Hockey East semifinals: UMass hockey downs UMass Lowell to reach 2nd straight championship game

  • The UMass hockey team faced UMass Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals Friday at TD Garden in Boston. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI—

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2022 9:51:51 AM
Modified: 3/19/2022 9:51:01 AM

BOSTON – Ugly wins still keep you in the tournament.

The UMass hockey team returned to the Hockey East championship game on the strength of two first-period goals in Boston on Friday. The No. 2 seeded Minutemen defeated No. 3 UMass Lowell 3-1 at TD Garden.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s playoff time. You win and you move on,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “We didn’t feel like we had a lot of momentum, but I thought we did a good job preventing them from doing what they want to do. They had the puck a lot, but they didn’t have it in dangerous areas.”

UMass (21-12-2) will face No. 5 UConn in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday (NESN) aiming for two straight titles. The Huskies upset top-seeded Northeastern in the early semifinal 4-1.

“They’re kind of having a coming out party this year,” Carvel said. “Hopefully we get to put an end to it.”

The first power play of the game led to the opening goal. UMass Lowell’s Matt Crasa was sent to the box for hooking 11:52 in. The Minutemen capitalized on the man advantage in 35 seconds. Scott Morrow whipped a shot toward the River Hawks’ net, Josh Lopina tipped the rebound off Lowell goalie Owen Savory and Garret Wait swatted it out of midair for the game’s first goal at 12:27.

“A couple times earlier in the season we found ourselves chasing the game. We’re definitely starting better now,” UMass captain Bobby Trivigno said.

Some River Hawks fans in attendance booed when Trivigno was recognized as the Hockey East player of the year midway through the period. He may have filed that away, because he quickly responded with a stylish goal. The Hobey Baker top 10 finalist carried the puck across the blue line on his own, wheeled for an angle with his forehand then whipped a shot between Savory’s legs to double UMass’ lead. Wait assisted the play in more than one way. He received an official assist for his breakout pass and gave Trivigno a screen by parking himself in front of the crease to help put the Minutemen up 2-0 with 5:50 left in the period.

“I had a lot of space after that. I was thinking abut passing it back door to (Lopina), but no one really went to me,” Trivigno said. “Waiter did a tremendous job working from the D zone to the front of the net and took away Savory’s eyes. I was fortunate enough to score the goal, but it was pretty much all Waiter’s hard work there.”

UMass goalie Matt Murray continued his postseason hot streak with 22 saves. He turned aside a wide-open Marek Korencik shot with 13:08 left in the second after pushing from his left all the way to his right and closing down his shoulder to the post.

“I liked our effort. I thought our execution was off,” Lowell coach Norm Bazin said. “I also thought we deserved a few calls. But I’m not an official, so my opinion doesn’t count on that.”

The River Hawks were whistled for two penalties, while UMass committed one.

Another strong UMass Lowell chance chance emerged in the second period from a combination of deception and obliviousness. A scrum developed around UMass Lowell’s net after a UMass shot. Eight off the skaters on the ice battled each other for a puck that wasn’t even there. 

A River Hawk had snuck away with it while Morrow chased him down. UMass Lowell dawdled too long setting up a shot instead of taking one, and the Minutemen reeled the break in to neutralize the threat.

UMass Lowell’s second-period goal appeared almost from nowhere at 16:37. Crasa tipped in a long Nick Austin shot that took a weird bobble and jumped by Murray. It was reviewed for possible goalie interference, but the tally was upheld. Lucas Condodotta also received an assist on the play.

UMass’ first penalty opened the door for the River Hawks to level the game just nine seconds later. Colin Felix went to the box for holding, putting the Minutemen on the kill with 3:14 left in the period. UMass killed it despite some tips in weird locations and at weird angles and kept a one-goal lead entering the third.

The Minutemen were in danger midway through the third period during a long defensive shift. Felix lost his stick, but UMass appeared on its way to a clear when Felix was whistled for a hand pass to keep the puck in the zone. Lopina won the ensuing faceoff to get UMass a fresh set of skaters.

“We’ve got some real gutsy kids. Colin Felix, what he did at the end of the game, made a huge block, huge hit. Huge cut on his face, he’s playing with a broken finger,” Carvel said. “That’s why you win. Kids like that. We have high character kids that help us find ways to win.”

On another break out, Jerry Harding chased down a loose puck for UMass. He was slammed into the boards as he let the puck go, but Savory stopped the puck. Then Crasa passed the puck off the Lowell post into the net to give the Minutemen a 3-1 lead with seven minutes remaining. Harding was credited with his first goal of the season.

“Don’t kid yourself if you think I”m not going to tell Jerry he scored one goal this year and he didn’t even score it. He celebrated like he went end to end,” Carvel said. “But I give that line credit. That line (the fourth with Lucas Mercuri and Ryan Sullivan) was huge for us. Jerry’s a big, strong kid. He scares me a bit flying around like that. But we gave Jerry one of the game pucks. I thought it was by far his best game of the year.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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