Saturday night’s Hockey East championship marked the end of an era for Boston University and the beginning of one for Massachusetts-Lowell.
When it came to crowning the 2013 Hockey East champion tonight, all those in attendance knew they were going to see either a “first first” or a “last first” — the first title for UMass-Lowell and its coach, Norm Bazin, or the last time that Boston University coach Jack Parker would end up first in the league due to his impending retirement.
2013 Hockey East Championship
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Tournament MVP Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves for the shutout, as the River Hawks pulled off the difficult double feat of winning the regular-season and tournament championships for Hockey East.
Derek Arnold scored the lone goal with just under nine minutes to play.
“First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge BU,” Bazin said. “That was a hell of a hockey game. It could’ve gone either way. It was certainly the best game we played against BU all season long. They’re a great opponent, but I’m very proud of our guys. It’s a championship for Lowell and I’m happy for everyone.”
Terriers’ reshman goalie Sean Maguire made 28 saves in a losing effort.
In seeing his career come to an end, Parker could take consolation in the fact that his team played exceptionally well.
“First of all, from the opening faceoff, I thought both teams played extremely well – it was a great college hockey game,” Parker said. “I was very, very pleased with our effort from start to finish; it was one of our best games of the year. I was really happy with my team and everything that happened except we couldn’t put it by him. I guess it wasn’t to be. I want to congratulate UMass-Lowell on a terrific season.”
The first period went by with barely a scoring opportunity for either team, as both teams did a good job of shutting down the attack. With a NCAA berth on the line as well as the title, BU looked composed, passing smoothly up the ice all period. UMass-Lowell looked sluggish at times and squandered a pair of four-on-two rushes.
Play really opened up in the second period, but that was not reflected on the scoreboard. The River Hawks looked much stronger, getting several chances.
UML had a couple of great chances around the four-minute mark when Maguire got rather cavalier with the puck behind his net, leading directly to two great chances. Maguire was bailed out first when Danny O’Regan and then Matt Nieto carried the puck out of danger in the crease.
BU’s fourth line had some great moments midway through the period after basically not playing at all on Friday night, when the Terriers went with three lines. Matt Moran and Ryan Santana teamed up for a good bid on Hellebuyck’s stick side and then Jake Moscatel got a roar out of the crowd with a punishing hit.
Still, the River Hawks easily had the best opportunities of the second stanza.
Riley Wetmore made the BU faithful nervous when he gobbled up an Ahti Oskanen turnover for a great shorthanded chance at 13:00. He got Maguire to go down early before attempting the wraparound — foreshadowing the game’s one goal — but never got off the shot.
The second period ended like the first, with a 0-0 score and BU left to kill off the remainder of a penalty starting the next period. The Terriers got through that and then had a power play of their own, with Rodrigues getting the best chance on a one-time blast that Hellebuyck saved.
“[Hellebuyck has] been phenomenal,” Bazin said. “You don’t win a championship without a great goalie and he was spectacular. He was the difference tonight. His poise and his calm demeanor are by far his strongest assets.”
There was a heart-stopping moment at 3:15 when Lowell’s Scott Wilson launched senior Colin Wright for a breakaway, only to have the centerman hit the post. It would have only been Wright’s second goal of the season.
After the earlier close calls on wraparounds for Maguire, the River Hawks finally scored on one. Arnold got Maguire down and then raced around the goal line for a shot that went off of Maguire’s stick before going in for the overdue first goal.
“It was just kind of a broken play,” Arnold said. “Maguire came out a little too much and I saw some daylight and went with the wraparound.”
That set the stage for a frenetic finish.
With Maguire pulled, BU stormed the River Hawks’ zone. Terriers were flailing all over the place, desperately trying to tie the game to continue their season and their coach’s career. The puck criss-crossed the zone but never found the net and the Jack Parker Era came to an end.
“We knew we had to play a perfect game to beat them and we almost did,” BU senior captain Wade Megan said.
During the final handshakes, Arnold managed to get a hearty laugh out of Parker despite scoring the goal that ended the coaching legend’s career. Asked about it, Parker said, “He said he wished he played for me. I told him that I wished he did, too.”
Parker emphasized that BU’s season didn’t come to an end because of how they played tonight. It was the team’s dismal stretch in January and February, when they lost several games to teams with losing records in Harvard, Massachusetts and Northeastern.
“There are teams in the national tournament that aren’t as good as us right now, but the reason that we aren’t is because we had a dip in the middle of the year,” Parker said. “There were four or five losses that we’d really like to have back when we weren’t playing well.”