Men's Hockey: Riverhawks wipe out Wildcats in HE Final

By Justin Loring
On March 23, 2014

  • UNH forward Matt Willows advances the puck up the ice Saturday night in the Hockey East championship game at the TD Garden in Boston, Mass. on March 22, 2014. Cameron Johnson / Staff

In their first Hockey East Finals appearance in seven years, the UNH Wildcats took on the UMass Lowell RIverhawks for the conference championship. UNH all but showed up for the game, however, getting dominated from start to finish in a 4-0 defeat before 12,051 spectators at TD Garden in Boston, Mass.

This could potentially be the final game of UNH's season with the team falling just short of locking up an NCAA tournament bid. The NCAA Men's Division I Ice Hockey Tournament selection show will take place Sunday at noon and will be aired on ESPNU.

The Wildcats finished with a record of 22-18-1 and an 11-9 record in Hockey East play.

Earning its second consecutive Hockey East title, UMass Lowell (25-10-4, 11-6-3 Hockey East) was led in net by Connor Hellebuyck, who made 30 saves on the night. Hellebuyck became the first player to record back-to-back shutouts in the Hockey East tournament, as well as the first player to ever win the tournament Most Valuable Player award in consecutive seasons.

Lowell's first tally came at the 12:12 mark of the first period on a rebound putback by AJ White. Joseph Pendenza had the puck in the corner and threw it along the red line at Casey DeSmith's feet. DeSmith went down to play the puck, but couldn't corral it. White was trailing the play and knocked in the rebound between two UNH defensemen to take a 1-0 lead.

The Riverhawks struck again with a rebound goal in the first off the stick of Josh Holmstrom. DeSmith made a highlight-reel save on Pendenza, with a diving effort along the goal line to stop his one-time opportunity. DeSmith got his pad on it, but the puck caromed to the slot and Holmstrom had nothing but net to shoot on. The senior buried it for his sixth goal of the season to put Lowell up by two with 4:32 to play in the period.

UNH started the second period well, but were unable to get anything past Hellebuyck. Lowell was able to strike early in the second off an odd-man opportunity. Terrence Wallin led the rush with Shayne Thompson to his left and Joe Gambardella trailing the play. Eric Knodel and Brett Pesce played Wallin and Thompson well, but Gambardella was left wide open. Thompson fed him with a pass in the slot and Gambardella buried the puck.

The final dagger came with 1:17 left in the second on a Lowell powerplay. Pendenza won the faceoff to White and Lowell set up its offense. After cycling the puck, Jake Suter (cousin of Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter) found the puck at the point. Suter stepped up just inside the Hockey East logo at the top of the zone and put a shot on net. The puck hit defenseman Dylan Maller in the leg and deflected past Casey DeSmith for the fourth and final tally.

DeSmith's night ended with a little more than five minutes left in the third when head coach Dick Umile decided to put senior netminder and alternate captain Jeff Wyer in the game. Wyer recorded five saves and DeSmith finished with 26 of his own. Wyer saw action in seven games this season for the Wildcats and produced a 2-2-1 record.

Follow Justin Loring on Twitter @JLo_TNH

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