LOWELL, Mass. – Massachusetts-Lowell became the first team to punch its ticket to the TD Garden, winning 2-1 in overtime on Friday to sweep its quarterfinal series against Maine. Derek Arnold scored the winner 1:50 into the extra session on a play that required a long review. Scott Wilson set up Christian Folin on a 2-on-1, but Martin Ouellette made a great save. As the rebound fluttered through the air, Ouellette got taken out by a backchecking teammate. Michael Fallon knocked the puck down with his glove, and Arnold buried it into the empty net. The review was to see if Fallon made a hand pass to Arnold, but the goal was ultimately upheld.
Devin Shore gave Maine a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal 7:51 into the second. Ryan Lomberg won the faceoff back to him, and he walked across the blue line before snapping a shot through traffic and past Connor Hellebuyck. Michael Fallon tied the game four minutes into the third when he followed up a Scott Wilson wraparound attempt and jammed the puck past Ouellette. That goal came less than a minute after Lowell had failed to capitalize on a five-minute power play.
What I saw
-Maine’s Joey Diamond was ejected late in the second for blatantly stepping on Joe Houk’s leg way behind the play. That capped off a horrendous series for the senior captain. He took three minor penalties on Thursday night, and already had seven penalty minutes on Friday before getting tossed, including a five-minute major for charging the goalie. Totaled up, Diamond had 22 penalty minutes in the game and 28 in the series. Going back further, he had 52 penalty minutes in Maine’s last four games, including two 10-minute misconducts against New Hampshire last weekend. Discipline has never been Diamond’s strong suit, but to have such a complete meltdown at this point in the season is inexcusable. Perhaps fittingly, this is how his college hockey career ends.
-The River Hawks failed to capitalize on those two five-minute power plays, though. They just didn’t have enough urgency for most of those advantages, as it seemed like they were almost too patient. They ended up with six shots on goal on those two extended power plays, but they could’ve had a lot more with better movement. Maine’s penalty kill also deserves credit, though. Devin Shore said after the game that the team watched some video earlier in the day and saw what they had to do to take the middle away. He also pointed out that Maine used just about all of its forwards on the PK, and that all of them were up to the task.
What I thought
-I got to see a bunch of replays of the winning goal in the press box, and it was impossible to tell if it was a hand pass or not. Fallon gloved the puck out of the air and dropped it in front of himself. It looked like he tried to poke it over to an open Arnold, but you can’t see if he actually got his stick on the puck or not — it didn’t really look like the puck changed direction or sped up at all. If he didn’t get his stick on it, it would’ve been a hand pass and no goal. Whatever the call on the ice was would’ve stood, because replay wasn’t conclusive. Fortunately for the River Hawks, the call on the ice was a goal.
-He was officially just the No. 2 star of the game, but Martin Ouellette was clearly the best player on the ice in my opinion. He made 35 saves and was really the only reason this game even got to overtime. In the first period, while the game was still scoreless, he made a great glove save to rob Scott Wilson on a breakaway. By my count, he wound up making 13 saves on shots from the grade-A area. He provided Maine with solid goaltending ever since he took over the starting job back in November, and that’s a promising sign heading into his senior season next year.
What they said
-Lowell coach Norm Bazin: “I thought it was a very mentally taxing game. It certainly was a difficult game to play. They had some adjustments we had to deal with. We didn’t make (the adjustments) as smoothly and as efficiently as I would’ve liked. Their goaltender was outstanding. I was starting to wonder if it was going to be our night. Thankfully we tied the game and snuck it out in overtime.”
-Derek Arnold on not getting deflated after the five-minute power plays: “You definitely can get frustrated at a time like that, but we used it to our advantage. We created some momentum off that and looked at the positives. We had some good opportunities. We had a big shift by Fallon’s line there, and he was strong in front of the net and scored a big goal for us.”
-Maine coach Tim Whitehead: “It was a hard-fought game. Obviously we’re proud of our guys, how they battled and fought against a really good team. I’m real happy for Norm and his staff. They did a great job. Their team played real well. But we’re proud of our guys. More importantly than tonight is how far we’ve come this year. We don’t even resemble the team we were at the start of the year. We’ve come a long way.”
-Whitehead on Diamond: “Obviously Joey had a tough night. It’s an emotional game. He’s an emotional guy. You kind of live and die by the sword. We wouldn’t even be in the playoffs if it weren’t for Joey’s play, and all the big goals he’s scored and his leadership. He’s part of our family. We stuck with him, and I feel for him. His emotions got the best of him tonight.”
What else you should know
-Maine ends the season with an 11-19-8 record.
-This marks Lowell’s first trip to the Garden since 2009, when it lost 1-0 to Boston University in the championship game.
-The River Hawks remained fourth in the Pairwise with the win.