WORCESTER, Mass. – It just wasn’t in the cards for the UMass Lowell River Hawks on Sunday evening as the Boston College Eagles topped the River Hawks in a tight, hard fought Northeast Regional Final.
The River Hawks fall just short of making a return trip to the Frozen Four and end the season a bit earlier than they wanted to. The bright side; the program is shaping up to be one of the top programs in the country. The Eagles will make their 24th appearance in the Frozen Four.
UMass Lowell came up on the bad side of what was a back-and-forth game. The Eagles got out to the first lead of the game on a Kevin Hayes goal at 7:03 in the first period. Of course, a goal that was assisted on by Johnny Gaudreau and defenseman Michael Matheson. Michael Kapla and the River Hawks responded with under two minutes remaining in the first, evening the score heading into the second period.
The River Hawks and Eagles traded goals in the second and third period, but the Eagles got the last laugh as Ian McCoshen received a great pass from Teddy Doherty and placed the puck in the back of the net stick-side. The just under nine minutes remaining in the game wasn’t enough for the River Hawks to return the favor.
UMass Lowell played ‘Lowell style hockey,’ but was matched up against a tough Boston College opponent. This weekend, against Minnesota State and Boston College, was two of the toughest, most evenly matched games the River Hawks had played all season long.
“Systematically I wouldn’t change to many things, I thought we played well,” said UMass Lowell Head Coach Norm Bazin. “I thought that was one of the better hockey games we played in the last three or four. However, we came out on the short end. It was the third period that did us in.”
The season boiled down to just a single period, the third period. Whoever won the third period would continue their season and fight for a national title. Entering Sunday night, the two schools had identical records when tied heading into the third period, 4-2-1 and in the end the Eagles got the better result.
Four goals in a single game is an odd sight for River Hawk fans. Connor Hellebuyck gave up four goals for only the second time this season, the last coming against Providence College on Jan. 24. The Winnipeg Jets’ prospect finished an outstanding season with a 18-9-2 with nation’s best 1.79 goal-against average and .941 save percentage. Hellebuyck will likely finish the season with the top spots in both GAA and save percentage.
Falling short of their season goal of winning a national title by only three games is felt hard by Joe Houk, Daniel Furlong, Shayne Thompson, Josh Holmstrom, Joseph Pendenza, Derek Arnold and Doug Carr. All of which are seniors and have played their final game in a UMass Lowell uniform. Most of those seniors are the final remaining players from the 2010-11 five-win team that was part of the program turn around and won back-to-back Hockey East titles to complete their collegiate careers.
“It’s pretty special to be a part of the group that it was,” said River Hawks’ captain and senior forward Holmstrom. “Coming back after my freshmen year was obviously tough, but the class was the right class to go about it. There is a lot of strong guys in [the locker room]. It’s great group of guys to be a part of.”
Holmstrom will look to follow his brother Ben Holmstrom and sign professionally to continue his playing career. Ben currently plays for the Adirondack Phantoms in the American Hockey League.
Four of the seven seniors are from Massachusetts and may have played their final game, for the near future, in the state. The only four local kids on the River Hawks squad.
“I’m very, very proud of the senior class who battle back from a real adverse situation in their first season to come back with three excellent years,” said Bazin. “Right now it’s hard to swallow, but in time they’ll realize that they were part of some pretty good teams.”
UMass Lowell completes their 2013-14 season with a 26-11-4 record, 11- 6-3 in Hockey East play. Best of luck to all the seniors.
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