MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Two of the hottest teams in college hockey faced off when Wisconsin (22-13-7) and UMass Lowell (27-10-2) took the ice in the Northeast Regional semifinal of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Manchester, N.H., on Friday night.
The Badgers entered having gone 21-5-5 since Nov. 30, while the River Hawks were 25-5-1 since the same date. Each came in playing its best hockey at the right time, and both had aspirations of riding that success deep into the tournament.
One team’s postseason dreams would come to an abrupt end, however.
The journey came to end for Wisconsin, as the Badgers fell to UMass Lowell by a score of 6-1 inside the Verizon Wireless Center during the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers entered the game having won six straight games, while outscoring their opponents by a margin of 24-to-11, but were held to just one third-period power-play goal by Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.).
Holding a 7-to-1 advantage in odd-man rushes, six different River Hawks scored for UMass Lowell, which posted two goals in the second period and three scores over the final frame to seal the five-goal win.
It was the first time all season that the Badgers had lost by a margin of more than three goals. Coming in, 15 of Wisconsin’s last 22 games had been decided by one goal or less, with the Badgers going 10-3-2 in those contests.
The scoring opportunities were there for the Badgers, who outshot the River Hawks by a margin of 32-to-26.
Standing in the way throughout was UMass Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who recorded 31 saves and earned his 19th win of the season (19-2-0). The freshman shut down a number Wisconsin scoring chances and stretched a recent shutout streak he had been riding to 157 minutes of play, until it was finally snapped in the third period on Kerdiles’ tally.
Joel Rumpel (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) stood in net for Wisconsin and entered 8-1-0 after starting the last nine games, but allowed five goals on 25 shots to fall to 16-9-4 on the season.
Joseph Pendenza got the River Hawks on the board first, scoring the lone goal of the first period at the 7:11 mark. Bringing the puck down the left wing, the junior forward used a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot to beat Rumpel and give UMass Lowell the 1-0 lead.
The River Hawks tacked on two more scores with a pair of rushes in the second period. Taking a feed from Scott Wilson after beating the Badger defense back to the defensive zone, Christian Folin scored and extended the UMass Lowell lead to 2-0. Shayne Thompson added another at the 14:08 mark, as he chipped a shot past Rumpel and made the lead 3-0 lead.
Wisconsin gave itself a chance in the third period, as Kerdiles turned and fired the puck into traffic, sneaking the score past Hellebuyck with Woods screening. Assisted by Joseph LaBate (Burnsville, Minn.) and senior captain John Ramage (St. Louis), the Badgers cut the UMass Lowell lead to 3-1 at the 8:19 mark.
The goal extended Kerdiles’ point-scoring streak to 12 consecutive games (5-14=19), as the longest point streak by any Badger this season fueled the freshman forward to his 33rd point in his 32 games played.
Derek Arnold answered back for UMass Lowell at 13:56. After UMass Lowell blocked a shot, they skated back the other way on a two-on-one, with Ryan McGrath feeding Arnold, who scored past Rumpel to push the lead back to 4-1.
The River Hawks added a pair scores in the final minute, as Adam Chapie scored unassisted on an empty net with 48 seconds left, then McGrath beat Rumpel on a late power-play breakaway with three seconds left to finish off the 6-1 win for UMass Lowell.
After claiming the WCHA Final Five title and Broadmoor Trophy for the first time since 1998, Wisconsin finished the 2012-13 campaign with its third 20-win season in four years and a 22-13-7 record.