Triple overtime and the ninth longest game in NCAA hockey history.
“It was a great couple of games out there.” UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin joked at the post game press conference.
It truly was a historical night at the TD Garden as off the skate of AJ White, the UMass Lowell River Hawks advanced to their fourth straight Hockey East championship.
In a review of the goal that felt nearly as long as the three overtimes themselves, eventually the deflection off the skate of White was ruled a good goal as the River Hawks took the 2-1 marathon victory.
“It’s a gray area in our game,” said Providence head coach Nate Leaman of the goal. “I think half the coaches in our league would watch that and say it was a kicking motion and half would say no way.”
The game was full of “firsts” and “longests,” as it was the longest goal in the history of UMass Lowell hockey and the second-longest Hockey East playoff game ever.
As far as the firsts? Early on in the game, about four hours before it ended, it was the first career goal for Vincent Desharnais.
The scoring got started in the first game when Desharnais, the freshman 6’6 defenseman for the Friars, fired a wrist shot from the blue line. Kevin Boyle, the Lowell goaltender, was completely screened and didn’t see the puck by the time it was past him.
Lowell struggled to generate offense early on in the contest, just getting off two shots on net midway through the first period. The River Hawks finally got on the board as the team’s leading scorer CJ Smith found the back of the net.
It was a goaltender’s dual throughout, with Boyle coming up with saves on Providence chances in front, deflecting pucks into the boards and to safety. Nick Ellis, who has been one of the best goaltenders in the country as of late, swallowed any shots that came his way in the second period. Boyle continued to cover up and prevent rebounds from Providence, and he ended the night with 58 saves, the Desharnais goal his only blemish.
From there, the night was back and forth. Almost anything one could imagine would occur, except the puck finding the back of the net. Odd man rushes and breakouts resulted in kick saves from the goaltenders or hit crossbars.
Jake Kamrass had the best chance of the third period but couldn’t get it past Ellis. It went to the first overtime, where both teams were even, and it was in the second overtime where the Friars dominated with a 12-4 shots advantage.
It took almost two entire games for the River Hawks to finally come out on top. In an odd man rush for the River Hawks, White pulled up short of the net and the puck deflected off of his stick and across the goal line.
The game saw just one minor penalty in the entire marathon, a second period hooking minor against Providence’s Conor MacPhee. A clean game throughout, it remained a five-on-five battle. Providence finished with more shots than Lowell, 59-44. Providence also won 59 faceoffs to 54 from the River Hawks.
The River Hawks head to their fourth straight Hockey East championship game and look to win their third in four years. Lowell’s opponent will be Northeastern.