NO. 3

No. 3 River Hawks Set to Face No. 2 Massachusetts in HEA Semifinal

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LOWELL, Mass.—Returning to TD Garden for the first time since 2017, the No. 3 seed UMass Lowell men’s hockey team (21-9-3, 15-8-1 Hockey East) sets its sights on No. 2 seed Massachusetts (20-12-2, 14-8-2 HEA) for the 2022 Hockey East Semifinals on Friday, March 18. Puck drop for the 2021 Championship rematch is slated for 7:30 p.m.

This is the 34th time in 38 years that UMass Lowell has qualified for the Hockey East Tournament, it is the 20th time the River Hawks have advanced to the semifinal round.  The team is 9-11-0 in semifinal games and has moved on to the Championship Game eight times including a stretch of five consecutive years, 2013-2017.  UMass Lowell has won the Lamoriello Trophy three times, most recently 2017.  The team lost the Championship game, 1-0, a year ago and is, after beating Merrimack in the Quarterfinal, 50-51-3, all-time, in Tournament play.

UMass Lowell is making its twentieth appearance in the semifinals.  They have advanced to the Championship Game eight times winning three.  After failing to move on in eleven of their first twelve semifinal appearances the River Hawks have been victorious in seven straight semifinal appearances.  A year ago, UMass Lowell defeated Boston College in the semifinals 6-5 in double overtime after trailing 4-1 with less than ten-minutes to go in regulation.  The club has made 19 semifinal appearances, 18 times after winning a quarterfinal series and once earning the spot with a quarterfinal round bye.

UMass Lowell defeated Merrimack, last Saturday, 7-2 in the Hockey East one-game Quarterfinal.  It was UMass Lowell’s 32nd quarterfinal appearance and ninth in the last ten years.  It was their seventh quarterfinal win in their last eight appearances.

UMass Lowell is 21-9-3.  It is the team’s fifteenth 20-win season, seventh in Norm Bazin‘s eleven years behind the bench.  The club finished conference play with a 15-8-1 record and finished in a second-place tie with Massachusetts.  UMass Lowell received the third seed after UMass won two of the three in-season contests.  The River Hawks are 9-6-0 record on the road and 12-3-3 at home.  Tonight’s game will be their first at a neutral site.  UMass Lowell currently sits in the number 13 slot in both the DCU/USCHO and USA Hockey Magazine polls.  It is the team’s 18th week in the Top 20.  Andre Lee leads the team in goals with sixteen and points with twenty-eight. Matt Crasa is second in goals with eleven.  Carl Berglund leads the team with nineteen-assists and is tied with Lee in points with twenty-eight.  Defenseman Nick Austin is second in assists with fifteen.  Allowing 2.06-goals per game the River Hawks are the second stingiest team in the conference.  Goaltenders Henry Welsch and Owen Savory split time in goal evenly a year ago, but this year Savory has shouldered the heavier workload.  Savory has gotten the call twenty-six times and has been among the nation’s best.  He’s got a 1.85 GAA and a .929 save percentage.  The senior has five shutouts.  Welsch has started six times with one shutout and a 2.66 GAA and a .893 save percentage.

Massachusetts, the defending Hockey East and National Champion, has been among the upper echelon in college hockey again this season.  They enter tonight’s game with a record of 20-12-2 / 14-8-2 after beating Providence, 4-2, in the quarterfinals.  The Minutemen had closed out the regular season with a pair of losses to Boston College.  That left UMass in a second-place tie, one-point back of the regular season champion; Northeastern.  The team is ranked eleventh in the DCU/USCHO Poll and twelfth in the USA Hockey Magazine Poll.  UMass is 11-8-0 at the Mullins Center and 9-4-2 on the road.  They have not played a neutral site game.  Twenty-one different players have scored goals, five are in double digits.  Bobby Trivigno leads the team with 18-goals and 45-points.  Freshman defenseman Scott Morrow has thirteen-goals and 32-points.  Goalie Matt Murray has started every game and has a 2.35 GAA and a .918 save percentage.

This is the fourth time these teams have met this season.  It is the 92nd meeting between the two schools in a series that dates back to 1968.  UMass Lowell leads the series 51-32-8.  The River Hawks have won 20 of the last 30 (20-8-2) over the last nearly eleven seasons.  The River Hawks did not get their first win the series until 1974, a 5-1 final.  Twice in the series UMass Lowell has put together nine-game unbeaten streaks, but the Minutemen have won the last six of the last seven; the one non-win was a tie.  UMass Lowell has a 21-11-3 edge at the Tsongas Center and a 22-15-5 record at the Mullins Center.  The two have met in two different years in the Hockey East Tournament with the Minutemen winning on each occasion, including in the 2020-21 Hockey East Championship Game.

This is the thirteenth time the teams have faced each other when both are Nationally Ranked.  Massachusetts holds a 7-4-1 edge.

UMass Lowell and Massachusetts have faced each other for a grand total of three post-season games.  the Minutemen have won all three.  The first two games were part of the 2004 Hockey East Tournament.  Third-seeded UMass ended the River Hawks season with 6-3 and 3-1 wins at the Mullins Center.  The two state schools faced one another in the 2021 Championship game.  UMass claimed their first Conference Tournament Championship with a 1-0 victory.

This is just the second time that UMass Lowell has earned the Number Three Seed, but this will be the first time that the River Hawks are playing games as the number three seed.  UMass Lowell was the third seed in 2020 and scheduled to host a best-of-three quarterfinal series against sixth seed Boston University.  The tournament games were never played as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Hockey East and all of college hockey.

The Number Three Seed has made it to the Hockey East Tournament Championship Game seventeen times.  Only the number one seed has made it to the Championship Game more often, 23 appearances.  The third seed has won the Tournament just five times.  The number one seed has claimed 17 titles; the number two seed has nine in 15 appearances.

UMass Lowell is the number three seed.  They have been seeded as high as number one, twice, and as low as number eight, only once.  The team has been seeded fifth most frequently, seven times.  The River Hawks have been the fourth seed six times and the seventh seed six times.  The club can also claim both the number two and number six seed positions five times.

UMass Lowell earned just two of nine points when Massachusetts and UMass Lowell met during the regular season with a shootout win after a 4-4 tie and a 3-2 loss in the two-game series in early December.  UMass also earned a 4-3 win in late January.  The first night, December 3rd, the River Hawks came back from a two-goal deficit…  Massachusetts came from behind twice in the third period…  The visitors had a 2-0 lead…  the home team had leads of 3-2 and 4-3… The two teams battled to a 4-4 tie.  UMass Lowell earned the extra point in the standings with a shootout win on a Carl Berglund goal.  The River Hawks got two-goals from Matt Crasa, the Minutemen got two-goals from Anthony Del Gaizo.  The second night UMass Lowell fell behind 2-0 and twice made it a one-goal games but never got over the hump, eventually losing 3-2.  In the final regular season meeting, January 30th, UMass Lowell had a 3-2 third period lead but surrendered two goals in the final seven minutes of the game.

The December 3rd battle between UMass Lowell and UMass, two nationally ranked teams, at the Tsongas Center drew the largest crowd of the year; 6,289.  That was the largest crowd since February 21, 2020, when 6,474 people watched 14th ranked UMass Lowell upset number eight Massachusetts 3-2.  There have been 40 sellouts in Tsongas Center history and December 3rd crowd was the 31st largest.  The River Hawks are 23-11-7 when filling the building to capacity.  UML is 42-30-10 all-time in games at Tsongas Center when both teams were ranked.  UMass Lowell wrapped up the season with an average 4,532 per game.

UMass Lowell picked up the extra point in the Hockey East standings December 3rd on a shootout goal by Carl Berglund against Massachusetts.  This is the second year in which Hockey East has been using the shootout to determine who gets the extra point in games that end in a tie score and the second shootout under the current rules that the River Hawks have been in.  But it is not the first time that shootouts have been used for one reason or another.  The River Hawks are now 6-2 all-time in shootouts, 3-2 in Hockey East.  The conference did use them for a two-year period during the mid-1990s.  The only other time that UMass Lowell won a shootout 1-0 was when Dylan Zink scored the only goal in Belfast to win the inaugural Friendship Four against Brown.

Since UMass Lowell and Massachusetts last met on January 30th the two teams’ records are nearly identical.  Massachusetts is 7-4-0 since that meeting.  UMass Lowell is slightly better at 7-3-0.  The Minutemen have outscored opponents 40-25 and the River Hawks have outscored the opposition, 35-23.

Massachusetts won the Hockey East Championship Game from UMass Lowell and swept the two-game regular season series from the River Hawks.  UMass Lowell only scored one-goal in the three meetings.  The Minutemen earned their first Hockey East Championship with a 1-0 win against the River Hawks.  Jake Gaudet’s first period marker was the only goal of the game, Filip Lindberg made 16 saves to get the win.  Massachusetts toppled the River Hawks twice during the regular season, 5-0 and 2-1, as the team returned from a 25-day break due to COVID-19 protocols.  The first night at the Mullins Center Bobby Trivigno scored the first two goals of the game and added an assist as Massachusetts defeated UMass Lowell, 5-0.  The second night, back at the Tsongas Center, Garrett Wait and George Mika scored goals for the Minutemen in the second period and Lucas Condotta got the River Hawks on the board with a third period goal.

The two Massachusetts state Division I hockey programs have gone to overtime 12 times in their competitive history, but only once, December 3, 2021, in the last seven years.  The last previous overtime game was February 13, 2015 when they ended the evening knotted at three.  UMass Lowell and Massachusetts have split their 12 overtime meetings right down the middle, 2-2-8.

Massachusetts is the defending National Champion.  The River Hawks have done reasonably well in the past facing National Champs.  UMass Lowell is 16-17-2 all-time when facing the defending National Champ.  That includes a 10-9-0 record on the road.  All but two of those opponents have been Hockey East schools.  The exceptions are 6-4 win in Grand Forks against North Dakota, the 1987 NCAA Champ, and more recently the October 2019 3-2 win in Duluth as part of a weekend split.

Last year was the first time that “Sister Schools” have ever met in the Hockey East Championship Game.  Such meetings have happened with greater frequency in other conferences.  It has happened twenty times involving Michigan Schools in the CCHA and WCHA.  Minnesota colleges have met four times in the WCHA and the NCHC and Ohio schools met once for the CCHA championship.

Nine current River Hawks have ever scored a goal against Massachusetts; four have more than one.  Freshman Matt Crasa tops the goals chart with three, Reid Stefanson tops the points board with two-goals and six-points.  Lucas Condotta, 2g, 3a, and Carl Berglund, 1g, 4a, have five-points. Connor Sodergren has four assists.  Henry Welsch and Owen Savory face each faced Massachusetts, neither has a win.  Welsch’s numbers show a 2.48 GAA and a .901 save percentages in four appearances.  Savory’s show 3.90 / .872 in five games including two as a member of the Rensselaer program.

River Hawk freshman Matt Crasa has three goals in three games against UMass.  Each has been a “Clutch” goal.  Each of Crasa’s three goals have given UMass Lowell the lead in the game.  He scored twice in the UMass Lowell – Massachusetts 4-4 tie.  Crasa also scored to give UML a 3-2 third period lead in a game that UMass eventually won.

It will be back to Belfast for both UMass Lowell and Massachusetts.  Both schools will take part in the Friendship Four Tournament in Belfast, Northern Ireland in November of 2022.  The tournament traditionally takes place on the weekend of the American Thanksgiving.  Joining the two Hockey East schools will be Quinnipiac and Dartmouth from the ECAC.  Both UMass Lowell and Massachusetts have been there in the past.  The River Hawks won in the inaugural tournament in 2015.  The Minutemen finished third in the tournament the following season.

The Kennedy Cup Challenge was established in the fall of 2018 and is awarded annually to the team with the most wins in the cumulative season series between the Lowell and Amherst campuses.  UMass holds an edge over UMass Lowell, 8-6, in this fourth school year of competition.  The River Hawks won the inaugural challenge, 8-6, Massachusetts won the 2019-20 edition of the Kennedy Cup Challenge 8-4-1.  The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the 2020-21 edition and both schools were awarded the winners’ share of financial support.  John Kennedy is a longtime supporter of both schools’ athletic programs. Kennedy holds degrees from both schools.  For 23 years the two hockey programs competed in a three-game series for the Alumni Cup.  UMass Lowell won or retained the Cup 17 times.  That series was discontinued following the 2016-17 season.

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