BOSTON -- And now, there are four.
Welcome inside TD Garden for Friday at the 31st annual Hockey East Championship. UMass Lowell and Vermont are set for a 5 p.m. puck drop in tonight’s opening semifinal.
Both sides are not guaranteed for any more hockey beyond this evening as they are two of the first three teams on the wrong side of the red line in the PairWise Rankings. Despite the fact, both teams enter the weekend at or above the 20-win plateau for the season.
With a win and a tie against UVM to conclude the regular season on Feb. 27-28, the two-time defending conference champion River Hawks clinched fourth place and the final home-ice slot for the quarterfinal round. UML is looking to become only the second team in Hockey East history to win three consecutive tournament championships, joining Boston College from 2010-12.
All-Rookie selection C.J. Smith paced the River Hawks’ three-game series win over Notre Dame last weekend, getting them started in Friday’s 5-0 shutout and in a four-goal first period en route to a 6-4 win in the deciding third game which ensured UML its third straight trip to the Garden. Sunday's game saw senior captain Zack Kamrass score twice from the blue line.
Junior Kevin Boyle made 21 saves to open last weekend’s series as the River Hawks became the first team in conference playoff history to pitch three consecutive shutouts. A goal 11:45 into the second period of Saturday’s 4-2 Irish win ended a 233:59 shutout streak.
The Catamounts pulled off an upset of third-seeded Boston College, earning 3-1 and 1-0 wins in the final two games of their quarterfinal series. Junior Brody Hoffman made 87 saves of the 88 shots he faced after relieving sophomore Mike Santaguida facing a 4-0 deficit less than 25 minutes into Friday's game.
Rookie Jarrid Privitera's goal 2:53 into the third period turned out to be Sunday's only goal, ousting BC from Hockey East title contention for a second straight year and lifting UVM to the Garden for the first time in five years with a win in their sixth postseason game.
UVM, which finished off its second straight 20-win season by beating Maine in the first round, is looking for its second-ever conference postseason win against Lowell as the teams meet beyond the quarterfinal round for the first time.
Here are tonight’s lines:
Brendan Bradley - Jake Fallon - Brady Shaw
Trey Phillips - Colin Markison - Mike Stenerson
Anthony Petruzzelli - Jonathan Turk - Kevin Irwin
Travis Blanleil - Rob Darrar - Jarrid Privitera
Alexx Privitera - Mike Paliotta
Yvan Pattyn -
Rob Hamilton - Ori Abramson
RIVER HAWKS (20-11-6)
Ryan McGrath - Robert Francis - Adam Chapie
A.J. White - Michael Fallon - Michael Louria
C.J. Smith - Joe Gambardella - John Edwardh
Jake Kamrass - Michael Colantone - Terrence Wallin
Zack Kamrass - Tyler Mueller
Tommy Panico - Jake Suter
Dylan Zink - Michael Kapla