After two physical games, the New Hampshire Wildcats and the UMass Lowell Riverhawks stood even at a game a piece. The teams play game three of their Hockey East Quarterfinal series at Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA on Sunday afternoon. The winner would move onto the Semi-final game next weekend at the TD Garden in Boston. After a hard series against Merrimack the week before, New Hampshire looked to ride adrenaline into the Garden. Unfortunately, they ran out of steam and ran into a buzz saw called the Lowell Riverhawks.
Early in the first period, UNH took too many men on the ice penalty and Lowell paid it off. John Edwardh scored a goal from the slot to take the lead. New Hampshire drove the other way and scored on a rebound goal by Marcus Vela. From then on, Lowell dominated a tired Wildcats unit.
Anchorage, AK, native Kenny Hausinger landed two huge blows with goals at 8:48 and 12:24 into the period for the first multi-goal game of his collegiate career. Twenty-nine seconds after Hausinger’s second score, C.J. Smith landed a goal to make it 4-1. When UNH finally had a chance to cut into the lead on a John Edwardh hooking penalty, Collin O’Neill scored a shorthanded goal. In the final minutes, C.J. Smith got his second goal of the period to make it a 6-1 Lowell lead. Lowell scored six goals on 13 shots against Wildcat goalie Danny Tirone. It was the first time Lowell scored 6 goals in a game since 1994.
With the lead firmly in hand for Lowell, play slowed down to start the second period. UNH kept up pressure on the Riverhawks, outshooting Lowell 15-13. But much of the period felt as though the Riverhawks were picking at the corpse of the Wildcats season. Lowell added two goals in the period. Colin O’Neill netted his second goal and Tyler Mueller joined the scoring fun. Lowell led the Wildcats 8-1 after two periods.
Lowell was done scoring and shooting for the game. Both sides still hit and skated hard, but UNH outshot Lowell 6-5 in the third. Wildcat superstar Tyler Kelleher showed life, netting his 24th goal and 63rd point of the season. UNH could not muster any more offense and their season came to an end at Tsongas. For the second time this season, the Riverhawks topped the Wildcats in Lowell 8-2.
New Hampshire coach Dick Umile praised his team’s effort late, especially his goaltender. Danny Tirone had a bad opening period against one of the top teams in the country and asked to stay in the game. Umile stayed with his goaltender and said that he’d be the top goalie next year for the Cats. Their season comes to an end, finishing with a 15-20-5 record. Umile praised his seniors, Jamie Hill, lead scorer Tyler Kelleher, and captain Matias Cleland, for their career efforts. Umile claims to have never coached a better captain than Cleland and that Kelleher is among the top forwards in college hockey.
Lowell coach Norm Bazin credited his team’s total effort. He praised his 4th line by saying “I don’t look at them as our fourth line. We have a top line that has separated themselves, but we have three-second lines on this team.” Hausinger, Colin O’Neill, and Ryan Lohin got six points on the fourth line and powered the Riverhawks to winning the series.
With the win, Lowell punches their ticket to the Hockey East Semifinals. They will play the Notre Dame Irish on Friday night at 5 pm at the Boston Garden. Notre Dame topped Providence College in two games. The other semi-final game will be another matchup between Boston University and Boston College at 8 pm at the Garden. BC beat Vermont in two games at Conte Forum while BU barely got by Northeastern in two games at Agganis Arena.