The River Hawks failed to become the first team in Hockey East Tournament history to win three straight conference championships since Boston College (2010-2012), falling to Boston University 5-3 in the Hockey East championship game Saturday night at TD Garden.
UMass Lowell finishes the season with an overall record of 22-12-6 and a conference record of 11-7-4. The River Hawks fall to 2-3 all-time in Hockey East title games.
UMass Lowell outshot Boston University 25-24, but the River Hawks could not outscore the star-powered Terriers.
Boston University took a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals from junior Matt Gryzelcyk and freshman Jack Eichel before sophomore Joe Gambardella answered for the River Hawks with a power play goal with less than two minutes left in the first period.
Sophomore defenseman Michael Kapla fired a shot past BU goaltender Matt O’Connor from the left circle to cut the Terriers lead to 4-2 with 13:13 left in the third period.
Freshman forward Michael Louria skated behind two defenders to score his sixth goal of the season and cut UMass Lowell’s deficit to 5-3 with 3:08 left in the third period.
Simply outshooting their opponent did not give the team the results it did last night in the Hockey East semifinals. Missed opportunities combined with conversions by the Terriers amounted to a loss against their top-seeded opponent.
Defensively, the Terriers, the second-highest scoring team in the nation, were just as good without the puck as they were with it, thwarting multiple scoring chances for the River Hawks in the second period.
BU goaltender Matt O’Connor stopped a rebound from senior captain Zack Kamrass from the right circle on a power play with 11 minutes left in the second period.
“I saw an opening, and he dove across and got a glove on it,” Kamrass said.
Cason Hohmann converted on a 2-on-1 rush to give the Terriers a 3-1 lead with 14:22 left in the second period. Nikolas Olsson tipped in a pass from Matt Grzelcyk on a 2-on-1 rush to give Boston University a 4-1 lead heading into the third period.
UMass Lowell goaltender Kevin Boyle made 19 saves on 24 shots. The River Hawks went 1-for-4 on the power play, while killing two of three penalties.
With 14 freshmen on the roster and key players from last season like Connor Hellebuyck and Joseph Pendenza no longer on the team, the River Hawks exceeded the expectations of most coming into the season by making the Hockey East championship game and holding first place in the conference standings for most of the season.
Head Coach Norm Bazin attributed to the team’s success to its overall character but did not make any predictions of next season’s outlook.
“We’re certainly hopeful. At the same time, every season poses new challenges,” Bazin said. “We’ll wait ‘til next one comes to make any predictions, but I’m very proud of the group in there.”
Kamrass said the senior class, including fellow blue liner Jake Suter, forward Terrence Wallin and himself, have made UMass Lowell a household name within Hockey East and “left the program better than they found it.”
“You’re not just going to come into Lowell and have an easy game,” said Kamrass. “It’s gonna be a battle whenever UMass Lowell comes rearing.”