The Takeaway: Mass.-Lowell Wins Its First Hockey East Tournament Title With Win Over BU

Posted by: Nick Canelas

BOSTON – Massachusetts-Lowell wins its first Hockey East tournament championship with a 1-0 win over Boston University Saturday night at TD Garden. The win gives the River Hawks their first ever Hockey East tournament title, while BU’s season comes to an end with the loss. This also ends BU coach Jack Parker’s 40-year coaching career after announcing his retirement two weeks ago.

Derek Arnold scored the game’s lone goal on a wraparound 11 minutes, 9 seconds into the third period. Scott Wilson and Chad Ruhwedel got the assists on the play.

UML goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was named tournament MVP following his 36-save shutout against the Terriers. BU goalie Sean Maguire had yet another strong night in goal, making 28 saves in the losing effort.

What I Saw

  • In a game that saw little quality chances throughout, the River Hawks broke through at 11:09 in the third period when Arnold beat Maguire with the wraparound to make it a 1-0 game. UML had done a solid job of generate rushes in the second and third period, and finally broke through with a 3-on-2 that started in the defensive zone with Chad Ruhwedel and Arnold trading passes through the neutral zone. Arnold fed Ruhwedel in the slot, but the defenseman’s shot deflected off Scott Wilson and onto the stick of Arnold. The junior then completed the wraparound well out of the reach of Maguire’s outstretched glove. The play exemplified what the River Hawks were trying to do to BU all night, but the Terriers executed well defensively. They had another big chance to beat Maguire 3:25 into the period when Colin Wright got out on the breakaway after leaving the penalty box, but his shot rang off the post and back into play. 
  • It was another strong display of goaltending from both freshman goaltenders. But it was Hellebuyck that came out on top in the end. He didn’t quite face the quality chances that Maguire faced throughout the night, but he turned aside everything the Terriers threw at him, especially in the end of the game when BU played with a greater sense of urgency and started to get more pressure on net. Hellebuyck bailed out his team’s poor play in the first period to keep the game scoreless despite signs of dominance from the Terriers.  The River Hawks were sloppy on both ends of the ice early, and had some uncharacteristic turnovers. But Hellebuyck’s play allowed them to adjust to the pace of the game. The freshman was especially strong with controlling rebounds after making stops with the body, plays that could’ve turned into Grade-A chances for BU.
  • The Terriers may have finished the game with more shots — 36 to UML’s 29 — but simply couldn’t get the same quality chances that the River Hawks were getting. BU tried to apply pressure, but UML was blocking shots and giving the Terriers little room to work in the offensive zone by closing gaps. Most of their shots were right into the chest of Hellebuyck, which made it easier for the River Hawks to get out on the rush. BU did have a strong game defensively, however. It finished with 21 blocked shots for the game and did a good job of clearing the puck and slowing the UML penetration. 

What I Thought

  • Not enough credit can be given towards the play of both goaltender’s in Saturday’s final. Both Maguire and Hellebuyck had solid tournaments overall and did enough for their respective teams to win. While Hellebuyck was more deserving of the MVP because he was the tournament’s winning goalie, Maguire’s weekend was certainly more impressive. One night, he overcomes a 47-shot onslaught against Boston College in a 6-3 win. The next, he holds a deep River Hawks team scoreless through the first two and a half periods. His shining moment of the night on Saturday came early in the second period when he lost his blocker with UML holding possession of the puck. Sean Escobedo showed good awareness and lent the freshman his stick, which Maguire held upside down. Maguire then made a huge split save to deny Josh Holmstrom on the wraparound bid. Regardless of who was better this weekend, the play of both goalies is a sign that great goaltending in Hockey East isn’t going away any time soon. Both are part of a solid crop of young goalies, along with Providence’s Jon Gillies, that’ll make an impact on the league for the next couple of years.
  • It was clear from the very beginning that BU was going to play an inspired hockey game for Parker in an attempt to extend his career, and certainly didn’t disappoint. The Terriers got out on the rush early, and dominated the first period. They also put together one of their best defensive efforts of the season and really got after UML on both ends. While it wasn’t the result they were looking for, they left everything on the ice in this one until the very end. With the net empty for the final two minutes of the game, BU pressured Hellebuyck hard, but some tough bounces off his pad gave the River Hawks a chance to go onto the offensive end and BU was forced to defend the empty net. Escobedo did a good job of blocking a pair of shots on net to give his team one last chance at a win.
  • The play of UML’s offense both Friday and Saturday can both analyzed from two different angles. On one hand, the River Hawks continued to push and apply pressure, but failed to find that finishing touch until late in the game. On the other, UML showed it’s going to find a way to score enough goals to win the game no matter how hot the opposing goaltender in net is. But in all reality, with Hellebuyck playing lights out like he has for the past couple months, the River Hawks are doing all they need to do in order to make a push for the Frozen Four. Sure, the lack of goal-support could hurt them if Hellebuyck has an off-night. But that’s a rare occurrence. Also, it’s highly unlikely that UML will run into another goalie who’s playing as well as Gillies and Maguire have been recently at least until after the regionals.

What They Said

“It was very important because there’s a lot of skeptics out there, a lot of detractors that felt we were gonna come up short again and I was reminded by the press how many times we’ve lost the big game in the finals.” UML coach Norm Bazin

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

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

“First off from the opening face-off I thought both teams played very well. 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.” -BU coach Jack Parker

“I was really happy with everything that happened, except we couldn’t put it by their goaltender and they put one by ours. We got our chances, it just wasn’t to be.”

“I’ve won tournaments, I’ve won games, so I wanted this one for my seniors.”

What Else You Should Know

With the win, the River Hawks sit at third in the Pairwise, ensuring them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Regionals. They also completed the season-sweep of the Terriers on Saturday.

BU had beaten UML in the River Hawks previous two Hockey East tournament final appearances in 1994 and 2009, but broke that trend with Saturday’s triumph.

The Hockey East All-Tournament team consisted of Hellebuyck, Matt Grezelcyk, Chad Ruhwedel, Scott Wilson, Danny O’Regan and Evan Rodrigues.

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