Reading, MA – The Hockey East postseason tournement chugs along into North Station this weekend for the dramatic cocnlusion of the 2021-22 season. There are four schools remaining, they are the top four seeds from the conferences regular season. Northeastern, Massachusetts, UMass-Lowell, and Connecticut finished one through four respectively. Now they get to duke it out at TD Garden for the Lamoriello Trophy and the automatic berth to the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey tournement, which incidentially is also hosted at the Garden this April.
The lucky quartet still standing wouln’t have made it this far without strong performences from these three players all season, but on Saturday this trio stood out among all the great players vying for postseason glory. I included an Honoable Mention for a member of the fourth school because they all desrve to have at least one player named at this point in the season.
Carl Berglund, Junior, UMass-Lowell River Hawks, Forward
The 6′-2″ junior from Hammaro, Sweden has had a solid season at Lowell. A 9-19-28 stat line is tied for the team lead with linemate, classmate, and countrymen, Andre Lee. The duo, along with winger Brian Chambers, were too much for the Merrimack Warriors to contend with for a full game. Add in defensemen Isac Jonsson and Brehden Engum and the River Hawks “second line” combined for nine points on the day.
Berglund had two goals in the 7-2 win on Saturday at Tsongas Center. He should have had a third that was waved off for goalie interference but it was an iffy call at best. It didn’t matter as UML steamrolled Merrimack to earn their first trip to the Garden since 2017. (The River Hawks fell to the Minutemen 1-0 in last season’s championship game but that were held on campus due to COVID.)
Berglund’s first goal at 7:55 of the first period put the River Hawks ahead 2-0. His second goal at 8:44 of the second made it 4-1. Each came at a time when the Warriors were starting to get into a rythym.
Josh Lopina, Sophomore, Massachusetts Minutemen, Forward
The Minooka, Illinois native had a pair of goals in the Minutemen’s 4-2 win over Providence Saturday night. The 6′-2″ Anaheim Ducks prospect missed ten games this season due to injury. Lopina is a big reason why the Minutemen won the National Championship last season. He is fourth on the roster in points this season with an impressive 12-14-26 stat line in 24 games.
His two goals in the first period staked the Minutemen to a two goal lead before Bobby Trivigno made it 3-0 in the second. PC outshot the Minutemen 47-19 and outplayed the winners for most of the game. The Minutemen have struggled a bit over the last few weeks, none more than agaisnt BC with a chnace to win the regular season title. The fast start by Lopina was the difference in Massachusetts getting back to the Garden for the second time in the last four seasons.
Darion Hanson, Graduate Student, Connecticut Huskies, Goalie
The former Union College goalie has a ton of experience between the pipes. Hanson has appeared in over 100 games during his career. His stat line for the 2021-22 season is terrific 19 wins with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 SV%. He was a wall in the Huskies goal on Saturday to advance Connecticut to their first trip to the TD Garden. The 6′-3″ Bethel, Minnesota product stopped 38 0f 39 Boston University shots and held the Terriers scorelss on 17 in-close scoring chances during the 3-1 win. The lone goal was a power-play strike in the tird period by Domenick Fensore (who leads BU with 31 points).
Hanson gets the nod for third star over the honorable mention player becasue the Terriers are the higher seed and a tad bit more potent offensively. It’s a toss up really but the first trip to the championship weekend id a big deal so the UConn Huskies get the edge.
Devon Levi, Sophomore, Northeastern Huskies, Goalie
Levi is one of the top goalie’s in the NCAA game. He has been outstanding all season. His stats are other-wordly, 21 wins 1.47 GAA and a .954 SV% and 10 shutouts. In the game against Boston College on Saturday night he turned back 46 of 48 shots as the Eagles pumped 25 shots on the Huskies net in the third period alone. Two went in to make it a 3-2 game over the final 3:48 of play, but holding the resurgent Eagles at bay is what Levi and the Huskies did to continue their historic season.