WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — After surviving a tight game against Minnesota State-Mankato, UMass-Lowell coach Norm Bazin and the River Hawks were ready to focus on the all-Hockey East regional final against Boston College.
“We do know our opponent. They’re a great hockey team,” Bazin said after his second-seeded River Hawks beat Minnesota State 2-1 in the Northeast Regional semifinals Saturday night. “They’re regular-season champions for a reason, and it just so happens that we’re the playoff champions so it should be a good matchup.”
Top-seeded Boston College beat Denver 6-2.
The teams played twice late in the regular season, with BC winning 3-0 and tying 2-2.
“It should be an unbelievable final,” Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said.
While BC was upset by Notre Dame in the Hockey East quarterfinals, Lowell won that tournament, with goalie Connor Hellebuyck posting two shutouts at TD Garden
Hellebuyck, who leads the nation with a 1.71 goals-against average and .944 save percentage, ran his shutout streak to 201:45 before giving up a goal with 10.8 seconds left Saturday night — and made 35 saves in winning a goaltending battle with Minnesota State’s Cole Huggins.
“He played out of his head,” said Huggins, who made 33 stops and kept the River Hawks from extending a 1-0 lead that resulted from Joe Pendenza blocking a shot by Matt Leitner and then beating Huggins on a short-handed breakaway in the first period.
That goal held up and UML (26-10-4) made it 2-0 when defenseman Zack Kamrass hit the empty net from his defensive faceoff circle with 40.9 seconds left.
But then given a power play, Zach Stepan scored with 10.8 left on the clock. The Mavericks then had a faceoff to Hellebuyck’s left with 2.2 seconds left but nothing came of it.
Hellebuyck is 11-2 in postseason play in his two seasons with the River Hawks. His overall record is 38-11-2 and he just missed his 13th shutout.
The River Hawks, who reached the Frozen Four last season, ended Minnesota State’s 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1) and kept the Mavericks from earning the program’s first NCAA Division I tournament win — on their third try. The WCHA champs have reached the last two NCAA tournaments.
“Really no regrets other than not moving on,” said Hastings, whose team finished 26-14-1. “I thought the guys laid it out there. We he knew (Hellebuyck) was going to be good and he was good. We had some second and third opportunities that he did a good job of keeping out of the net.”
Talking about his freshman goalie, Hastings said, “I know everybody is talking about the guy who won the game tonight, and well deserved, well deserved. He put up some scary numbers. But I think if you go ahead and stack Cole’s numbers in the last, now 14 games, they’re comparable. It was a great battle tonight.”
Huggins, who played 13 of the final 14 games, finished his rookie season by allowing just 17 goals in his last 13 games, not counting the empty netter.
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