LOWELL, Mass. – Ross Mauermann scored the lone goal and Alex Beaudry stopped all 29 shots he faced to lead Providence to a 1-0 win over Massachusetts-Lowell in Sunday’s decisive Game 3. With the win, the Friars earned their first trip to the Hockey East semifinals since 2001. Mauermann scored seven minutes into the game when he deflected an Alex Velischek shot through Doug Carr’s five-hole. The River Hawks’ best chances to tie it came in the final 10 minutes, but Beaudry stood tall to help Providence finish off the upset.
What I saw
-A great goaltending duel. Beaudry obviously stopped everything that came his way, including the River Hawks’ onslaught in the final 10 minutes. At the other end, Carr stopped 35 of the 36 shots he faced, including 16 from the grade-A area. He faced several odd-man rushes and was the only reason Lowell even had a chance to tie it late. In the third period alone, Carr made nine saves on shots from inside the faceoff dots.
-Riley Wetmore, who usually centers Lowell’s top line, played at far less than 100 percent. Before Sunday’s game, the UML fan blog The Ice Is Life tweeted that Wetmore had a broken hand, while UML coach Norm Bazin said after the game that it was a “lower body injury.” Wetmore didn’t take any faceoffs, missed shifts, and saw most of his ice time come with the fourth line. Bazin admitted after the game that Wetmore shouldn’t have played.
What I thought
-Wetmore’s absence from the top line was noticeable. Michael Budd replaced him between Scott Wilson and Derek Arnold for most of the game, and the trio never really looked in sync. They struggled to maintain possession in the offensive zone and generated just six shots on goal and no grade-A chances. If Wetmore’s injury continues to limit him come NCAA Tournament time, the River Hawks could be in big trouble. They’ve been one of the deepest teams up front all season, but if that top line isn’t clicking, the picture suddenly changes a lot.
-The Friars will be a decisive underdog against Boston College in the semifinals, but they definitely shouldn’t be counted out. People will point to the Eagles’ utter domination of Providence just two weeks ago, when they outscored the Friars 10-0 in a weekend sweep. Personally, I don’t think that will be at all indicative of what we’ll see Friday night. The Friars are a very different team with Tim Schaller in the lineup. Before this weekend, I didn’t buy into the theory that he makes a world of difference, either, but he really does. As Mauermann and coach Nate Leaman both pointed out after the game, Schaller playing evens up the lines, and suddenly the top three lines all look like they belong together.
What they said
-Beaudry: “It’s huge. I can’t really say because I’ve never been here, but everyone’s so excited. That’s pretty much it. We’re just pumped.”
-Bazin: “I think we can take an awful lot into the NCAA Tournament. I think we have a good hockey club. I want this to fester with the guys for a little bit. We’re gonna leave them alone. I hope they remember this feeling for a long time, because they can learn a lot from these experiences.”
What else you should know
-Providence becomes the first ever No. 7 seed to make it to TD Garden for the semifinals.
-Lowell is still a virtual lock to make the NCAA Tournament. There would have to be several upset conference champions stealing autobids in order to knock out the River Hawks.