Junior captain Riley Wetmore (Swanton, Vt.) poked through a rebound in the 63rd minute of play on Friday night to win UMass Lowell's first NCAA Tournament game since 1996, defeating Miami University, 4-3, in overtime.
The River Hawks improved to 24-12-1 overall on the year and moves onto the NCAA East Region Championship on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. against Union at the Webster Bank Arena. The RedHawks fell to 24-15-2 as their season came to an end; Miami has now had its season ended by a Hockey East program for the seventh consecutive season.
UMass Lowell burst out of the gate with a power play goal just 1:34 into the game, on the heels of a roughing call on Miami University. Freshman Scott Wilson (Oakville, Ont.) kept in a clearing attempt by the RedHawks and dished across the ice to classmate Terrence Wallin (Yardley, Pa.) at the bottom of the faceoff circle. Wallin's hard shot rang off the cross bar and bounced wide, but sophomore Josh Holmstrom (Colorado Springs, Colo.) batted the rebound out of the air for his 12th goal of the season. Holmstrom scored the first NCAA Tournament goal for the River Hawks in 16 years.
Moments later, UMass Lowell nearly expanded the lead to 2-0. Senior Matt Ferreira (Brampton, Ont.) knocked in a rebound on a Joseph Pendenza (Wilmington, Mass.) shot, but the goaltender was interfered with, causing a referee reversal upon review.
Undeterred, the River Hawks captured a two-goal lead before the first period was over. Killing off a Miami power play, junior Colin Wright (Burlington, Ont.) poked a pass into neutral ice and beat his man to the loose puck. Wright scooped the puck, walked in alone on the goaltender and slid the shot through the five-hole at 14:58.
The goals kept coming in the second period as UMass Lowell snatched a 3-0 lead on an odd-man rush at 2:21. Senior David Vallorani (Hamilton, Ont.) carried along the far wall, drawing the defense to his side. As the River Hawks approached the faceoff circles, Vallorani centered a pass for Wetmore who beat Connor Knapp (York, N.Y.) with a shot off the right post and in for his 13th goal.
The RedHawks wouldn't go without a fight, scoring their first goal of the night at 3:06 into the third period. Collecting a loose puck in the UMass Lowell zone, Trent Vogelhuber (Dublin, Ohio) ripped a shot through traffic and into the net.
The momentum swing continued as Miami scored a breakaway goal just 14 seconds later to cut the lead to 3-2. Austin Czarnik (Washington, Mich.) disrupted a pass and split a pair of River Hawk defensemen in neutral ice to start the breakaway. Czarnik carried to UMass Lowell's net and scored with a soft back-hander at 3:20.
The River Hawk lead was completely erased midway through the third as Miami scored on a 3-on-2 rush. Carrying along the near side, Alden Hirschfeld (Sylvania, Ohio) skated all the way to the crease and snuck a back-handed shot past goaltender Doug Carr (Hanover, Mass.) at 9:56 into the third.
The RedHawks nearly captured the lead at 15:02 into the third on a breakaway by Cody Murphy (Highwood, Ill.). The rookie forward fired a shot from 10-feet out that was snagged with the glove of Carr.
The night took a turn for the worse when rookie Jake Suter (Lac du Flambeau, Wisc.) was whistled for a five-minute major and game misconduct at 16:25, putting UMass Lowell on the penalty kill for the remainder of regulation and the start of overtime. The River Hawks withstood an onslaught from Miami over the final 3:35 of regulation and even managed a pair of short-handed shots on goal before the horn.
The RedHawks kept on the pressure, nearly ending the game early in the overtime while still on the power play as they hit the cross bar on a one-timer.
With the penalty killed off, UMass Lowell went back on the hunt. Vallorani dished to sophomore Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) in the neutral zone and he fired the puck on net. Miami kicked out the shot, but Wetmore was there to stick the puck across the goal line to win the game.
Improving to 22-9-1 on the season, Carr made 30 stops in over 62 minutes of action that included several heart stopping saves in the closing moments of regulation. The RedHawks' Knapp turned away 26-of-30 shots while falling to 15-8-0 overall.
UMass Lowell improved to 3-3-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
UMass-Lowell head coach Norm Bazin's postgame video reaction (YouTube)
UMass-Lowell forward Riley Wetmore's postgame video reaction (YouTube)
UMass-Lowell forward Colin Wright's postgame video reaction (YouTube)
UMass-Lowell goaltender Doug Carr's postgame video reaction (YouTube)