It took 29 years from the genesis of Hockey East, but the UMass Lowell River Hawks are finally champions. Just two weeks removed from clinching their first-ever Hockey East regular season title, the River Hawks have added the league's tournament championship trophy to their mantle, courtesy of Saturday's 1-0 win over long-time nemesis Boston University. The Terriers had won eight of the nine Hockey East tournament meetings vs. Lowell all-time, including the championship games in 1994 and 2009, but this night belonged to the Hawks.
The TD Garden crowd of 13,738 had to wait until the 11:09 mark of the final frame to see a goal scored in this one, as two first-year netminders were nevertheless up for the toughest task in the most critical situation. UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce, Mich.) stopped all 36 shots he faced en route to claiming the William Flynn Award as the tournament's Most Valuable Player. At the other end, Boston University's Sean Maguire (Powell River, B.C.) was nearly Hellebuyck's equal, stopping 28 of 29 with just one blemish.
The winning goal came on a determined backhanded wraparound off the stick of River Hawk junior Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) Arnold started the play with a breakout from his own zone, sending the puck up to Chad Ruhwedel (San Diego, Calif.) Ruhwedel traded up-ice passes with Arnold before a final pass attempt from the slot that deflected off the stick of teammate Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) and ended up behind the net. Arnold alertly picked up the puck, strode to the other side, and deposited it off of a scrambling Maguire.
The Terriers had a couple of mad scramble chances to tie the score in the final seconds, the most heart-stopping of which was a point blank opportunity for sophomore Cason Hohmann (Arlington, Tx.) who found himself alone with time and the puck just five feet away from Hellebuyck. But like his Terrier teammates, Hohmann couldn't solve the upstart stopper, and the horn blew to end the contest.
After an uneventful first period, the two teams upped the intensity in the second, and the result was a much wider-open frame with plenty of opportunities. The best chance came midway through when UML senior Riley Wetmore (Swanton, Vt.) had a long-armed wraparound that he almost tucked just inside the left post after Maguire lost the puck in traffic on the right. Both teams more than doubled their shot totals of the opening period, with BU firing 18 pucks on UML rookie Connor Hellebuyck and Lowell testing Maguire with 15, but both freshmen were still unbeatable at that point.
That streak nearly ended when UML's Colin Wright (Burlington, Ont.) found himself lurking at center ice after finishing up a penalty very early in the third. Wilson made a quick centering breakout pass and Wright was off to the races. He skated into the slot and shot back against the grain, cleanly beating Maguire but ringing it off the middle of the left post.
Ruhwedel and Wilson joined Hellebuyck on the All-Tournament team. The Terriers also had three members on the squad in forwards Danny O'Regan (Needham, Mass.) and Evan Rodrigues (Etobicoke, Ont.) and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass.)
The Terrier loss almost certainly concludes the illustrious 40-year career of BU head coach Jack Parker, who has eight Hockey East tournament championships to his credit sprinkled among countless other titles. As the tournament winner, UMass Lowell is granted an automatic berth into the NCAA championship tournament, marking its fifth appearance and second consecutive.
UMass Lowell 1, Boston University 0 - 2013 Hockey East Championship Game Notes
- UMass Lowell won its first-ever Hockey East Championship Saturday night in its third appearance in the title game. In its two previous trips, UML lost to Boston University, also a 1-0 decision in 2009, and 3-2 in 1994. The River Hawks captured their first-ever Hockey East regular season title this season also earning the top seed for the first time.
- The 2013 Bill Flynn Hockey East Tournament MVP is UML freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who recorded his fifth shutout of the season in the title game. Joining Hellebuyck on the all-tournament team are forwards Danny O'Regan and Evan Rodrigues of Boston University, and Scott Wilson of UMass Lowell along with defensemen Matt Grzelcyk of BU and Chad Ruhwedel of UML.
- UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck recorded the fourth title game shutout and the first since 2009. Three of the tournament whitewashes were 1-0 decisions.
- UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin, the 2012 and 2013 Bob Kullen Hockey East Coach of the Year, is the first head coach to win the title in his first trip to the championship game since 1998 when Jerry York won his initial Hockey East title. Bazin was a senior on the 1994 River Hawks team which lost 3-2 to BU in the Hockey East Championship game at the Boston Garden
- The #1 seed is now 15-6 in the title game. Third seeds are now 3-10 in the final and have not won a title in 14 years (last: 1999)
- This was the 10th tournament meeting between UMass Lowell and Boston University and the first time UML eliminated the Terriers, who now are 8-2-0. UML's lone previous win was game #2 of a quarterfinal series in 2008 at Agganis Arena.
- With the two wins at TD Garden, the River Hawks are unbeaten this season in the City of Boston going 7-0-1. The lone blemish was a 4-4 tie at Northeastern.
- All three championship game match-ups between UMass Lowell and Boston University have been decided by one goal; The last two have been 1-0 final scores.
- Boston University made its 10th trip to the title game and suffered its first loss in the final since a 1-0 decision to UNH in 2003. The Terriers are now 7-3 in title games.
- The title game was the final Hockey East tournament game for Terriers head coach Jack Parker who has been behind the bench for all 97 of BU's playoff games in 29 tourney appearances (62-34-1). His career mark over his 40 seasons is now 897-472-116
- With an assist tonight, UMass Lowell forward Scott Wilson (3-2--5) tied with Boston University's Matt Nieto (2-3--5), BC's Pat Mullane (1-4--5) and PC's Nick Saracino (4-1--5) for the tournament scoring lead, all with five points. Wilson's three goals tied for second in the tourney behind Saracino's four.
- Derek Arnold now leads the River Hawks with five game-winning goals on the year
- UML is 12-1-0 over its last 13 games and has just three losses since Dec. 1
- UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck led tournament goalies with a 0.99 goals against average, the third best in tournament history (0.52, Jimmy Howard, Maine, 2004 and 0.86, Cory Schneider, BC, 0.86), and his .966 save percentage is the fourth-lowest. Boston University's Sean Maguire finished with a 1.77 GAA and a .953 save pct. Maguire's 141 saves in the tourney equal the fifth most.
- With the win, Hellebuyck improved his NCAA-leading winning percentage to .900 (18-2-0)
- Tonight was the 100th meeting all-time between BU and UML with the Terriers now leading 63-24-8.
- UMass Lowell earns Hockey East's automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship. The River Hawks will make their fifth appearance in the NCAAs (D-I) and their second straight. The tournament selection show will be held Sunday at 9 p.m. and televised nationally on ESPNU.