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Sophomore Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) scored two goals and an assist to lead the River Hawks past Providence, 4-2, on Saturday night in their regular season finale at the Tsongas Center. The win in front of 5,310 fans, coupled with a Boston University loss, vaulted UMass Lowell into a tie with the Terriers for second-place in Hockey East--only the fourth time it has finished second in program history.
The River Hawks will take the league's second-seed in the upcoming HE Quarterfinals next weekend because they hold the season series edge with Boston University, 2-1-0. UMass Lowell improves to 22-10-1 overall on the year and finishes 17-9-1 in conference play. The Friars (12-18-4, 10-14-3 HE) finish in seventh-place and will return to the Tsongas Center next week for the quarterfinal matchup.
The win also put head coach Norm Bazin in the history books. Bazin has now tied the NCAA Division I Hockey record for largest turnaround by a first-year head coach by guiding the River Hawks to 17 more victories than last season. He is tied with Ric Schafer who led Notre Dame to a +17 margin in 1987-88.
The game started as a defensive struggle before UMass Lowell broke through at 9:45 into play. Jake Suter (Lac du Flambeau, Wisc.) cycled to Terrence Wallin (Yardley, Pa.) at the point for a one-timer. Wallin's shot cruised to the net, where Pendenza tipped the puck through Alex Beaudry's (Cumberland, Ont.) five-hole for the score.
The River Hawks carried the lead through the first and then added on another goal at 3:51 into the second. Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) picked off a pass in neutral ice and pushed the play to Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) charging the zone. Arnold battled a defenseman as he closed in on the net, and snuck the puck in for his team-leading 17th tally of the year.
Providence kept playing hard, grinding out a goal at the 7:29 mark into the second. Myles Harvey (Orlando, Fla.) bounced a pass off the boards into UMass Lowell territory for Andy Balysky (Randolph, N.J.). Balysky picked up the puck and curled toward the near post, jamming the puck under Marc Boulanger (Olds, Alta.) for the score, cutting the lead to 2-1.
After play settled back down through the remainder of the second, UMass Lowell pushed across two more goals in the third period to tack on some insurance. The first came at 1:43 as Wallin rode along the far wall and located Pendenza near the net. Pendenza used a touch pass to find Matt Ferreira (Brampton, Ont.) on the weak-side for the tap in tally.
The River Hawks' final score came at 14:08 as Pendenza redirected an Arnold one-timer on the power play for his 10th goal of the year.
The Friars got one back in the final moments as Damian Cross (Nepean, Ont.) jammed in the puck with 11 seconds remaining, settling the score at 4-2.
Boulanger looked strong in net, earning his first collegiate win while turning away 22-of-24 shots on goal. The second year netminder blanked all three Providence power plays. The Friars' Beaudry stopped 31 shots in the loss, dropping him to 11-18-4 on the campaign. UMass Lowell finished 1-for-3 on the power play.
Tickets for the first round series are on sale now through the Tsongas Center Box Office, via TsongasCenter.com or by calling 866-722-8780. Tickets for the Hockey East Quarterfinals at the Tsongas Center are $17 for adults and $10 for seniors (65+) and children (12 and under).