March 24, 2012

After blowing 3-0 lead, UMass-Lowell defeats Miami in OT

By Adam Wodon

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- It was over. Massachusetts-Lowell was done. Turn out the lights.

But then, it changed. 

River Hawks goaltender Doug Carr stopped 30 shots on Friday night. (Dave Arnold Photography)

After blowing a 3-0 lead, the River Hawks were on life support, getting dominated, then needing to kill off a 5-minute major penalty that stretched into overtime.

Just moments after somehow surviving that, Lowell turned it around. Playing hurt, senior captain Riley Wetmore got free on the doorstep, and shoved in a rebound, 2:13 into overtime, his second goal of the game, sending the River Hawks into the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 4-3 win over Miami.

Lowell will face Union in the East Regional Final, Saturday a 6:30 p.m.

"It gave us a big sense of urgency and made us a little hungrier team," Wetmore said of the penalty kill late in the game. "In OT we regrouped and we knew in the room we had it."

Said Lowell coach Norm Bazin, "It was imperative we had a break at that point, quite honestly, because we used a lot of the same guys killing, so it was good to get a break, and just to re-focus."

As good as Lowell looked in the first period, it looked that bad in the third. It started auspiciously, then got worse.

Miami scored 14 seconds aparts, from Trent Vogelhuber and then Austin Czarnik on a breakaway.

"I didn't think the first goal necessarily affected us, because we knew they would score eventually," Bazin said. "But when our point man threw it in their pads for a breakaway, that was a tough one."

As Miami pressed through the third period, it took a bad penalty that seemed to give Lowell a chance to catch its breath. But Miami killed it off, and just as Alden Hirschfeld stepped out of the box, he was able to grab a loose puck near the door, and move in on a 3-on-1. Hirschfeld slowly moved in on net, waited, made a move, and put it past Lowell goalie Doug Carr to tie the game.

"It's part of the game as a goalie that you'll get scored on and be in tight situations," Carr said. "But I've been in situations like that before ... it's one of those things that when you get scored on, you have to put it behind you and not alter your game at all."

With Lowell still on its heels the rest of the way, it put itself into further trouble by taking a five-minute major for checking from behind with 3:25 left. The offender, Jake Suter, was also tossed from the game.

Miami was all over the net in those closing minutes of regulation, and if not for a number of remarkable saves by Carr, each one better than the next, the game never would've gotten to OT. The best was when Carr kicked out his left leg and barely got a piece of the puck with his skate, robbing Miami's 30-goal scorer Reilly Smith of the game winner.

"At that point they're piling it on a little bit," Carr said. "We were doing a good job keeping pucks to the outside. That shot came from the right point. I went down. It hit someone in front of me and went to Smith. It's- one of those desperation saves where you're trying to get as far towards the pipe as you can, and I got my skate there in time."

In overtime, as the power play continued, Miami hit the crossbar just before it expired. Next thing you know, Lowell was off the other way.

"Early when they came in waves and were buzzing around the perimeter, I wasn't as concerned," Bazin said. "But after (Austin Czarnik) scored that breakaway, they penetrated more and we started sagging. So it wasn't a good mix. But you do have to trust your guys somewhat at this juncture of the season. Sometimes you need some time to refocus and get down to business. We did that in the penalty kill and then showed we had 10 percent left that we weren't using in that third period."

Saturday, Lowell gets a chance for its first trip to the Frozen Four, one year removed from a 5-win season.

"Hunger. We got a second chance here, and we're not just happy to be here," Wetmore said. "We worked hard all year to get there. ... We're just hungry to get out there.

"We have great leadership, even from the freshmen, the amount they've played. We didn't have the tenacity that we had during the beginning of the year -- Providence just came in really hungry like we're trying to be now. If we stick to our game, we'll be fine."