Cloudy
29°
Cloudy
Hi 32° | Lo 24°

Wildcats’ wild ride comes to an end

  • Massachusetts-Lowell's A.J. White (18) celebrates with teammate Josh Holmstrom (12) after scoring on New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Massachusetts-Lowell's A.J. White (18) celebrates with teammate Josh Holmstrom (12) after scoring on New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) blocks a shot by New Hampshire's Tyler Kelleher (16) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) blocks a shot by New Hampshire's Tyler Kelleher (16) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Josh Holmstrom (12) and New Hampshire's Kevin Goumas (27) battle for the puck in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Josh Holmstrom (12) and New Hampshire's Kevin Goumas (27) battle for the puck in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • New Hampshire's Kevin Goumas, left, and UMass Lowell's Zack Kamrass battle for the puck in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    New Hampshire's Kevin Goumas, left, and UMass Lowell's Zack Kamrass battle for the puck in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Massachusetts-Lowell's A.J. White (18) celebrates with teammate Josh Holmstrom (12) after scoring on New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Massachusetts-Lowell's A.J. White (18) celebrates with teammate Josh Holmstrom (12) after scoring on New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) and Dylan Zink (25) move to block the shot by New Hampshire's Jay Camper (17) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) and Dylan Zink (25) move to block the shot by New Hampshire's Jay Camper (17) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) blocks a penalty shot by UMass Lowell's Joseph Pendenza (14) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) blocks a penalty shot by UMass Lowell's Joseph Pendenza (14) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Jake Suter, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period of the Hockey East championship game against New Hampshire in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Jake Suter, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period of the Hockey East championship game against New Hampshire in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • New Hampshire's Brett Pesce (22) clears the puck in front of UMass Lowell's Josh Holmstrom (12) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    New Hampshire's Brett Pesce (22) clears the puck in front of UMass Lowell's Josh Holmstrom (12) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Massachusetts-Lowell's Josh Holmstrom raises the trophy after the team defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Massachusetts-Lowell's Josh Holmstrom raises the trophy after the team defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Michael Colantone (24) battles for the puck with New Hampshire's Jeff Silengo (18) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Michael Colantone (24) battles for the puck with New Hampshire's Jeff Silengo (18) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Massachusetts-Lowell team members pose with the trophy after defeating New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Massachusetts-Lowell team members pose with the trophy after defeating New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Massachusetts-Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) celebrates with teammates Jake Suter, Doug Carr (31) and Michael Kapla (3) after the team defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    Massachusetts-Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) celebrates with teammates Jake Suter, Doug Carr (31) and Michael Kapla (3) after the team defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Joe Gambardella (5) and New Hampshire's Harry Quast (7) skate in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Joe Gambardella (5) and New Hampshire's Harry Quast (7) skate in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • New Hampshire's Matt Willows (9) gets tied up with Massachusetts-Lowell's Christian Folin (26) and Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    New Hampshire's Matt Willows (9) gets tied up with Massachusetts-Lowell's Christian Folin (26) and Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Joe Gambardella (5) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period of the Hockey East championship game against New Hampshire in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Joe Gambardella (5) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period of the Hockey East championship game against New Hampshire in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell celebrates after defeating New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell celebrates after defeating New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • New Hampshire gathers in front of the net after losing 4-0 to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    New Hampshire gathers in front of the net after losing 4-0 to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Ryan McGrath (10) looks for the rebound off Casey DeSmith (29) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Ryan McGrath (10) looks for the rebound off Casey DeSmith (29) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Joseph Pendenza (14) checks New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin (21) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Joseph Pendenza (14) checks New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin (21) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • New Hampshire's Grayson Downing (28) handles the puck in front of UMass Lowell's Scott Wilson (23) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    New Hampshire's Grayson Downing (28) handles the puck in front of UMass Lowell's Scott Wilson (23) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • UMass Lowell's Shayne Thompson (7) pulls up short of New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

    UMass Lowell's Shayne Thompson (7) pulls up short of New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

  • Massachusetts-Lowell's A.J. White (18) celebrates with teammate Josh Holmstrom (12) after scoring on New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) blocks a shot by New Hampshire's Tyler Kelleher (16) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Josh Holmstrom (12) and New Hampshire's Kevin Goumas (27) battle for the puck in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • New Hampshire's Kevin Goumas, left, and UMass Lowell's Zack Kamrass battle for the puck in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • Massachusetts-Lowell's A.J. White (18) celebrates with teammate Josh Holmstrom (12) after scoring on New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) and Dylan Zink (25) move to block the shot by New Hampshire's Jay Camper (17) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) blocks a penalty shot by UMass Lowell's Joseph Pendenza (14) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Jake Suter, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period of the Hockey East championship game against New Hampshire in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • New Hampshire's Brett Pesce (22) clears the puck in front of UMass Lowell's Josh Holmstrom (12) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • Massachusetts-Lowell's Josh Holmstrom raises the trophy after the team defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Michael Colantone (24) battles for the puck with New Hampshire's Jeff Silengo (18) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • Massachusetts-Lowell team members pose with the trophy after defeating New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • Massachusetts-Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck (37) celebrates with teammates Jake Suter, Doug Carr (31) and Michael Kapla (3) after the team defeated New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Joe Gambardella (5) and New Hampshire's Harry Quast (7) skate in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • New Hampshire's Matt Willows (9) gets tied up with Massachusetts-Lowell's Christian Folin (26) and Connor Hellebuyck (37) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Joe Gambardella (5) celebrates with teammates after scoring in the second period of the Hockey East championship game against New Hampshire in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell celebrates after defeating New Hampshire 4-0 in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • New Hampshire gathers in front of the net after losing 4-0 to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Ryan McGrath (10) looks for the rebound off Casey DeSmith (29) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Joseph Pendenza (14) checks New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin (21) in the third period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. Lowell won 4-0. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • New Hampshire's Grayson Downing (28) handles the puck in front of UMass Lowell's Scott Wilson (23) in the first period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
  • UMass Lowell's Shayne Thompson (7) pulls up short of New Hampshire's Casey DeSmith (29) in the second period of the Hockey East championship game in Boston, Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON – It was the start the University of New Hampshire hockey team knew it couldn’t afford, and it occurred only moments after the Wildcats had a chance for one better than they could have hoped for.

No. 18 UNH surrendered a pair of quick goals mere minutes after getting denied on a breakaway, putting the team in a deep hole on the way to a 4-0 loss to No. 7 UMass Lowell in the Hockey East championship game last night at the TD Garden, a defeat that stamped out the Wildcats’ last hope of making the NCAA tournament.

“I thought our team competed, and played hard. It just didn’t happen,” Coach Dick Umile said. “The difficult part is it’s a team with great chemistry. We wanted to keep going. Not only were they winning and playing hard, but we were enjoying it and having fun doing it.

“It’s tough for the season to end.”

UNH (22-18-1) was chasing its first conference title since 2003. Instead, it lost to a team that’s won two in as many years – and whose title defense was never in doubt after a start that played right to its strengths.

The River Hawks (25-10-4) grabbed the lead at 12:12 of the first period when it appeared UNH was about to escape unscathed. Joseph Pendenza took a pass from the blue line from Christian Folin and put a shot on goal from the right side, and goalie Casey DeSmith tried to cover up the puck after making the save. He wasn’t quick enough, however, and winger A.J. White skated in to chip the puck into the net for the goal.

A turnover cost the Wildcats a little more than three minutes later. Brett Pesce lost the puck in the UNH zone and Lowell skated in, with White looking to feed Pendenza across the crease for the goal. DeSmith made a great diving save to stop Pendenza’s shot, but Josh Holmstrom got to the loose puck first in the right circle and fired it over the sprawled out DeSmith (26 saves) for a 2-0 lead at 4:32.

Plenty of game remained, but with the defending champions on the opposite bench and a goalie who doesn’t allow goals at the Garden in the opposite net, a 2-0 deficit had the feel of a 12-0 hole, just as it did when the River Hawks beat UNH by that same score in the NCAA regionals last March.

“That’s something we talked about, getting the first goal, because we knew how good defensively they were,” senior defenseman and captain Eric Knodel said.

Going up against Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck, the nation’s leader in goals-against average and save percentage, makes early leads for opponents crucial, and the Wildcats had a golden chance for one only a few minutes before Lowell took the lead. Dalton Speelman corralled a puck near center ice and skated in on a breakaway before Tyler Kelleher joined him to his right. Rather than take the shot, Speelman tried to set up Kelleher, a move that backfired when Lowell defenseman Jake Suter caught up and broke up Kelleher’s shot just over 10 minutes into the period.

It was a missed chance, made even more regrettable when White scored moments later to give Lowell a lead it wouldn’t give up.

“It definitely was something that was a little deflating,” Knodel said. “That was a great opportunity for us. … We needed to bring a big shift after that and we weren’t able to.”

Flying high with a 2-0 lead, the River Hawks buried the Wildcats in the second. Terrence Wallin brought the puck into the UNH zone down the right side and found Joe Gambardella alone in the slot. Pesce was slow reacting to the pass, and Gambardella quickly beat DeSmith with a shot for a 3-0 lead 3:13 into the period.

Lowell’s final goal came on the power play. Pendenza won a faceoff and White kicked the puck back to Suter near the high slot, and the junior defenseman ripped a shot that nicked off UNH defenseman Dylan Maller and past DeSmith for a 4-0 advantage at 18:43.

The lead was more than plenty for tournament MVP Hellebuyck, who made 30 saves for his second straight title game shutout (Lowell beat Boston University, 1-0, last year). UNH wasn’t getting anything past the sophomore goalie, who extended his shutout streak on the Garden ice to 230:01, nor did it have much luck against anyone else – Jay Camper had a wide-open net but could only watch his shot go wide when defenseman Dylan Zink stuck his stick out to knock it away in mid-air at 6:22.

“We knew even when we were down 2-0, 3-0, there was still a chance for us to come back. At 4-0, we put together a lot of opportunities,” Knodel said. “We (had) some opportunities with open nets that, you know, pucks just don’t go your way and find a way in.”

It was an ironic twist, things going against UNH after everything had previously been going the Wildcats’ way. The team knew at the start of the Hockey East playoffs that it needed to keep winning to keep playing, and through the start to the playoffs – a quarterfinal series against Northeastern and a semifinal game against Providence – UNH kept finding an answer.

With one more game to go, however, a team that has been the conference’s best two years running was just too much to overcome.

“It’s been a great couple of weeks,” Knodel said. “We always knew from the start of this year that we had a great team. … We knew we could do something special.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or abonifant@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @dbonifant.)

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.