by Joshua Kummins
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Junior captain Riley Wetmore jammed home a rebound goal on the post for his second of the game, playing hero for the No. 13 UMass-Lowell River Hawks in Friday’s 4-3 victory over the No. 7 Miami RedHawks in the NCAA East Regional Semifinals at Webster Bank Arena.
With the Swanton, Vt. native’s winning goal, the RedHawks’ season ends at the hands of a Hockey East team for the seventh straight year. Head coach Enrico Blasi’s squad finishes the season with a 24-15-2 record.
“Obviously, we’re excited to get an opportunity to play in the championship game,” UML first-year head coach Norm Bazin said. “It was a goal of ours, and we’re realizing that now. It should make for another very exciting day tomorrow.”
The win sends the River Hawks onto the regional final against Union on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. Neither team has before reached a Frozen Four, so this year’s field will surely have at least one first-time participant.
Four of those Miami tournament losses came at the hands of Boston College, while Boston University made an improbable comeback to beat the RedHawks for the 2009 national title.
With the victory, UML captures its first NCAA Tournament win since defeating first-round host Michigan State under head coach Bruce Crowder in 1996.
The River Hawks jumped out to score the game’s first three goals in just 22:21, including a shorthanded break by junior Colin Wright at 14:58 of the opening stanza. Wetmore scored his first of the contest and 13th of the season, beating UM senior Connor Knapp 2:21 into the second on a puck that clanked off the post and into the net.
Miami came storming back with three even-strength scores in the third period — all in a span of just under seven minutes.
The equalizing goal came at 9:56 of the final stanza as senior captain Alden Hirschfeld beat UML netminder and Massachusetts native Doug Carr on the blocker side for the third time in the contest.
Carr finished the contest with an even 30 saves as the Hanover native improved to 22-9-1.
The sophomore was the lone reason the River Hawks remained in the game through the middle and end of the third period, making several amazing stops on a five-minute major penalty kill to keep Miami from jumping ahead for the first time toward the end of regulation.
UML’s defense was very solid in keeping RedHawk junior sniper Reilly Smith off the scoreboard as his ten-game point streak was broken in the defeat.
Knapp finishes his final collegiate campaign with a solid 26-save effort, which included ten saves in the third period and overtime. The New York native took just his eighth loss of the season in the contest.