UMass Lowell set for Hockey East playoff clash with UConn

0 105

LOWELL — To get to the place they want to be, they’ll have to win in a place they’ve never been to.

A win and they’ll reach the Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden in Boston. A loss and their 2022-23 season will end.

A lot will be on the line Saturday (4 p.m.) when fifth-seeded UMass Lowell (17-14-3) clashes with fourth-seeded UConn (20-11-3) in a quarterfinal winner-take-all game at the Toscano Family Ice Forum in Storrs, Conn.

The River Hawks have never played at the 2,600-seat facility, which opened in January. UConn is 4-1 in its new on-campus home.

UMass Lowell will practice Friday at the new arena, testing out the boards and seeing how fast the ice is.

“It’s exciting for the guys,” UML head coach Norm Bazin said. “They’re very similar to us. I think it’s the most parity I’ve seen (in Hockey East) in my 12 years. It’s one and done. The team that makes a play at the right time is probably going to win so you’ve got to be loose.”

The River Hawks continue to be a stingy team to play against, although they are coming off a 7-3 loss to Northeastern, their worst of the season.

Graduate student Gustavs Davis Grigals (2.15 goals against average) and Henry Welsch (2.25 GAA) have split time in goal for much of the season, although Grigals played more down the stretch.

Senior Carl Berglund (12-15-27) leads the team in scoring, followed by senior Brian Chambers (8-11-19), graduate student defenseman Jon McDonald (3-16-19) and sophomore defenseman Isac Jonsson (5-12-17).

UMass Lowell senior forward Brian Chambers and the River Hawks can advance to play in Boston in a Hockey East semifinal by defeating UConn on the road Saturday. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/UMass Lowell Athletics)

“It’s exciting to play in a new rink,” said McDonald, who’s played before his share of hostile environments in his 143 games at UML. “It will make a playoff atmosphere even better. As long as we buy into our system, our process, then we’re a really good team. Obviously the atmosphere is a lot more tense.

“We’ve been trying to get into the playoff mentality the last couple of weeks. For us it’s just a matter of being attentive to details and sticking together,” he said. “You want to be playing your best hockey. We’re going to have to play hard and we’re going to have to play strong.”

UConn is a formidable opponent. The Huskies feature three players with 30 or more points – freshman Matthew Wood (11-22-33), junior Hudson Schandor (11-21-32) and junior Ryan Tverberg (15-15-30). In net, much like UML, the Huskies have split time in goal between freshman Arsenii Sergeev (2.64 GAA) and sophomore Logan Terness (2.53 GAA). Both have a .913 save percentage.

“They’re a heavy team,” Berglund said of the Huskies. “It’s a very good matchup, I’d say. We’ve just got to get back to how we played Friday.”

Berglund is referring to UML’s 3-1 win in which the River Hawks held high-powered Northeastern to 18 shots.

UML and UConn split games Nov. 18-19.

In the first game in Lowell, Berglund scored in overtime to lift the River Hawks to a 3-2 victory. The next day, at the XL Center in Hartford, the Huskies won 4-2. An empty net goal with less than a second left provided the two-goal margin. In that game, UML held a wide 39-26 shots advantage and played one of its better road games of the season.

The River Hawks are 6-8-1 on the road this season.

For many, a loss Saturday will mean the end of their college careers. Chambers says a playoff game brings added pressure.

“But we’re going to take it like it’s a game,” he said.

Stay loose. Have fun. But played determined, playoff hockey. A win Saturday would propel the River Hawks to Boston for the second year in a row.

By finishing in the top five, UML avoided playing in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re excited to be playing in the next round of the playoffs,” Bazin said. “You have to be playing your best hockey at this time of the year and that’s all we’re concerned about.”

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.