March 24, 2012

Loss to Union leaves UMass-Lowell devastated

By Adam Wodon

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- In a season where Massachusetts-Lowell had the largest turnaround in NCAA history, from five wins to 24, and made the NCAAs for the first time in 16 years, the feeling after a Saturday's game was nothing but despair. 

Goalie Doug Carr did his best to keep the River Hawks within striking distance on Saturday. (Dave Arnold Photography)

Indeed it was difficult to reflect on the great strides the program made as the players held back tears after losing 4-2 to Union in the NCAA East Region championship game.

"Awful," said Lowell senior Matt Ferreira. "Just to see the four seniors, the looks on their faces, and knowing the effort we put in this year, you can't describe it."

The first 10 minutes of the game, things were fairly even, with Union goalie Troy Grosenick forced to come up with an acrobatic save. But it was Union that pounced on an opportunity to score first. A bad giveaway deep in the Lowell zone was stolen by Kyle Bodie, and Bodie
found Daniel Ciampini wide open in front for an easy bang-in goal.

Union started to control the play in the latter half the first period, and in one four-minute stretch, put 10 shots on net, with Lowell goalie Doug Carr needing to make numerous dazzling saves to keep his team in the game.

"They came in droves," Bazin said. "We were a step off tonight and they were the better hockey team. ... Without (Carr) it would've been over earlier."

In the second, Union kept it up, and broke through again after a shot by Daniel Carr clanked off Carr's facemask. The defense tried to clear the front of the, but bruising forward Jeremy Welsh could not be moved, and buried the rebound, his 26th goal of the season, a Union
program record.

"They were getting a lot of pucks to the net. We knew that was going to come, they're a good team," Carr said. "I think it came in waves. I thought later we started to play our game, but obviously tonight it wasn't good enough."

Union remained in control, but Lowell was able to break through thanks to a great individual effort by Terrence Wallin. Wallin burst down the left wing, beating a defender, darted toward the net, and slid the puck towards the crease, where it deflected off a defender and in.

The momentum, if there was any, was short-lived. Lowell's top scorer, Riley Wetmore, was called for holding late in the period, and Josh Jooris gave Union a power-play goal for a two-goal lead again.

"They did a good job in the neutral zone, and we couldn't really possess the puck down low," Lowell captain Riley Wetmore said. "The only time we did was in the third period. ... They play really tight team defense and their goaltender is really good."

Lowell got one six minutes into the third period, when Welsh gave it away behind his net and Ferriera deposited it into an empty net.

Lowell pressed for a few minutes after that, as Union appeared to wear down and lose its legs. But Grosenick, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, came up big when he had to for the Dutchmen.

"All year long we've been in those types of situations and been able to overcome," Bazin said. "It wasn't meant to be today."

Towards the end of the night, Bazin was eventually able to reflect back on what it all meant. The first-year head coach returned to his alma mater in hopes of returning it to past glory, and he succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

"It will take a few days to digest, it's tough to think about anything else but this loss tonight," Bazin said. "But we have to. We have to look to the future. There's quite a lot of guys in the locker room who have a high 'care factor,' and that bodes well for the future.

"It's a great experience, I won't deny that. To win your first game, hopefully we can build on this and get two wins in the future. It's been 16 years since we've been here last, that's way too long. Hopefully we can come back in the near future and build on this, and that's the premise. These are valuable experiences."