The UMass Lowell River Hawks lost their bid for a national championship yesterday after falling to the Yale Bulldogs in overtime, 3-2, at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, Penn. The ‘Hawks finished 28-11-2, and Yale will face Quinnipiac in the national championship game tomorrow.
River Hawks Head Coach Norm Bazin said the better team won the hockey game.
“They have an excellent hockey team, and they played a great game. Certainly as far as we’re concerned, I’m proud of this group for this season. But tonight, we certainly didn’t have it,” said Bazin.
The Bulldogs outshot the River Hawks 47-18 in the tilt. Yale pinned Lowell in its defensive zone for much of the first period, exhausting them and preventing any kind of puck movement. The ‘Hawks found themselves down 2-0 after the first period, with a power play goal from Yale’s Mitch Witek and another from Antoine Laganiere.
Lowell battled back in the second period and found the back of the net twice. Senior Captain Riley Wetmore put a puck behind Yale goaltender Jeff Malcolm, assisted by Derek Arnold and Scott Wilson, to cut the lead in half. Momentum shifted in favor of the River Hawks when junior Joseph Pendenza also found the back of the net just 14 seconds later. The second period ended with a tie at two goals a piece.
Despite that short momentum shift, the River Hawks could not find their legs in the third period and scoring chances diminished. Yale outshot Lowell in the third period 16-3, as the Bulldogs defense formed a brick wall the ‘Hawks could not find a way to skate past. Lowell’s defense and freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who made a career-high 44 saves in the game, found a way to keep the score tied and force overtime.
Yale senior Andrew Miller scored the game-winning goal at the 6:59 mark, assisted by Carson Cooper.
Wetmore said the team tried to make adjustments to their system during the game to get more shots, but it was unsuccessful.
“We were held to like four or five shots (in the first), same in the second. We did have a good 17 seconds, we got two goals there. So we knew we could score. But we just didn’t bring it. They played a great game … We just didn’t have our legs today,” he said.
Pendenza said that after he put the puck in the net, he had hoped for a longer-lasting momentum change.
“We definitely tried to get pucks in deep in their “D”, and their “D” played a really good game and helped at the blue line. They just kept kind of coming in waves. They did what we usually do to other teams, so a little taste of our own medicine, kind of. But they just got the pucks first tonight, and they played a hell of a game,” he said.
Bazin said the ‘Hawks had no response to the Bulldogs tonight, and after a two week break to prepare for the Frozen Four, there was no excuse for it. “It was just one of those games that the magic certainly wasn’t there tonight in terms of skating and being able to adjust on the fly,” he said. ” … Both teams had the same amount of time off. We should have been very fresh because we have a good skating club. Like I said, we just didn’t have it.”
Hellebuyck’s stellar performance in net kept the ‘Hawks in the game until the very end, Bazin said.
“He’s a terrific freshman … I think he’s improved this year, and it will take some time to put this behind us. But I’m very proud of this group. But the whole group had an opportunity to accomplish what no other group at Lowell has ever done,” he said. “This is going to sting for a while.”