WORCESTER, Mass. - Sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce, Mich.) notched 35 saves as the No. 5 ranked UMass Lowell hockey team edged No. 11 Minnesota State, 2-1, in the NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal on Saturday night at the DCU Center in front of 6,522 fans.
The No. 2 seeded River Hawks will face top seed Boston College in the NCAA Northeast Regional Final on Sunday, March 30th at 5pm at the DCU Center on ESPNU. The winner of tomorrow's game will advance to the Frozen Four on April 10 and 12 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa. UMass Lowell improves to 26-10-4 overall with the victory, while Minnesota State ends its season at 26-14-1.
"First and foremost I'd like to congratulate Minnesota State on an excellent season, I thought they were a great opponent tonight and they gave us all that we could handle," said UMass Lowell Head Coach Norm Bazin. "The fans definitely didn't get cheated tonight. They were treated to an exceptional game tonight, chances on both sides, and I thought both goalies were very, very strong from the onset. It's a game where we're thrilled to be moving on from and we're looking forward to tomorrow's matchup."
Hellebuyck's shutout streak of 201:45 was ended with 10 seconds remaining in the game. Junior forward Matt Leitner won the draw from the left faceoff dot to senior forward Johnny McInnis who took a shot from the top of the dot that rebounded to the glove side of Hellebuyck. Freshman forward Zach Stepan picked up the rebound and netted his ninth goal of the season with the extra attacker. The assist was McInnis' 17th of the season and Leitner's 33rd assist of the year.
After Minnesota State pulled its goalie with one minute remaining, junior defenseman Zack Kamrass (Atlanta, Ga.) corralled a loose puck and fired one down from the defensive zone that was on target and good for his fourth goal of the season with 40 seconds left in regulation. Kamrass' empty netter turned out to be the game-winning tally for the River Hawks. With 18:30 left in the second period, Hellebuyck made two huge saves with his right pad on Chase Grant to preserve the 1-0 lead.
Senior forward Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) blocked a shot at his own blue line on the penalty kill creating a breakaway for himself, he skated the length of the ice and as he moved in on Minnesota State freshman goaltender Cole Huggins. He deked left and then back to his right and put the backhanded shot through Huggins five-hole, netting his 14th goal of the season and his 49th tally of his collegiate career. After one period, UMass Lowell owned a 14-7 shot advantage heading into the locker room.
Junior forward Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) notched a game-high seven shots on goal for the River Hawks, while Pendenza won 13 of 26 faceoffs in the victory.
GAME NOTES: The River Hawks now lead the Mavericks 5-3-0 in their eight meetings in NCAA Division 1 play...Coming off their second consecutive Hockey East title, UMass Lowell is now 11-3-2 in their last 16 games...The team improves to 20-2-3 when scoring the first goal of the game and 21-1-2 when leading after two periods...Joseph Pendenza scored his 14th goal of the season making his stat line 14-16-30 in 40 games and 3-0-3 in six career NCAA Tournament games...Connor Hellebuyck improves his record to 18-8-2 with one goal against in the victory against Minnesota State. Hellebuyck is ranked first in the nation with both a 1.71 goals against average and .944 save percentage.