Frozen out of the Frozen Four (again)
The UNH men's hockey team's season came to an end on Saturday night after a 2-0 loss in the NCAA Northeast Regional final to UMass-Lowell at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
With the loss the Wildcats finished the season with an overall record of 20-12-7, which is Head Coach Dick Umile's 20th 20-win season in 24 years at the helm. The loss also marks the fifth straight loss ('05, '09, '10, '11, '13) in a regional final for the Wildcats, who hold a record of 5-6 in all-time regional final appearances.
New Hampshire was hindered by the losses of Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas, both of whom were injured in Friday night's game against Denver. Goumas suffered a concussion, while Downing had an undisclosed upper-body injury. Goumas (42 points) and Downing (31 points) were first and third, respectively, in scoring for the Wildcats.
After a scoreless first period, the River Hawks got on the board with just 29 seconds left in the second period.
Chad Ruhwedel took the puck behind the net and tried a wrap-around, but was stuffed by Casey DeSmith. The puck bounced out to the top of the crease, where Scott Wilson was waiting to knock home his 16th goal of the year.
UNH managed to generate just five shots on net in the second period.
In the third, Austin Block had an opportunity to tie it up but freshman netminder Connor Hellebuyck came up for the big save.
Wilson then corralled the puck and fed it to Adam Chapie, who skated past two UNH defenders and crashed the net with Brett Kostolansky on his back. Chapie cut towards the net and timed a backhand shot right as DeSmith went for a poke check to knock it loose, tucking it in on the near post, giving UMass-Lowell a 2-0 lead.
Hellebuyck has been a big reason for the River Hawks' success this season. Hellebuyck did not start in the first three regular season games against UNH, but does boasts a remarkable record of 20-2, with a .950 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.37.
"I'm not sure if (Hellebuyck) is the only difference (from the last time we played them)," sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said after the game. "He's an amazing goalie, but they've really come a long way this season."
Umile was also quick to give high praise to Hellebuyck, comparing his play to that of Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden.
"We had a good team and a good opportunity," senior captain Connor Hardowa said. "I think we played a good game, we just made a few mistakes that (Lowell) was able to capitalize on."
A big part of the River Hawks' success came from limiting UNH's power play opportunities. UNH had scored a power play goal in 10 of its last 11 games, however the 'Cats managed to get just one power play opportunity on Saturday that lead to one shot.
The Riverhawks will take on the fourth seed Yale from the West region, which upset Minnesota and North Dakota en route to the Frozen Four. With Quinnipiac facing St. Cloud State in the other Frozen Four match-up, the NCAA is guaranteed to see a first-time national champion this season.
UNH had a 5-0 record in the regular season against Frozen Four teams (2-0 vs. St. Cloud, 3-0 vs. UML).
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