Massachusetts-Lowell defeated Boston University, 5-0, to advance to Hockey East’s Championship Weekend at the TD Garden in Boston for the fourth consecutive year.
Lowell joins Providence and Northeastern, who swept Merrimack and Notre Dame, respectively. The three victors will be joined by the winner of Boston College vs. Vermont on Sunday. If BC wins, Lowell faces Providence; if Vermont wins, Lowell faces Northeastern.
Despite getting swept by the River Hawks, BU appears certain to receive an NCAA tournament berth along with Lowell. The two teams are tied for eighth in the PairWise, which summarizes the criteria used in the tournament selection process.
The River Hawks took advantage of two soft goals allowed by BU netminder Sean Maguire, a season-long stalwart for the Terriers, and never backed off, dominating the territorial play while adding one insurance goal after another.
Lowell got on the board 3:07 into the game on a Jake Kamrass wrister just after he got past the blue line. Somehow, it eluded Maguire’s glove, setting the tone for things to come.
The goaltender made several strong stops to keep the margin to a single goal, but then surrendered another soft one and earned the hook 6:26 into the second. Joe Gambardella carried the puck out from behind net, but though he was defended he was able to stuff the puck through short side.
C.J. Smith added two goals and John Edwardh supplied the other.
Lowell goaltender Kevin Boyle set a school record with his seventh shutout of the season, stopping all 24 BU shots. He had been tied with Connor Hellebuyck and Cam McCormick.
“It’s a cool accomplishment just to be in the conversation with those other guys,” Boyle said. “But every time we get a shutout, it’s more of a team shutout, more of a team accomplishment.
“The team in front of me did a great job. They blocked a lot of shots and made my job easy.”
Lowell coach Norm Bazin echoed Boyle’s team-wide credit before specifically praising his goaltender.
“It was a great effort by all involved,” Bazin said. “Kevin had the shutout, but it was a team shutout. A great effort.
“Our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. We realize how we have to play to have an opportunity for success. Everybody buys in and everybody is accountable to each other, but Kevin has been our difference-maker this year. When you’re the first-star 10 times and you break the single-season record for shutouts, what else can you say? He’s a first-team all-leaguer and a Hobey Baker candidate.”
On Friday night, the Terriers played well for the most part, but lost due to special teams, giving up two on the power play while getting shut out themselves. On this evening, however, they were out-goaltended, outplayed, and outraced to loose pucks in lopsided fashion.
“They’re a real good team that knows how to play playoff hockey,” BU coach David Quinn said. “They’re a better hockey team than we are right now. Their goals came way too easy and we couldn’t get one. We’ve got to become a more mature hockey team before our next game.”
Despite the dispiriting loss, Quinn still struck a note of optimism as he and his team await their NCAA tournament destiny, noting that last year Providence won the national championship despite also getting knocked out in the quarterfinals.
“I’m hoping to continue that trend,” he said.