BOSTON, Mass.-- Bolstered by an early lead and a pair of second period power play goals, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce, Mich.) stopped all 35 shots to backstop second-seeded UMass Lowell to a 4-0 win over eight-seeded Notre Dame in the opening semifinal of the 30th annual Hockey East Championship Friday night at TD Garden.
Blueliners Christian Folin (Gothenberg, Sweden) and Zack Kamrass (Atlanta, Ga.) each had a goal and an assist to return the defending champion River Hawks (24-10-4) to their fifth appearance in the title game and second straight facing the winner of the semifinal nightcap between third-seeded Providence and fourth-seeded New Hampshire Saturday, March 22 at 7 p.m. (TV: NESN, NBC Sports Network).
The William Flynn Tournament MVP last season and a first-team Hockey East All-Star this year, Hellebuyck recorded his fifth shutout of the season and 11th of his career, including a 1-0 blanking of Boston University in the 2013 Hockey East Championship game, also at TD Garden. Just a sophomore, he became his school's career shutout leader passing Carter Hutton ('10) who had 10.
The Fighting Irish (23-13-2) came into the game with the fewest goals allowed in conference games during the regular season and knocked off top-seeded Boston College, two games to one, in last weekend's quarterfinal round. The series win over the top-ranked Eagles pushed ND's record to 8-1-1 in its last 10 games but it ran into a red-hot goaltender in Hellebucyk and an opportunistic attack. The River Hawks were outshot 35-22 in the contest but was a perfect two-for-two on the power play while killing two bids by Notre Dame.
UMass Lowell drew first blood at 10:13 when a wrist shot by Folin from the top of the right faceoff circle deflected off a defender to beat Irish netminder Steven Summerhays (Anchorage, Alaska). A.J. White (Dearborn, Mich.) and Joe Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) picked up assists on Folin's sixth goal of the season. Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) made it 2-0 just under four minutes later snapping one past Summerhays from a similar spot for his 11th of the year. Kamrass added an assist, sending Arnold on a rink-long rush.
Notre Dame had a slim 10-9 edge in shots in a penalty-free first period before the River Hawks would cash in on the first penalty of the contest 3:25 into the second. Summerhays made a stop on a drive from the point by Folin but the Irish could not clear the rebound. Scott Wilson and Evan Campbell combined for three whacks at the puck from the crease with Campbell rapping the last home for his eight of the year.
Bolstered by the 3-0 lead, Hellebuyck then held the fort making several solid saves including stopping a one-timer by Stephen Johns midway through Notre Dame's first power play and soon after at even strength, he robbed Jeff Costello (Milwaukee, Wisc.) at the goal-mouth.
UMass Lowell took advantage of another Irish penalty as Kamrass capped the scoring with an unassisted goal at 13:21. He cruised in from the point and his centering pass from the low left side was tipped past Summerhays for his third goal of the year.
A sophomore who leads NCAA goalies in save percentage and goals against average, Hellebucyk held off the Irish down the stretch including making 14 saves in the final period. He completed the clean sheet by robbing Mario Lucia (Plymouth, Minn.) at the right post with just over two minutes to play.
Both teams committed just two penalties but they were costly for Notre Dame in its first trip to the semifinals in its inaugural season in Hockey East. The Fighting Irish went 0-for-2 with an extra skater generating just one shot on goal. Summerhays, a senior making his 76th start over ND's last 86 games, finished with 18 saves, 15 coming in the first 40 minutes.
Notes: UMass Lowell, 1-3 in four previous title game appearances, will try to become the first team other than Boston College to repeat as league champions since New Hampshire won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003 ... The River Hawks have allowed just one goal in its last three games at TD Garden, including a shutout streak of 171:01 dating back to the last season's semifinal victory over Providence ... The River Hawks out-scored Notre Dame 8-1 in the teams' three meetings this season ... With his first-period goal, UML senior Derek Arnold, who scored the game-winning goal in last year's title game vs. Boston University, is now just three points shy of 100 in his career ... The River Hawks have scored at least one power play goal in five consecutive games and are 5-for-12 (41.7-percent) in their four playoff contests ... The Fighting Irish is in the midst of its sixth 20-win season in nine years under head coach Jeff Jackson ... Notre Dame played its first-ever game in the Hockey East Semifinals and at TD Garden. It was its sixth this season in Boston, starting with facing Boston College at Fenway Park in the 2014 Frozen Fenway on January 4 ... Notre Dame had advanced to seven CCHA semis in previous 23 years, winning three titles in five championship game appearances.