The No. 3 Massachusetts Minutemen made history Saturday night at Mullins Center, earning their first-ever Hockey East Tournament Championship with a 1-0 verdict over their sister school, the No. 7 UMass Lowell River Hawks.
The Minutemen, participating in the championship for the first time since 2004, were led by a stout defensive effort in front of goaltender Filip Lindberg while the lone goal of the game off the stick of senior captain Jake Gaudet.
The River Hawks, who had already defeated both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds during their improbable tournament run, believed they scored the game-tying goal at 12:48 of the third period. But, following a massive scrum in front of the net, it appeared Lindberg got his glove on the sliding puck and replay wasn’t able to convincingly depict otherwise.
The Minutemen held a 22-16 edge in shots during the defense-first contest.
Lowell goaltender Henry Welsch stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced while Lindberg concluded with 16 saves for the shutout.
Here’s how it all went down:
MINUTEMEN STRIKE FIRST
Gaudet got the scoring started at 15:32 of the first period, allowing the Minutemen to take a 1-0 lead.
It came as the Ottawa, Ontario native and the Minutemen broke out 3-on-2 following a River Hawks turnover at the blue line. Gaudet had his initial shot saved by Welsh, but caught the bouncing rebound, dropped it to his stick and banked it off Welsh’s blocker and into the back of the net.
It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but nonetheless went for Gaudet’s third tally of the season. It was assisted by redshirt senior Carson Gicewicz and senior Oliver Chau.
Other than Gaudet’s goal, both the Minutemen and River Hawks proved why they were the two teams that had allowed the fewest shots on goal, as it was otherwise featured mostly defense.
The Minutemen held a slight 9-7 edge in shots after the first period.
The River Hawks had their best chance on a late second-period power play, but it was the Minutemen who killed it off, sustained puck possession and maintained a 1-0 lead.
UMass Lowell had three shots in the second period. Their best chance came from Andre Lee, who sounded one off the post when the River Hawks were on the man-advantage after UMass’ Colin Felix was called for interference at 15:49. Lindberg, however, flashed the glove to help the Minutemen penalty kill, which, of note, is the best in the Hockey East and the second best in the country.
The Minutemen had a power play of their own early in the period when UMass Lowell’s Seth Barton was whistled for hooking. UMass forward Josh Lopina unleashed a shot on goal during that man-advantage but Lowell’s Welsh made a glove save to keep it 1-0. The Minutemen power play, also of note, was second in the conference with a 23.4 percent success rate.
UMass’ Zac Jones had arguably the best chance of either team during the first 40 minutes, sneaking to the back post on a left-to-right pass, but his shot went wide.
UMASS WINS IT
UMass Lowell thought they scored the game-tying goal at 12:48, but UMass’ Lindberg got his glove on a sliding puck and replay review wasn’t able to convincingly tell otherwise. It was the River Hawks’ best scoring opportunity of the game.
UMass Lowell came out strong in the third period, owning a 5-4 edge in shots after eight minutes. The River Hawks had a power play at 2:12, but couldn’t make anything count.
The Minutemen had a chance to extend their one-goal lead as they went to the power play at 8:13 after UMass Lowell’s Jon McDonald was sent off for cross checking. Zac Jones sounded a shot from the point off the post during the man-advantage. It was the second time in the game that a power-play opportunity led to a shot off the post.
UMass held a 19-13 advantage in shots with eight minutes remaining.
The River Hawks pulled their goaltender in the final minute while looking for the game-tying tally, but weren’t able to do so.
The Minutemen will await their fate of the NCAA Tournament with the Division I bracket set to be released Sunday.