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UMass Lowell wins first Hockey East championship with win over BU

Courtesy of Vaughn Winchell

BOSTON – Just two weeks ago, the UMass Lowell hockey team clinched its first ever Hockey East regular-season championship on the last day of the regular season.

Now, the No. 5 River Hawks can check another first off the list as they won their first ever Hockey East tournament title with a 1-0 win over Boston University in front of 13,738 at TD Garden Saturday night.

Freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck pitched a shutout with 36 saves for the River Hawks, earning him tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

With the win, UML clinched a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the Terriers’ season came to an abrupt end with the loss.

“It’s a championship for Lowell, and I’m happy for everyone,” UML coach Norm Bazin said.

Saturday night also marked the end of an era as BU coach Jack Parker coached the final game of his 40-year career after announcing his retirement two weeks ago.

“I told (the players) I was proud to be their coach this year,” Parker said. “I had a lot of fun with them all year long. I was proud of the way they faced adversity in the middle of the season. They came back, shook it off and worked as hard as they did.”

The game was a scoreless struggle through the first two and a half periods, but the River Hawks finally broke through 11 minutes, 9 seconds into the third when Derek Arnold beat BU goalie Sean Maguire (28 saves) with a wraparound goal to give UML the 1-0 advantage.

Chad Ruhwedel led a 3-on-2 rush into the neutral zone and passed it to Arnold at the blue line. Arnold skated with the puck into the offensive zone and fed Ruhwedel in the slot, where the defenseman fired at the net. But the puck instead deflected off the skate of Scott Wilson and went onto the stick of Arnold, who made his move behind the net before beating the outstretched glove of Maguire for the game-winning tally.

“It was a broken play that went off the skate and I think Maguire came out of the net a little bit too much,” Arnold said. “I saw some daylight so I went with the wraparound and he was still behind the net so that’s what I saw.”

The Terriers responded with a flurry of shots in the game’s final minutes, but couldn’t get the puck past Hellebuyck despite having the extra-attacker for the final two minutes of the game.

BU sustained that aggressiveness from the opening faceoff, and dominated play on both ends of the ice for the first 20 minutes. But UML countered that early in the second period and got a golden opportunity when Maguire lost his blocker while the River Hawks still had the puck in the offensive zone.

Defenseman Sean Escobedo lent Maguire his stick, which the freshman goaltender held upside-down while making a split save to deny Josh Holmstrom’s wraparound bid.

The River Hawks had another big chance 3:25 into the third period on Colin Wright’s breakaway after exiting the penalty box, but his shot rang off the post.

“From the opening faceoff I thought both teams played very well,” Parker said. “It was a great college hockey game. I was very pleased with our effort. I thought it was one of the best games we played all year.”

For UML, it was redemption. The River Hawks’ only other two finals appearances in 1994 and 2009 were one-goal losses to BU. Bazin was a player on that 1994 River Hawks team, making Saturday’s win that much more meaningful for him.

“You always want to win when you play in a tournament, but it was fitting it was against BU (Saturday) to come out on top,” Bazin said. “I’m excited for not only the guys in the locker room but I’m excited for UMass Lowell.”

Nick Canelas can be reached at ncanelas@student.umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

 

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