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So much for momentum.
The UMass-Lowell vs. New Hampshire series not only pitted Hockey East’s top seed against 10th-seeded UNH (and at home, no less), it also matched two teams that had entered the playoffs going in diametrically opposite directions. Lowell had won seven straight while the Wildcats staggered into the postseason with a 1-9-1 mark. Included in that stretch of futility was an 8-2 loss at the hands of, you guessed it, UMass Lowell.
The Wildcats, one might have thought, should just save themselves the aggravation and skip the games. Grab the golf clubs and get some tee times.
In a stunning upset, however, they knocked off the River Hawks, 3-1. They seized a 2-0 first period lead, then when Lowell closed the gap midway through the second period, they answered little more than a minute later.
“It’s all about confidence now,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “The team is playing with confidence.
“We had a tough second half, but the team stayed with it. They didn’t want the season to end. Now, bang, it’s confidence and commitment to doing their jobs, and everyone’s contributing.”
In the end, Lowell outshot UNH, 35-12, including a 17-1 margin in the third period, but Wildcats netminder Daniel Tirone stood tall, clearly outplaying his counterpart in the Lowell net, Tyler Wall, who gave up a couple soft goals. Even so, the Wildcats played solid defense in front of Tirone, blocking 23 shots.
“Our defensive structure was excellent,” Umile said. “We blocked shots. We left people open once and they scored. Other than that, we had people at net-front, covering sticks and loose pucks, and we broke out from there.”
Marcus Vela, who scored the backbreaking third goal, echoed Umile’s words about the Wildcats’ defensive prowess and new-found confidence.
“We’re hitting our stride here, definitely playing with structure,” he said. “When we’re solid in our D-zone, it makes our game a lot easier, especially having Tirone back there. We’re playing composed and playing together.”
Lowell has appeared in four consecutive Hockey East championship games, but must now defeat UNH on Saturday and Sunday to avoid missing out on a trip to the TD Bank Garden altogether.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first period and couldn’t dig ourselves out,” UML coach Norm Bazin said. “There are no excuses. We didn’t finish enough. We didn’t create enough chaos for our opponent. Credit to them. They played with a lot of urgency.”
The Phooey-on-Momentum theme extended uniformly through the rest of Hockey East.
Boston College tripped all over itself down the stretch, frittering away outright ownership of the regular season title with an 0-5-2 mark in its last seven games. Its opponent, Vermont, went 2-1-2, then rolled over Maine in the opening round of the playoffs, 5-0 and 5-1.
Get the coffin ready for the Eagles, right?
Instead, Austin Cangelosi scored just eight seconds into the game, and BC shellacked the Catamounts, 7-0.
Yet another example of momentum gone awry was Providence, arguably the team in greatest supply, rolling into the playoffs with an 11-1-1 mark since Jan. 13, followed by a sweep of Massachusetts, 3-0 and 5-1.
What did that get the Friars? A 5-0 whitewashing at the hands of Notre Dame.
The final example of momentum run amuck came in the lone close contest of the evening, where BU rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime.
Since BU entered the playoffs 2-3-1, while Northeastern was 5-1 before sweeping Connecticut to make it 7-of-8 and force the matchup, Big Mo was similarly on the Huskies’ side.
Once again, though, at least on this night, it didn’t matter.
Hockey East roundup
No. 2 Boston University 3, No. 8 Northeastern 2 (OT)
Northeastern snipers Zach Aston-Reese and Dylan Sikura staked the Huskies to a 2-0 first period lead, but a second-period, power-play goal by Dante Fabbro closed the margin to one, and Chase Phelps evened the score midway through the third. Jordan Greenway got the overtime game-winner on the power play.
No. 3 Boston College 7, No. 6 Vermont 0
Boston College goaltender Joseph Woll turned away 22 shots for the shutout in a contest BC led 1-0 after just eight seconds, and 3-0 little more than 14 minutes in. Six different Eagles scored, with Christopher Brown burying it twice in the third period, once on the power play and once shorthanded.
No. 4 Notre Dame 5, No. 5 Providence 0
Cal Petersen stopped 43 shots for the shutout, and the Irish used three second-period goals to blow open what had been a 1-0 game. Five different Notre Dame players scored.