2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: UMass Lowell River Hawks

Last season: 18–10–6 (12–7–5, third in Hockey East)

Head coach: Norm Bazin (tenth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Fourth

Departures: F Kenny Hausinger, F Colin O’Neill, G Tyler Wall

Additions: F Matthew Allen, F Andranik Armstrong-Kingcade, D Brehdan Ehgum, F Matthew Kinash, F Josh Latta, D Ben Meehan, F Jackson Sterrett, G Henry Welsch

By Mike Puzzanghera

Norm Bazin’s squad has a lot to build on from last year with very few departures, but one loss leaves a huge hole. Starting goaltender Tyler Wall leaves the program after posting a 2.10 GAA and .931 save percentage in his senior season and being named a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.

The big question is whether sophomore Logan Neaton can step up after subpar performances in his three appearances last season. The Jets prospect went 0–2–0 in two starts, allowing eight goals in just under 125 minutes between the pipes. At 6’4”, Neaton showed his ability during his time in the BCHL with Prince George. That has yet to translate to Tsongas Arena, but the River Hawks need him to improve.

They retain their top three scorers and seven of their top eight. Matt Brown is coming off a 24-point freshman year (tops on the team) and fellow sophomore Carl Berglund led the team with 12 goals (23 points). Their 6’4” sophomore forward Andre Lee notched 20 points of his own last season.

The defense is led by juniors Chase Blackmun and Seth Barton, who combined for 24 assists and eight goals in 2019–20. A third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Barton is another player Lowell will hope to develop this season. 

Joining them on the blueline is freshman Ben Meehan. A local name from Dexter Southfield, Meehan was a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings this year. He’s played six times for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge.

Other freshmen of note are forward Matt Allen (57 points in 54 games for Amarillo in the NAHL), forward Andranik Armstrong-Kincade (44 points in 50 games for Minot in the NAHL), and goaltender Tyler Welsch (1.99 GAA and .926 save % for Aberdeen in the NAHL).

Bottom Line: As a team, Lowell has improved offensively and defensively. As for individuals, the loss of Wall in net is huge. With the skill added in the forward group and on the blue line, Lowell’s floor is qualifying for the tournament — Neaton’s play in net will decide whether Lowell contends for a conference crown.