Massachusetts 3-1 Winner Over UMass-Lowell, Face-off Against UConn in Hockey East Finals
Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Minutemen scored two first-period goals to stake their claim in a 3-1 victory over the UMass-Lowell River Hawks at TD Garden. The Minutemen will compete for their second straight Hockey East Championship. They will square up against the Connecticut Huskies on Saturday at 7:00 pm. Graduate student Matt Murray stopped 22 of 23 shots in securing the win for the Commonwealth’s flagship school over their university system brothers.
The Massachusetts schools played to a 1-0 Minutemen victory in last year’s Hockey East Championship at an empty Mullins Center on the Amherst campus due to COVID.
“It was great. I thought our fans were super loud,” said senior co-captain Bobby Trivigno. “It gave us momentum in big parts of the game. I heard a lot of UMass chants. Not sure which one, which team they’re going for. It’s definitely nice to have fans back in the building.”
“We went into this game with a very precise game plan,” said Massachusetts coach Greg Carvel. “We played Lowell so much, the fourth time this year. I have tremendous respect for that team. They are a very good hockey team. To me, they’re the toughest team in our league to beat. They are a big, heavy, strong team.”
“It didn’t feel like we had a lot of momentum tonight but I thought we did a good job of preventing them from doing what they wanted to do,” said Carvel. “They had the puck a lot but they didn’t have it in dangerous areas. and we were opportunistic.”
“I think the key is to treat every game as its own game,” said Murray when asked about the low shot total compared to last time out when he faced 47 against Providence. “I’m focusing on the task at hand and whenever you have to make the save, regardless of whether it’s one shot or 40 shots. Every single one, every single puck matters.”
A hooking call on UMass-Lowell freshman Matt Crasa gave the Minutemen the game’s first power-play at 11:52. Garrett Wait put the Minutemen ahead at 12:27 when he batted in a rebound for the 1-0 lead at the left post. The power-play goal by Wait was his 12th goal of the season. Josh Lopina and Scott Morrow assisted on Wait’s goal.
Trivigno made it 2-0 when he carried into the UML zone, cut across inside the blue line, and fired a shot past Owen Savory (16 saves) from the top of the left circle at 14:10. Wait assisted Trivigno’s 19th.
“It started in our ‘D’-zone,” said the Hockey East Player of the Year Trivigno of his goal. “Waiter (Garrett Wait) made a really good play. He hustled for the puck and chipped it out. I just skated up the ice and felt like I had some space up top as soon as I crossed the blue line to cut across and bring the epuck to my forehand.”
“I was thinking of passing it back door to Lopes (Josh Lopina) but no one went to me and Waiter did a tremendous job working from the ‘D’-zone all the way to the front of the (UML) net and that took away Savory’s eyes and I just placed it into the net. I was fortunate to score the goal but it’s pretty much all Waiter’s hard work.”
The ice gradually tilted the River Hawks’ way in the second period. UML outshot the Minutemen 13-2 in the middle frame. If not for the play of Murray and the crossbar, the River Hawks might have come away with more than just their lone goal.
“(Matt) Murrays been hot lately, he had that going tonight. Bobby (Trivigno) usually finds a way to score a big goal for us,” said Carvel. “It wasn’t pretty but it’s playoff time. You win and you move on.”
The River Hawks pulled one back at 16:37 of the second period when Crasa tipped a Nick Austin shot from the blue line past Murray to make it 2-1. The goal was Crasa’s 12th of the year. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be his last of the night.
The Minutemen used their timeout early in the third on back-to-back icings. Then they got lucky that a Blake Wells backhand attempt went wide after a turnover at the Minutemen blue line. It was the end of a long shift for both teams, each trying to change on the fly. Wells was all alone in front of Murray but couldn’t capitalize.
The River Hawks seemed on the brink of tying the game halfway through the third period. UML had minute-and-a-half of steady pressure in the Massachusetts zone, but Murray saw the puck well.
Then disaster struck for the River Hawks. Jerry Harding skated from the Minutemen zone into the River Hawks zone when he was taken down cleanly by a backchecking Reid Stefanson. Harding swiped at the puck, and Savory made the stop as Harding bumped him as he slid past the goal. A sliding loose puck was moving out in front of the UML goal with a charging Minutemen forward Ryan Sullivan closing in. Crasa beat Sullivan to the puck and attempted to make a pass in front of the River Hawks net, but he flubbed it, and the puck slid past Savory to give the Minutemen the 3-1 lead at 13:00.
“Matt Crasa’s had an excellent year,” said UMass-Lowell head coach Norm Bazin. “Yeah, it’s a bad bounce, and he’ll recover.” Crasa, a freshman from South Setauket, NY, had 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points in 33 games in his first NCAA go-round.
“Jerry Harding Goal” @jharding99 start to finish.
“Don’t kid yourself if you don’t think I’m going to tell Jerry he scored one goal this year and he didn’t even score it. He celebrated like he went end to end and he was behind the net on his back when it went in,” @CoachCarvelUM pic.twitter.com/mcMLMBEAVh
— PuckingOff™ (Jason Scales) (@PuckingOff) March 19, 2022
That play took the wind out of the River Hawks sails as the third period wound down. The momentum had swung back to Massachusetts, and the trip to Saturday’s title game went.
“Well, you have to congratulate our opponent. Obviously they were a couple of goals better than us tonight,” said Bazin. “I liked our effort. I thought our execution was off.”
“I also thought we deserved a few calls but I’m not an official. So my opinion doesn’t count on that,” added the coach. It did appear that the refs let a few things slide for both teams.
“We had two unconventional goals against and that came back to hurt us obviously. It’s the one they (Wait) bat in. They certainly are in the right spot to do so on the power-play,” Bazin said. “Then on the last one, I’m not sure what that was. It’s tough one to describe.”
“I hope we get to play another game, because I think we have a better game than what we showed here tonight,” said Bazin.
The Minutemen will play Connecticut for the third time this season on Saturday. The winner will get the automatic berth for the NCAA tournament. UMass is in good shape should they lose, but UConn needs it for their season to continue. UMass won 2-1 at UConn on February 18 while the Huskies returned the favor 4-2 at the Mullins Center the next night.
“I’m real happy for Cav (Mike Cavanaugh, UConn head coach), He’s done a great job at UConn,” said Carvel. “He’s a good friend. They’ve kind of had a coming out party this year. Hopefully we got to put an end to it. They are going to be energized, they’re playing well. We had two hard games with them at the end of the season. We have to continue to do what we’ve done for the two playoff games.”
“We’ve got to be good on special teams,” Carvel added. “We have to get saves. We’re going to have to be ready at the start of the game.”