UMass Lowell battles, but comes up just short against Denver – Lowell Sun

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Seldom has a puck which never even hit the back of the net inflicted so much pain.

Major underdogs to the highest scoring team in the nation, and playing in unfriendly territory, a valiant UMass Lowell team fell 3-2 to Denver when Cameron Wright tipped an aerial pass from Carter Mazur past Owen Savory with 2:57 left in regulation in an NCAA West Regional opening round game Thursday night in Loveland, Colo.

Savory got most of the puck, but it trickled into the net, ending a terrific season for UML (21-11-3) in the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017.

“We didn’t feel the odds were stacked against us. We took it as a challenge. I thought we played a great game. They were just one goal better than us,” UML senior captain Lucas Condotta said.

The River Hawks held Denver, the region’s top seed, to 28 shots and blocked 19 shots, a testament to their fight. But an outstanding individual play by Wright was the difference. Wright got behind Nick Austin and used one hand to redirect a Mazur pass that was about four feet off the ice.

UML (21-11-3), which received goals from Condotta and Connor Sodergren, was held to 18 shots.

Playing 50 miles from its campus, Denver (28-9-1) advances to face Minnesota Duluth, a 3-0 winner over Michigan Tech, in the regional final.

“I think it was a really good hockey game. I thought both teams had their opportunities,” UML head coach Norm Bazin said. “As far as my team, I liked the effort. I thought the guys left it all on the ice.”

Wright’s goal was the biggest play in a wild third period.

The third period began tied 1-1. It was a rollercoaster ride and, in the end, the River Hawks were left to wonder what could have been.

Carter Savoie gave Denver a 2-1 lead at 9:26 when he nestled a sizzling wrist shot into the top left corner past Savory with the teams playing 4-on-4.

UMass Lowell was essentially given a three-minute power-play when Brett Stapley was given a five-minute penalty, and ejected from the game, for butt-ending Sodergren. In a major turning point, the River Hawks failed to generate any good scoring chances, squandering a huge opportunity.

Bazin said the loss of junior Brian Chambers, who was injured in the second period and did not return, was felt on the power play.

“There’s no excuses. You’d like to have done a better job,” Bazin said.

Still, the River Hawks refused to go down quietly.

Matt Crasa passed to his left to senior defenseman Jon McDonald, who kicked it in front to Sodergren, who shoveled a shot past Magnus Chrona with 5:39 left in regulation.

The fans, most cheering on Denver, were on the edge of their seats before Wright’s one-handed deflection broke past Savory.

The River Hawks got off to a terrific start. They were physical, they were quick to pucks, and they took a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Marek Korencik, who sent a shot off a post just 33 seconds in, carried the puck into the right faceoff circle. The puck dribbled to Reid Stefanson who, with his back to the play, sent a pass to Condotta at the bottom of the right faceoff circle.

Condotta one-timed the pass inside the left post behind Chrona at the 9:42 mark. It was Condotta’s 10th goal of the season and 24th of his career.

UML killed off a penalty to Ben Meehan, as Savory made two saves, but Denver tied it at 18:36 when a Justin Lee wrist shot was tipped in by Stapley, who fought off the check of Chambers near the left post.

Each team had eight shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.

Neither team was able to score in the middle period, though there was plenty of action and close calls.

There were three penalties called in the period – all on UMass Lowell – as Brehdan Engum, Meehan and Austin were sent to the penalty box. But the River Hawks killed off all of them and held Denver to just 17 shots through two periods.

Denver almost broke on top when a shot clanked off the inside of the left post while the Pioneers were on their fourth power play. The puck squirted past Savory and was heading toward the goal line when McDonald backhanded it into the corner.

With about 12 minutes left in the period, UML was all over Denver. Condotta and defenseman Isac Jonsson were among those who had quality bids as the Pioneers scrambled all over their defensive zone.

Chambers crawled off the ice after being injured along the boards.

“Obviously a great win for us. I want to commend Norm and his staff for the year that they had and the game plan that they had against us. They didn’t make it easy,” Denver head coach David Carle said. “It was a really challenging game.”

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