The Notre Dame Fighting Irish knew they would have a tough test in facing the second-seeded UMass-Lowell River Hawks in the opening Hockey East semifinal game on Friday afternoon at TD Garden.
The Irish had lost a pair of regular season games to the River Hawks in November by 1-0 and 3-1 scores with Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebucyk stopping 74-of-75 shots in that sweep.
Well, the Irish still haven’t solved Hellebuyck as the River Hawks’ goaltender stopped all 35 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season against Notre Dame, as he blanked the Irish, 4-0, to send UMass-Lowell into the Hockey East Championship game on Saturday against the winner of the Providence College – New Hampshire semifinal.
The first team all-Hockey East selection finished the season stopping 109-of-110 shots against Notre Dame in three games.
The River Hawks got single goals from Christian Folin, Derek Arnold, Evan Campbell and Zack Kamrass in the win. The Irish outshot UMass-Lowell, 35 to 22 with Steven Summerhays making 18 saves in the Notre Dame goal.
The loss drops the #8/#10 Irish to 23-14-2 on the season and they will now wait for Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show on ESPNU at noon to see where their season will continue next week. UMass-Lowell, ranked seventh in each poll, goes to 24-10-4 on the year and will play for the Hockey East Championship on Saturday.
The Irish got off to a slow start in the opening period as they couldn’t seem to get started against the River Hawks stifling defense that seemed to frustrate the Notre Dame attack.
“It was definitely frustrating tonight,” said Irish alternate captain T.J. Tynan.
“I thought they played a great game. Giving up two goals like that was frustrating, but you have to give them credit. Even though we got off to a sluggish start, they played tight defense all night.”
Tynan added, “I thought we were ready and I thought we were focused. I’m not sure why it was but against a team like that you can’t get off to a sluggish start.”
UMass-Lowell opened the scoring at 10:13 of the opening period when Folin’s shot from the right point went off Irish defenseman Kevin Lind’s skate and deflected past Steven Summerhays to make it a 1-0 game.
Less than four minutes later, the River Hawks built the lead to 2-0 when Arnold whipped a wrist shot from the right circle over Summerhays’ glove for his 11th of the season for a two-goal lead after one period.
“Lowell did a great job and they always do through the neutral zone. That’s where the game was really determined,” said head coach Jeff Jackson.
“I thought we made some mistakes at both blue lines that cost us. That’s something that we’ve been pretty good at over the last month but we weren’t as sharp as T.J. (Tynan) said. They obviously deserve a lot of credit for the way they played too.”
UMass-Lowell took advantage of a pair of power plays to make it 4-0 after two periods.
With David Gerths off for holding at 3:16 of the second period, the River Hawks made it 3-0 just 19 seconds into the penalty as Campbell was in the right place at the right time at the top of the crease to stuff a rebound past Summerhays for his eighth goal of the year.
Folin started the play with a low, hard wrist shot from the left point that Scott Wilson deflected in front. Summerhays made the stop on the deflection and then stopped a Wilson rebound attempt put Campbell was there to put the third chance past the Notre Dame netminder to make it a 3-0 game.
The River Hawks made it 4-0 with their second power-play goal of the game at 13:21 with the help of another Irish defender’s skate. Eric Johnson went off for interference at 12:21 and Kamrass would get the goal as he skated down the left wing boards and threw the puck in front looking for a deflection. The puck would go off of Stephen Johns in front past Summerhays to give Kamrass the unassisted goal, his third of the season.
In the third period, it was all about Hellebucyk as he held the Irish at bay, making 15 of his 35 saves in the final period to preserve the win.
“There (UMass-Lowell) is a lot about their balance,” said Jackson.
“They have four lines. They all play the same way. They had last change and matched up pretty tight. I thought they made good decisions with the puck. A couple of the goals went off of us. That happened earlier in the year but hasn’t happened in recent weeks. They got traffic to the net and that’s what happens. We didn’t get the same kind of traffic to the net.”
Notre Dame had just one power-play chance in the game and was 0-for-1. The River Hawks had three chances and scored twice. Six of Lowell’s eight goals against the Irish this season came on the power as the River Hawks finished the year going 6-for-12 with the man-advantage against Notre Dame.
** The shutout marked the third time this season that Notre Dame was shutout with UMass-Lowell doing it twice. Northeastern had the other one. The Irish had eight shutouts on the season to date.
** Since beating Maine on Feb. 8, 2-1, Notre Dame is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games.
** The last time Notre Dame lost in the conference semifinals, the Irish went on to advance to the Frozen Four and that came in 2011. They have 11 players still on the roster that played on that team that won the NCAA Northeast Regional before falling to Minnesota-Duluth in the Frozen Four.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 3 - F#8/#10 Notre Dame (23-14-2) 0 0 0 - 0#7/#7 UMass-Lowell (24-10-4) 2 2 0 - 4
1st Period: UML: Christian Folin 6 (A.J. White, Joe Pendenza), 10:13; UML: Derek Arnold 11 (Zack Kamrass), 13:54.
Penalties: ND: 0 for 0 minutes; UML: 0 for 0 minutes.
2nd Period: UML: Evan Campbell 8 (Scott Wilson, Folin), PPG, 3:35; UML: Kamrass 3 (unassisted), PPG, 13:21.
Penalties: ND: 3 for 6 minutes; UML: 1 for 2 minutes.
3rd Period: No Scoring.
Penalties: ND: 0 for 0 minutes; UML: 0 for 0 minutes.
Shots On Goal:Notre Dame 10 - 11 - 15 - 35Massachusetts-Lowell 9 - 10 - 3 - 22
Goaltender Saves:ND: Steven Summerhays (60:00) 7 - 8 - 3 - 18UML: Connor Hellebuyck (60:00) 10 - 11 - 15 - 35
Power Plays:ND: 0 for 1UML: 1 for 3