kevin Boyle returning for his senior year. He’s not what Connor Hellebuyck was to this team two years ago, but he will be good enough to give this team a chance to win.
If there is one thing that could hold this team back, it will be regression on the offensive end. They averaged three and a half goals per game, second only to BU. They did this in part by averaging the highest number of goals per shot on goal, despite only being eighth in shots on goal. That points to a level of luck that may be hard to replicate.
Bottom Line: The River Hawks are returning too much talent and are too well coached to fall outside of a top-five finish in Hockey East. They’ll ride a good sophomore campaign from Smith and solid goaltending into another deep run in the Hockey East tournament.