MANCHESTER, N.H. – In the year UMass Lowell announced they will be moving all Div. II sports to Div. I, the slogan “Progress in Motion” also applies to the River Hawks hockey. Already in D1, the River Hawks have gone from a five-win season in 2010-11 to a 28-win season, regular season title, Hockey East Championship and the school’s first ever trip to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Penn.
Saturday night, freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and the UMass Lowell River Hawks were able to shutout the New Hampshire Wildcats in the Northeast Regional Final, 2-0. Scott Wilson and Adam Chapie managed to score the games only two goals and gave the students of UMass Lowell and city of Lowell something they have been waiting for since the school joined Hockey East in 1984, a Frozen Four birth.
Hellebuyck tallied the River Hawks’ first ever shutout in the NCAA tournament and his sixth on the season. The freshman goaltender was outstanding once again, something Lowell fans have come to get use to seeing. After his performance Saturday night, the Winnipeg Jets draft pick added more hardware to his inventory, as he was named to the Northeast Regional All-Tournament Team and as the Most Outstanding Player by the media.
Coming into Saturday night’s game, the River Hawks had been unable to come out on top against the Wildcats. During the three-game season sweep, UNH faced junior goaltender Doug Carr. Since their last meeting, Lowell has made a change in goal and it turned out to be the difference maker.
The River Hawks would’ve never made it this far, let alone further, without the outstanding play of Hellebuyck and the Lowell defense. The Wildcats had 57 chances to score on the River Hawks and get something started. However, the freshman net-minder and his Lowell defense in front of him snuffed out every opportunity fired at them. Between the pipes, Hellebuyck stopped all 28 shots, while the rest of the team blocked 19 other shots, before they had a chance to get to the net.
The River Hawks will face Yale University of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference in the semifinal round of the Frozen Four, beginning on Apr. 11 in Pittsburgh, Penn. UMass Lowell forward Scott Wilson is a draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins and will return to the steel city once again, after spending the summer at the rookie camp.
Justin Soderberg is a Hockey East writer for InsideHockey.com. Follow him on Twitter, ‘Like’ him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google. In addition, Justin covers the UMass-Lowell River Hawks at viewfrom123.com.