Hockey East Championship Live: Lowell Cruises To Second Straight Conference Title

Hockey eastFinal, UMass Lowell, 4-0: And that’ll do it.

UMass Lowell cruised to a 4-0 victory on the back of three-point performances from Joe Pendenza and A.J. White and a 30-save night from tournament MVP Connor Hellebuyck.

It’s the second straight conference title for the River Hawks, who will now go on to compete for a national championship in the NCAA tournament.

Third period, 15:12, UMass Lowell, 4-0: UNH kills off the penalty, and senior Jeff Wyer takes over in net for DeSmith.

Wyer has played in seven games this season, starting five and posting a 2-2-1 record.

Third period, 13:12, UMass Lowell, 4-0: Maxim Gaudreault heads back to the box, this time for goalie interference. The River Hawks will go on the power play.

Third period, 8:44, UMass Lowell, 4-0: UNH’s Jay Camper has a perfect scoring chance with Hellebuyck out of the crease, but Lowell defenseman Dylan Zink is able to get a stick on the puck at the goal line to preserve the shutout.

And, to add to the Wildcats’ misfortune, Maxim Gaudreault is called for cross-checking. He’ll spend the next two minutes in the box.

Third period, 3:46, UMass Lowell, 4-0: DeSmith denies Pendenza on a breakaway, but Eric Knodel drags the center down from behind, resulting in a penalty shot. DeSmith stands tall in the one-on-one, too, though, keeping the puck out of the net with another stellar glove save.

Third period, 0:28, UMass Lowell, 4-0: No goal.

Backup goalie Jeff Wyer was warming up for UNH during the timeout, but DeSmith will remain in net for now.

Third period, 0:28, UMass Lowell, 4-0: The River Hawks appear to have beaten Casey DeSmith again less than 30 seconds into the third period.

The play is under review, though, to determine whether Joe Pendenza knocked the puck into the net with a high stick.

Second intermission, UMass Lowell, 4-0: The rout is on.

Jake Suter rockets a straightaway slap shot past DeSmith with three seconds remaining on the power play to give the River Hawks a commanding 4-0 lead.

The goal was assisted by Joe Pendenza and A.J. White (who appeared get a piece of Suter’s shot en route to the net). It’s the third point of the night for both.

Lowell is 20 minutes from a second consecutive conference title.

Second period, 16:45, UMass Lowell, 3-0: It’s now UMass Lowell’s turn to go on the power play, as Casey Thrush goes to the box on a delayed boarding penalty.

Lowell was almost able to make it 4-0 with the extra attacker on, but DeSmith bailed the Wildcats out with a slick glove save.

Second period, 15:36, UMass Lowell, 3-0 Matt Willows gives Kevin Gomas a good look in front of the UML net, but Goumas’ shot sails wide right. River Hawks defenseman Zack Kamrass does a good job of clearing out the garbage in front of Hellebuyck, and Lowell kills off the penalty.

Second period, 13:36, UMass Lowell, 3-0: Shortly after the Zink penalty expired, UML’s Scott Wilson is whistled for roughing a huge open-ice hit on Kyle Smith. UNH will have the extra man for another two minutes.

Second period, 10:38, UMass Lowell, 3-0: UNH will go on the power play for the first time tonight, as Lowell defenseman Dylan Zink heads to the box for interference.

This is a near must-have for the Wildcats. It’s just been announced in the press box that Hellebuyck has given up four goals just twice in his career, with one instance coming in his River Hawks debut last season.

Second period, 8:40, UMass Lowell, 3-0: There has been a lot of up and down since Gambardella’s goal, but not a whole lot of offense. UNH is going to need to get creative to get pucks past Hellebuyck.

Second period, 3:13, UMass Lowell, 3-0: Things are getting ugly for the Wildcats.

Joe Gambardella takes a feed from Terrence Wallin and fires it past a screened Casey DeSmith to push Lowell’s lead to 3-0.

Meanwhile, Hellebuyck is looking calm as a cucumber, turning away the Wildcats’ first three shots of the period with ease.

Second period, 0:01, UMass Lowell, 2-0: The second period is underway.

UMass Lowell has not lost a game when leading after one period this season, going 17-0-3.

First intermission, UMass Lowell, 2-0: DeSmith makes an excellent toe save to deny Holmstrom in the period’s final seconds, but Lowell heads to the dressing room with a 2-0 advantage.

UNH outplayed the River Hawks in the first period, but two costly rebounds led directly to two UML goals. Those are goals a team cannot afford to give up when the opposing goalie is Connor Hellebuyck, who has been as advertised tonight, stopping all 14 UNH shots he’s faced.

Lowell has sent 15 shots at DeSmith tonight, with the UNH goalie turning away 13 of them.

First period, 16:52, UMass Lowell, 2-0: We have our first power play of the night.

UNH’s Dan Correale checks Terrence Wallin hard into the boards from behind, and he’ll head to the box on a two-minute boarding minor.

First period, 15:28 UMass Lowell 2-0: And just like that, it’s a two-goal lead for the River Hawks, with the top line again providing the offense.

DeSmith made a spectacular, diving save to rob Joe Pendenza, but the rebound trickled out in front of the net, and Josh Holmstrom slapped it into the vacated net.

A.J. White, who scored the game’s first goal, and Pendenza provided the helpers.

First period, 12:12, UMass Lowell 1-0: UMass Lowell is on the board.

DeSmith is unable to cover up the rebound on a shot from Joe Pendenza, and A.J. White swoops in to smack it into the back of the net. That’s one that’ll haunt the UNH goaltender.

Pendenza and defenseman Christian Folin were credited with the assists.

First period, 10:41, 0-0: UML’s Scott Wilson picks off a Nick Sorkin pass in the UNH zone and fires a shot right into the belly of Casey DeSmith. The ensuing face-off is followed directly by a Dalton Speelman breakaway, but Speelman’s attempt to dish it off to linemate Tyler Kelleher at the doorstep is denied by Hellebuyck.

Speelman might have been better off trying to beat the netminder himself than going for the last-second pass.

First period, 6:45, 0-0: The Wildcats set up a nice scoring chance with a cross-ice pass from Kevin Goumas to Matt Willows, but Nick Sorkin is unable to gather the ensuing feed from Willows in front of Hellebuyck.

Shots are tied 3-3 at the moment, with both teams getting some solid offensive-zone opportunities.

First period, 3:25, 0-0: We have some chippiness in front of the UNH net, as Matt Willows goes after River Hawks captain Josh Holmstrom after the whistle. A glove goes flying, but referees break up the scuffle before any fists can.

First period, 0:53, 0-0: Lowell gets a big chance in front of Casey DeSmith less than a minute in, but Justin Agosta is able to slide in and clear the puck away.

First period, 0:01, 0-0: UNH controls the opening draw, and we are underway.  

6:57 p.m.: UNH will be starting its top line of Nick Sorkin, Kevin Goumas and Matt Willows in front of Eric Knodel and Brett Pesce and goalie Casey DeSmith.

For UMass Lowell, it’ll be Joe Pendenza centering A.J. White and Josh Holmstrom with Joe Houk and Zack Kamrass on defense and Connor Hellebuyck in net.

Let’s get it on.

6:45 p.m.: This will be the third meeting of the year between these two teams, with UMass Lowell winning both of the previous two.

The River Hawks swept a home-and-home back in early November, winning 5-3 at Tsongas Arena before notching a 3-2 victory in overtime at the Whittemore Center the following night.

These squads also met in the regional finals of last year’s NCAA tournament. Lowell got goals from Scott Wilson and Adam Chapie and a shutout from Connor Hellebuyck to advance to the Frozen Four, where they were bounced by eventual champion Yale.

Puck drops in 15 minutes.

6:30 p.m.: Over on the UNH side, the unquestioned engine of the Wildcats’ offense is the top line of Nick Sorkin, Kevin Goumas and Matt Willows.

The experienced trio — Goumas and Sorkin are seniors; Willows a junior — ranks 1-2-3 on the team in both goals and points, with Goumas’ 52 points ranking third in all of Hockey East.

Goumas has been especially explosive of late, racking up six goals and 11 points in his last five games, including a pair of tallies if Friday night’s semifinal victory over Providence.

The Wildcats’ only NHL draftees, senior captain Eric Knodel (Toronto) and sophomore Brett Pesce (Carolina), form UNH’s top defensive pairing in front of junior netminder Casey DeSmith. Knodel is a big-bodied (6-foot-6, 225 lbs.) blueliner who can contribute in the offensive zone, and both are crucial pieces of UNH’s power-play unit, with 10 of their 14 combined goals coming on the man advantage.

Here’s the full listing of lines and pairings:




5:50 p.m.: We’re about 70 minutes from puck drop at TD Garden, and one player is preparing by stickhandling around the ice in sneakers.

As the teams make their final preparations before hitting the ice for warmups, let’s take a look at the lines and D-pairings each squad will be trotting out tonight.

For UMass Lowell — the home team by virtue of owning the higher seed — senior alternate captain Joe Pendenza centers the top line between sophomre A.J. White and senior captain Josh Holmstrom.

Pendenza is the River Hawks’ leader in goals (13) and points (26) this season and the only player on the current roster to top the 100-point plateau in his career (he has 106 entering tonight). He’s also a Massachusetts native (Wilmington), one of three on the UML roster.

Manning the blue line in front of first-team All-Hockey East goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will be the top defensive tandem of senior Joe Houk and junior alternate captain Zack Kamrass, who leads Lowell in assists with 16.

Here’s the full listing of combos and pairings:




I’ll be back with the UNH lineup in just a few minutes.

1:25 p.m. ET: It’s title time at TD Garden, as UNH and UMass Lowell square off Saturday night for the right to call themselves the champions of Hockey East.

For UNH, the No. 4 seed in the Hockey East tournament, this is truly a win-or-go-home game. The Wildcats will almost certainly be left out of the NCAA tournament field of 16 unless they can take home the conference crown and the automatic bid that comes with it.

The second-seeded River Hawks will be dancing in the national tourney regardless of Saturday night’s outcome, but a win would give head coach Norm Bazin’s squad its second Hockey East title in as many years.

UMass Lowell punched its ticket to the final by dominating Notre Dame 4-0 in Friday’s semifinals, and UNH followed by taking down Providence 3-1 in the nightcap thanks to two goals from top scorer Kevin Goumas.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., but be sure to check back throughout the afternoon for lineups, analysis and all your other pregame needs.

Photos via Twitter/@photog24 and Facebook/University of New Hampshire

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