March 23, 2013

River Hawks win first-ever Hockey East championship

By Jesse Connolly

Tournament MVP Connor Hellebuyck turns aside a shot during the second period of the Hockey East championship game between BU and UMass-Lowell. (Dave Arnold Photography)

Final: UMass-Lowell 1, Boston University 0

Recap: After a scoreless first period that was short on scoring chances, the two combatants in the Hockey East finals picked up the pace in the second period. The River Hawks and Terriers combined for 33 shots and three man advantages in the middle frame, but Connor Hellebuyck and Sean Maguire thwarted every puck fired their way.

In the third, Colin Wright took off on a breakaway and managed to beat Maguire with his shot. Unfortunately for UML, the post denied his bid and the game remain 0-0 with 16:35 left in regulation.

That changed with 8:51 to go, as Derek Arnold buried a wraparound attempt to put Lowell up 1-0. Arnold's 12th goal of the season was the only tally on the night, as the River Hawks reigned supreme in the league's 2013 tourney.

Records: UMass-Lowell 26-10-2, 54 points; Boston University 21-16-2, 44 points

Key Play of the Game: On the game- and tournament-winning goal, Arnold showed great alertness swooping in behind the net and got to the other post in a heartbeat, catching Maguire out of position. The BU goaltender got a piece of the puck, but not enough to keep it out of his cage.

Connolly's Commendations: Connor Hellebuyck finished the league playoffs with a superb performance, stopping all 37 shots he faced to earn the shutout in the championship game. The freshman goalie was named MVP for the Hockey East tournament, during which he stopped 112 of the 116 shots he faced -- good for a .966 save percentage.

Helluva game for Lowell's defensive corps as well. Christian Folin and Jake Suter led the team with four  blocked shots apiece, while Chad Ruhwedel had three -- and an assist on Arnold's game-winning strike. 

It's a shame either goalie had to lose this game. Maguire was equally as stellar down the other end of the rink, stopping 29-of-30 on the night.

Connolly's Critiques: This game was about as perfectly played as it gets by both sides, but if you subscribe to the theory that someone needs to get thrown under the bus, we'll nominate Cason Hohmann. The BU pivot did have four shots on goal, but he was on the ice for Arnold's tally and won just 6-of-17 faceoffs.

Notes: UMass-Lowell had appeared in two Hockey East title games prior to 2013, losing in the finals in 1994 and 2009. The loss ended BU's hopes of reaching the NCAAs and will be the final game in Jack Parker's illustrious career behind the Terriers' bench. 

Awards: As mentioned earlier, Hellebuyck claimed the MVP Award and was, of course, part of the All-Tournament team. Matt Grzelcyk (BU) ad Ruhwedel (UML) were the defensemen picked to the squad. The trio fo honored forwards consisted of Scott Wilson (UML), Danny O'Regan (BU) and Evan Rodrigues (BU)

Next: For UMass-Lowell, it's on to the NCAA tournament. For BU, it's wait 'til next year.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ