UMass ended a difficult Hockey East season with an historic first.
The Minutemen hoisted the Lamoriello Cup first the first time in program history with a 1-0 victory over UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East title game on Saturday night at the Mullins Center.
The No. 3 Minutemen improved to 16-5-4 and likely locked down a top top seed in one of the upcoming NCAA tournament regionals which will be announced on Sunday night. UMass-Lowell finished 10-9-1.
UMass left wing Bobby Trivigno was named the Tournament MVP. UMass goalie Filip Lindberg had 16 saves in his ninth career shutout while UML’s Henry Welsch made 21 saves.
“It was a profoundly important day for our hockey program,” said UMass coach Greg Carvel. “I’ve been here five years and it been a steady climb to get to this point and every kid in this program has sacrificed and coach and staff member and we’ve done things the right way.
“Every year we’ve gotten further in the playoffs.”
Center Jake Gaudet’s tally at 15:32 of the first period accounted for the lone goal in the contest. UMass relied on sustained ice time in the UML zone, defense, goaltending and puck luck in the dirty areas to secure the shutout.
“Lowell was a very tough team and it was a very tight game,” said Carvel. “Lowell is extremely well coached and we knew it was not going to be an easy game.
“Lowell fought hard and I liked the way we played and I’m proud to be a part of this program,”
Both teams pressed a furious pace from the opening faceoff with length of the ice rushes and controlled entries into the offensive zones. That had both goalies on high alert and they were tested early with odd man rushes.
Welsch made a huge save on Gaudet on crossing rush through the low slot at 9:30 of the first. Gaudet had earlier bid from the inner half of the left circle denied by Welsch.
UMass broke the deadlock on a 3-on-2 breakout orchestrated by the Minutemen’s first line. Left wing Oliver Chau forced a turnover at the UMass blue line and fed Carson Gicewicz on a break down the right boards.
Gicewicz found Gaudet, who fired on goal from the low slot. Welsch made the save but Gaudet chased his own rebound behind the goal line. Gaudet shot the puck toward the front and in bounced off Welsch’s arm into the cage for his third of the season. UMass exited the frame with a 9-7 edge in shots on goal.
The Minutemen opened the second period with a flurry and went on the power play at 2:43 when defenseman Seth Barton got lugged for hooking. Welsch kept it a one goal game with a brilliant glove save on a shot by Josh Lopina in the low slot. Lindberg made an equally impressive save on a hard shot from the left circle in by UML defensemen Jon McDonald.
The River Hawks went on their first power play at 15:49 when junior defenseman Colin Felix was called for interference behind the UMass goal. UML left wing Andre Lee had a sure bid fail when his uncontested shot from the slot clanged off the crossbar.
The game was delayed at 18:11 of the second when linesman Bob Bernard suffered a leg injury on a collision along the boards. He was helped off the ice favoring his right leg.
UML caught the first break of the third when the Minutemen had a too many men on the ice penalty at 2:12. UMass, which entered the game with the second most effective penalty kill (90.2%) in the nation, gave up one shot on goal. UMass got is second power play at 8:13 but failed to pot an insurance goal.
The River Hawks thought they had scored the equalizer on a scrum in the UMass crease at 12:48. UML forwards Lucas Condotta and Josh Latta had swipes but Lindberg was able to smoother the puck. After a review, the officials ruled no goal.
“That goal review, that was probably the difference for us,” said UML coach Norm Bazin, who has guided the River Hawks to three Hockey East titles on his watch.
“I thought we would have gotten a second wind if that had gone our way. I will be satisfied when I get to see the film but at the same time, they are excellent referees and he was right there and said it never went over.”
UML had a furious surge with an extra skater in the final 20 seconds but Lindberg managed the mayhem that was swirling around his cage.