After UMass-Lowell’s game against Northeastern on Mar. 3, the razors went away. Not because of frustration. This wasn’t a case of staying away from sharp objects in the wake of a disappointing loss. The River Hawks had won, 6-2.
The razors disappeared because the win signaled the end of the regular season and, more importantly, the start of the second season. Come playoff time, some teams opt for the unshaven look. It looks and feels like playoff hockey. Tough. Gritty. Desperate.
Desperate men in desperate times.
The River Hawks were in just such straits, opening their postseason at New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center where they had gone winless in the last eight games. As a team they opted to forgo shaving for as long as their second season lasted.
The result on the ice was great. The River Hawks upended New Hampshire in three games to advance to the Fleet Center.
The result in the mirror wasn’t so pretty.
“They look like a bunch of bums,” said Sports Information Director Chris O’Donnell with a laugh.
“We’ve got some guys with a patch here and patch there,” said one River Hawk at Thursday’s Hockey East banquet.
“My girlfriend hates it,” said another.
Although with some players, you could hardly tell the difference. Which perhaps was even worse.
“[Ron] Hainsey still looks like he just shaved,” said the first River Hawk. He laughed and added, “I think [Stephen] Slonina only has two or three whiskers.”
The bums — meant here as a term of endearment much like the old Brooklyn baseball team was affectionately known as the “Bums” without that team’s ineptitude — entered their semifinal contest against Boston College with scruffy faces, but well-earned respect.
“A team that can go to New Hampshire and win two games [is rare],” said BC coach Jerry York. “There aren’t many teams that can do that.”
Lowell even jumped out on top in the first period against second-ranked Boston College. Could the “bunch of bums” become the Hockey East championship game bums?
The Eagles responded less than two minutes later.
More specifically, Chuck Kobasew responded. Capitalizing on a turnover in the slot, he ripped a shot into the top of the net past goaltender Jimi St. John.
The Barber, Chuck Kobasew, had applied the shaving cream. The sniper’s goal had arrested Lowell’s momentum at just the right time.
One night earlier Kobasew had been honored as the Hockey East Rookie of the Year and a second-team all-star selection.
“He was honored for a reason,” said Brian Gionta. “He plays hard. He pays the price in front of the net. That’s what you need to do at this level to score goals.
“You’ve got to get in that red zone and win the battles. [His] goals tonight reflected that. Getting to the zone and getting quick shots off. He’s a real special player.”
In the second period, however, Lowell proved that they had some real special players, too, taking it to Boston College. BC goaltender Scott Clemmensen had to make a Hockey East championship round record of 23 saves. At one point, the River Hawks were outshooting the Eagles 23-4 for the period.
“Lowell played very, very well and dominated us,” said York. “That hasn’t happened very often over the last few years that a team could do that to us.”
Considering the opponent, it might have been UMass-Lowell’s best period of the year. And yet, thanks to Clemmensen and Kobasew, BC outscored the River Hawks, 1-0. The Barber scored on a four-on-three man advantage.
The Barber had sharpened the razor.
“That goal was very important for them obviously,” said UML coach Tim Whitehead. “When you’re getting a lot of opportunities and you don’t score, and then the other team gets one, mentally that gives them a boost.”
Nonetheless, Lowell still had all the territorial momentum.
“You get a ton of shots and you don’t score and all of a sudden the Zamboni comes out,” said Whitehead. “I wish the Zamboni had been busted or something and we had to keep going.”
Instead, the Zamboni came out and the opening of the third period was a much different game. Boston College scored 29 seconds into the third period. At 3:17, The Barber added another to complete his hat trick and all but seal the game. Gionta added an insurance goal at 5:01.
By the end of the period, Clemmensen, who had set a record for most saves in the second period, tied a record for least saves with two. The Eagles took 13 shots before Lowell mustered its first.
“In the third period, they struck immediately and then they struck again before our guys could get on their feet,” said Whitehead. “Our guys competed hard. We our opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize.”
And so UMass-Lowell’s season was over. The loveable bums had been given a figurative shave by The Barber. For the season, Kobasew had scored six goals and added four assists against the River Hawks.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride, starting the season down 1-6 and then coming back and playing great through January and February and into March here,” said St. John.
Having been figuratively shaved, how long would it take the River Hawks to get out the literal razors?
“It’ll be about two hours and they’ll be off,” said St. John with a rueful laugh. “That’s when we get back to Lowell.”