Chestnut Hill, MA – It took 92 minutes for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks to overtake the Boston College Eagles, 6-5, in the Hockey East Semifinals but sophomore Matt Brown‘s swatted goal with eight minutes remaining in double overtime did just that. The goal sends the River Hawks to the Conference Finals in Amherst against rival Massachusetts on Saturday. The winner earns an automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament. For the River Hawks, that’s the only way for the season to progress.
The Eagles, 17-4-1 coming into the game, are among the country’s top-ranked teams and have been all season. The River Hawks, unranked at 9-8-1, have struggled all year. The Eagles were favored to advance on home ice.
Things were going according to plan for BC. The Eagles grabbed the lead at 7:34 when defenseman Marshall Warren tapped in a Matt Boldy feed at the left post past UML’s Henry Welsch (34 saves, 6-4). Warren’s third goal of the year was assisted by Boldy and Alex Newhook, who had huge games.
UML defenseman Chase Blackmun fell at the BC blue line giving the Eagles a 3-on-0 rush. Mike Hardman made it 2-0 Eagles at 6:46 of the second period when he deposited a tic tac toe Boldy, and Newhook feed past Welsch.
Newhook grabbed his own goal at 12:40 when he wristed a shot top corner in front of Welsch. Hardman and Jack St. Ivany assisted on Newhook’s goal.
Despite the score the River Hawks had been playing well all game. Senior defenseman Anthony Baxter gave the River Hawks a lifeline when his slapshot beat Spencer Knight (43 saves, 16-3-1) at 13:01. Baxter’s second of the season was unassisted.
However, Newhook struck again at 18:47 when he fired a Boldy pass past Welsch from the slot. Newhook’s second of the game was his seventh of the season.
After two periods of action, things looked bleak for the visiting River Hawks. Down three goals, UML was winless when trailing going into the third period. BC, meanwhile, was 13-2-1 when leading after two.
Junior Reid Stefanson cut the deficit in half when he beat Knight with a slot shot on a 3-on-2 rush at 10:25. Brown and Blackmun assisted on Strefanson’s fifth of the year.
Andre Lee pulled the River Hawks to within one when he wristed a shot on goal from almost the exact location as Stefanson. Blackmun and Blake Wells assisted Lee’s goal at 15:33. As that play was happening, BC’s Warren was about to get called for Tripping, giving the River Hawks a power-play opportunity.
Less than a minute into the man advantage, forward Lucas Condotta tied the game 4-4. The junior from Georgetown, Ontario’s sixth goal of the season came when he snuck a Lee pass past Knight at the near post at 16:39.
Defenseman Jon McDonald was called for Slashing at 17:42, giving the Eagles a power-play as time was winding down in the third. Junior forward Marc McLaughlin made UML pay just 11 seconds into the man advantage when he blasted a Boldy (4 assists) pass past Welsch from the bottom of the left circle.
At 18:34, with Welsch on the Lowell bench for the extra attacker, Baxter fired a shot from the blue line that found its way past Knight to tie the game at 5-5.
Each team had tremendous scoring opportunities throughout the two overtime periods. BC thought they scored to win the game at 13:11 of the first overtime when Patrick Giles beat Welsch with a shot from the right circle. The BC bench went crazy and stormed the ice, but after all the hoopla died done, there was still a review to be done. The referees determined that defenseman Michael Karow was offside on the play.
After a UML timeout in the second overtime, Brown struck to end BC’s Hockey East postseason title march and carry on on their own. An official review came on Brown’s goal, but the call on the ice stood this time, as both reviews went Lowell’s way.
“We’re obviously very pleased to be moving on,” said UML coach Norm Bazin. “This is game three of the playoffs for us. It’s exciting to be able to play for a championship this year. These guys are resilient, and it wasn’t a perfect game for us, but we got through it.”
“They’ve got energy, they play really hard for each other, and it showed throughout the game,” added Bazin.
“I thought we played pretty darn well through the course of the game,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Certainly, I like the way we battled. I like the way we played. It’s not a season-ending loss for us. We have a chance to go to the national tournament. That’s going to be our catalyst now. We’re certainly not going to dwell on this too long.”
While BC rests up and waits to see where and when they play their next game, the River Hawks will try to capture their fourth Hockey East tournament title and earn the automatic NCAA berth that comes with it. Hockey East’s Finals are Saturday at the Mullins Center at 7:00 pm.