UMass Lowell seeks more from Pendenza
His breakout season came as a sophomore, when Joe Pendenza tallied 29 points at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. A year ago, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound center from Wilmington earned second-team Hockey East honors after his 15-goal, 23-assist campaign.
But now the Riverhawks, the preseason favorite in the Hockey East, are counting on their assistant captain for more than just points after their run to the Frozen Four last season, a first for the program.
“The spotlight is on me to be a leader,” said Pendenza, who had registered three goals and one assist in UML’s 3-3-1 start. “I need to get people ready for games and be more talkative. I can get goals and score points, but we have four lines that can do that.”
The experience Pendenza offers is valued most in the postseason, when teams are grinding to reach their potential.
But just a few games into the season, Pendenza felt the Riverhawks needed a lift.
After a 1-3-1 start, UMass Lowell faced tough challenges on the road in back-to-back games against Michigan State and fourth-ranked Michigan last weekend.
Pendenza scored the team’s final goal in a 4-1 victory against the Spartans, and then assisted on Ryan McGrath’s goal in the team’s 2-1 upset of Michigan last Saturday.
UMass Lowell entered the weekend 3-3-1 as it opened Hockey East play against the University of New Hampshire Friday and Saturday.
“Michigan was a huge win, especially going into their place; Yost Arena definitely isn’t an easy place to play,” said Pendenza. “It’s a very loud, fun atmosphere to play in. “It’s something special; those are some of the more historic teams. Any time we can beat them, we’re on the rise.”
Pendenza has always considered himself a leader, dating back to his days at Arlington Catholic and skating with the Eastern Junior Hockey League Junior Bruins.
He has always preferred to lead by example, rather than be vocal. But with a little guidance from coach Norm Bazin , Pendenza has embraced his role.
“I think it’s a transformation every year,” Pendenza said. “I was very quiet as a freshman and sophomore, did my own business, listened, and took everything in. But coach has challenged me to pull guys aside, be a leader, and this year I’ve become very good at that. I want to make sure the freshmen can come talk to me.”
Bazin has rewarded Pendenza for his development into a complete player, placing him on the number-one line, as well as the power play and penalty kill units.
“The reason he’s got a letter on his jersey is he’s playing hard away from the puck, he’s completing his game,” said the third-year coach. “He’s grown every single year to the point he’s one of the better threats in the league as far as performance and scoring. But it wasn’t overnight. It’s taken him three or four years to get to this point.”
Just as Pendenza has grown on the ice, the Riverhawks’ hockey program has flourished. In 2010, they were 5-25-4.
Two years ago, in his debut season, Bazin directed a 24-13-1 turnaround, setting the stage for last year’s unprecedented success.
“It’s definitely been kind of a whirlwind, a complete 180 compared to my freshman year,” Pendenza said. “Now, everyone knows who we are on campus, and the following amongst the students is enormous.”
But there is more ahead for Pendenza, who hopes to continue playing professionally once he graduates. His focus for now, however, is helping the Riverhawks make a run at an NCAA title.
“I know if I’m going to have any individual success, it comes down to team success,” Pendenza said. “Part of being a Lowell hockey team is being better every day, and if we do that, we’ll be where we want to be.”
Campbell is honored for golf contributions
Salem State golf coach Steve Campbell knows how to achieve success. A former captain for the Vikings, he competed in three consecutive national championships (1970-72).
As head coach since 2002, he has guided 20 individual champions and more than 25 team tournament titles.
Last weekend, at the New England Intercollegiate Golf Championship, he received the Gordon McCullough Award, presented to a coach in New England for a commitment to golf, and for contributions to players, coaches, and local and regional golf committees.
“Steve has reestablished our golf program as one of the premier teams in New England,” Salem State athletic director Tim Shea said in a prepared statement.
“His recruiting and teaching provide our team with a winning edge that helps to set Salem State University apart from others.”
Odds and ends
For the second time this season, Gareth Dudney , a senior defender at Franklin Pierce, was named the Northeast-10 Conference men’s soccer player of the week. The North Andover resident scored two goals and an assist in wins over Saint Michael’s and New Haven. . . . On Wednesday, the Tufts women (13-1, 9-1) clinched the second seed in the NESCAC field hockey tournament by defeating Bowdoin, 1-0. The Jumbos won the Division 3 national championship in 2012.
Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.