BOSTON, Mass. – For the third time in five years, the No. 4 UMass Lowell Hockey team (26-10-3, 14-7-1 HEA) was crowned the Hockey East Tournament Champions after defeating No. 14 Boston College (21-14-4, 13-6-3 HEA), 4-3, Saturday night at the TD Garden in front of 12,309 fans.
Junior forward C.J. Smith (Des Moines, Iowa) was named the Hockey East Championship Most Valuable Player after boasting four points (2g, 2a) on the weekend in two games.
Smith, senior teammates Joe Gambardella (Staten Island, N.Y.) and Michael Kapla (Eau Claire, Wis.) and freshman goaltender Tyler Wall (Leamington, Ont.) were also named to the Hockey East All-Tournament Team.
“Wow, wow,” said Head Coach Norm Bazin. “It is such a relief, the guys bent in the third period but they didn’t break. I am very, very proud of this group. I have two great players sitting besides me now, but there are another 18 guys in the locker room right now that I am very proud of. It’s been an excellent year, I said it before, the 22-game regular season is brutal in Hockey East and anybody can beat anybody. To beat Boston College three times in one year is a great feat, and I would like to congratulate them on a great season.”
Smith gave the River Hawks the early 1-0 lead when his wrist shot run top shelf for his 22 goal of the year just 66 seconds into the first period.
Nearly six minutes later Boston College’s Austin Cangelosi got the Eagles on the board with a poke at 5:31. After a UMass Lowell penalty left the Eagles on a power play, Cangelosi snuck one past Wall to net the 1-1 equalizer.
With a score at 12:06, UMass Lowell grabbed their second lead of the contest, 2-1, thanks to junior defenseman Chris Forney (Thief River Falls, Minn.). A perfect through pass from Smith to the blue line set up Forney for his career-high fourth goal of the season.
The back-and-forth battle continued as Boston College found away to knot the score once again with two minutes remaining in the period. After causing a turnover, Graham McPhee finished his break away with a back hand over the glove of Wall as the teams were tied 2-2 after two minutes of play.
The second period was all UMass Lowell, as the squad posted the only two goals of the period from junior forward John Edwardh (Calgary, Alberta) Gambardella. Edwardh broke the stalemate with a power play goal at 10:05, after linemates Gambardella and Smith set up the play. Gambardella later netted the eventual game winner with a shot sided insurance goal for the 4-2 edge.
The line of Edwardh, Gambardella and Smith combined for seven points (3g, 4a) in the contest to record their 134th point on the year. In 36 games together, the trio has been held off the score sheet just twice this season.
The Eagles got one back to cut the deficit to 4-3 with 2:45 remaining. After pulling its goaltender, Boston College made the most of their extra man opportunity with a poke by Ryan Fitzgerald.
UMass Lowell would go on to hold their opponent scoreless for the remainder of the third period, securing its title as the 2017 Hockey East Champions.
Wall recorded 38 saves en route to his 25th win of the season. His 25 wins ranks first in the nation among freshman goaltenders.
With the Hockey East’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the River Hawks will await their Regional location and opponent during Sunday’s selection show at 12 p.m. on ESPNU.