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Minutemen first on 'Cats list

http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080313/SPORTS/803130363/1007

DURHAM - Shakespeare himself couldn't have penned a more appropriate symbol.

It was Jan. 12, and in the moments following a 5-3 Wildcat win, the hockey clubs from the universities of Massachusetts and New Hampshire met at center ice, shook hands, and shuffled toward their respective locker room. One team headed in one direction, the other in another.

Literally, and figuratively.

Since leaving the Whittemore Center that night, New Hampshire has emerged from its mire as an inconsistent, middle-of-the-road team to become Hockey East champs. Massachusetts, meanwhile, has descended from a No. 5 national ranking to needing two wins last week just to make the league tournament.

But those two divergent roads intersect once again at the Whit tomorrow night, when the Wildcats open a postseason full of promise by hosting the eighth-seeded Minutemen in a best-of-three conference quarterfinal series.

"I think it's definitely going to be the toughest first-

round matchup I've seen since we've been here," said UNH goalie Kevin Regan. "They're a very good team."

But starting with that home-and-home sweep of Massachusetts, the Wildcats have gone 12-2-2 since Jan. 11, and conversely, it's been the Minutemen who are 5-11-1 over that same span. However, New Hampshire is hardly banking on this being an easy series.

UMass gained a bit of momentum near the end of the season, closing with a three-game winning streak to clinch the final playoff spot, and it's not as though the Minutemen need to be convinced they can compete with the 'Cats.

The last five meetings between the teams have been as close as can be, with Massachusetts scoring victories of 3-0 and 4-1, and making New Hampshire earn every point it received.

Last year the two met in the Hockey East semifinals and it took two overtimes before the top-ranked Wildcats escaped with a 3-2 win, and even in January the victories didn't come easy. In the first, UNH needed to battle back from a two-goal deficit while killing three successive penalties near the start of the third; and in the second, it was a 2-2 game before the Wildcats struck for three quick scores in the middle period.

"When we played them, they were (No.) 5 in the country and they definitely gave us some close games," Regan said. "We were down 2-1, in the third period, in their rink, and all of a sudden we come away with four points. I honestly thought they would be one of the top two or three teams in Hockey East this year with the way they played."

Instead, that set sparked the surge for UNH and the spiral for UMass, which then went winless in seven straight skates. They've continued to receive steady contributions from freshmen James Marcou (32 points) and Paul Dainton (.914 save percentage), though the Minutemen were worst on both ends in the second half, and once the swoon started it was hard to recreate the conditions that had created such great expectations.

"I think the expectations were a bit too high as to what we really might be before going through a complete season," said UMass Coach Don Cahoon. "There was a lot of talk around here about the possibility of being a Frozen Four team after the Christmas break - too much talk - before we really knew what we were."

Now has come the time to find out who they are. And whose road leads to Boston.

No. 2 Boston University vs. No. 7 Umass-Lowell

Not long ago, this matchup seemed more likely to be staged at Tsongas Arena, with the teams holding opposite seeds.

After all, as the calendar flipped to 2008, Lowell was sporting a spiffy 9-4-4 mark and had the momentum of winning a holiday tournament that also included Maine and Cornell. BU, meanwhile, had won just five of its first 17 games (5-10-2), and seen both its captain and leading scorer among four suspended for violating curfew.

But since the start of February, order has been restored. The Terriers will host a quarterfinal series for the fourth straight year thanks to 10 wins in 12 skates, with the River Hawks traveling for the 11th time in 12 seasons after closing the regular campaign with a 4-7 stretch.

"As late as the middle of January, I was wondering if we were going to make the playoffs," said BU Coach Jack Parker, "and we certainly didn't have a shot of making the national tournament. Home ice was probably out of the question.

"We've come back from the dead, so to speak, and hopefully we take advantage of that in the second season."

Paced by Bryan Ewing and Pete MacArthur - Hockey East's two highest scorers in league play - the BU offense continued to produce prolifically. But the real reason for the turnaround resides at the other end of the ice.

Before February, the Terriers were allowing 3.5 goals per game; since, they've cut that in half (1.75), with goalies Brett Bennett and Karson Gillespie combining for four shutouts in their last seven games.

They'll split the duties this weekend, while Carter Hutton has the important task of manning the cage at the other end. A Lowell offense led by 16-tally scorer Kory Falite has been solid all year, but the Hawks have given up 53 goals in 15 losses - and 24 scores in 15 wins. So, especially against the league's top attack, success could hinge on Hutton.

"We have a lot of confidence going into the playoffs," said Lowell Coach Blaise MacDonald. "We're a very young team. We need to be just fast and loose - almost reckless in our approach - but yet have that underbelly of confidence that we all need to do what we're capable to doing."

No. 3 Vermont vs. No. 6 Northeastern

Just like the two teams seeded ahead of it, Vermont soars into the tournament riding a wave of momentum. And just like the three other road clubs this weekend, Northeastern is looking to rediscover mojo-gone-missing.

By becoming the first team to beat New Hampshire in 13 contests, the Catamounts restored the confidence they'd accrued by losing just twice in 12 games that spanned January and February, and also stated themselves as legitimate threats to the league crown for the first time since joining the association in 2005-06.

In each of the two previous seasons, Vermont got off to a fast start - but failed as the season wore on. And each time they were eliminated in the conference quarterfinals.

This year, though, has taken the opposite track. It took the Catamounts 19 tries to reach five wins, and they didn't have a three-game winning streak until last month, but they kept their head above water long enough for senior goalie Joe Fallon to find the game that's made him second nationally in career shutouts.

And so now, with a sweep this weekend, they could keep their NCAA tourney hopes alive.

"I love the way our team is playing right now," said Coach Kevin Sneddon. "Our numbers don't wow you on the defensive side, or on the offensive side. So, it's really been a collective effort as a team in the second half to pull things together."

While Vermont was finding its way early, Northeastern was the team atop the standings. The Huskies didn't lose for 11 straight games - although after that streak was stopped they struggled.

Collecting only five wins in the final 18 games, a club that built its early success on defense has given up five goals or more six times since mid-January. But with Joe Vitale (eighth in scoring) a perpetual threat, and goalie Brad Thiessen showing signs of life again, Coach Greg Cronin isn't down on his team despite its difficulties.

"This is a goofy year," Cronin said. "Everyone has gone through that except one team, and that's UNH. Our challenge as a coaching staff between the Beanpot and right now is to get the guys believing in themselves again."

No. 4 Boston College vs. No. 5 Providence

Few would deny that Boston College is one of the league's most talented teams. But after Providence took two wins and a tie from the Eagles in the season set, this series has become the chic pick for a potential upset.

"We've played them three times this year and we've only scored six goals," said BC Coach Jerry York. "They have really shut down our offense, and that is one of the facets of our game that we'll have to address this weekend."

York said his team didn't generate many great chances against the Friars, but was also quick to credit goalie Tyler Sims, who was at his best against the Eagles this year. The senior stoned 100 shots over three starts, and while he was yanked in favor of Bow's Ryan Simpson on back-to-back nights last week, Providence Coach Tim Army believes a strong second half is a better measure of Sims's abilities.

"His mind is in a good spot," Army said, "and his focus is good."

It'll need to be, based on the quick, up-and-down series this is expected to be. BC has three of the conference's top seven scorers in Nathan Gerbe, Joe Whitney and Ben Smith, while Providence likes to press the issue with its quickness.

Deering's Jon Rheault typifies that approach, and is the team's leading scorer, while Matt Taormina had more points than any Hockey East defenseman, and Pierce Norton enjoyed a breakout season. The Friars can be prone to dry spells, and have been shutout six times, but it's their explosiveness that has the Eagles - and others - aware of what they can do.

"When you generally look at that four-five matchup, generally it's the most tenuous of all the matchups," York said. "We're healthy, we feel good about ourselves and we have a great deal of respect for the Friars."

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http://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/?id=3604234

The Manitoba Moose, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, announced they have signed defenceman Travis Ramsey to an amateur tryout contract.

Ramsey, 24, appeared in 32 games this past season with the University of Maine Black Bears of the NCAA's Hockey East Conference where he scored three goals and eight assists for 11 points and 26 penalty minutes.

The Lakewood, CA native served as captain of the squad for this past year and finished the season by scoring the overtime winning goal for the Black Bears in the season finale vs. University of Lowell March 8/08.

In his three seasons at Maine, Ramsey played in 130 games, scoring five goals and 23 assists for 28 points and 102 penalty minutes. He was named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team on two occasions - in 2006/07 and in 2004/05 - and was nominated for the Lowe's Senior CLASS award honoring dedication to the classroom, community, and competition.

He appeared in 129 consecutive games with the Black Bears, not missing a game since his freshman season.

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http://media.www.dailycollegian.com/media/storage/paper874/news/2008/03/13/Sports/Leaderer.Mass.Attacks.New.Ironman.Two.Freshman.Set.Marks-3266368.shtml

By: Jeremy Rice, Collegian Staff

Posted: 3/13/08

He rarely gets mentioned in the papers or on the stat sheets, but the Massachusetts hockey team's most reliable player is defenseman David Leaderer.

After playing in both games this weekend in a sweep of Merrimack, Leaderer set a new school record for most games played in a career, with 147. It's safe to say he will be adding at least two more to that mark this weekend, and will be playing for the chance to extend that mark with a pair of wins over first-place New Hampshire.

"David's an incredibly competitive player," UMass coach Don Cahoon said of the player he's coached in games more than anyone else. "His competitiveness has allowed him to be a fixture in our lineup since he's gotten here."

Leaderer, year-by-year, played 38, 36, 39 and now 34 games from the 2004-05 season to this Spring. His scoring totals are not great (10 goals, 23 assists), but he has brought more than just offense to the Minutemen.

"He came here with a feistiness that was attractive to us," Cahoon said. "He rarely takes a day off. You can pretty well depend every day on what you're going to get."

It was no surprise when Leaderer earned a spot as assistant captain in his senior year. His dependability has made him one of the foundations of the team in the locker room and on the ice.

"It doesn't surprise me that because he's so emotionally prepared, that he goes out there and does a real good job," Cahoon said. "And that keeps him from getting hurt because he's always mentally into it. And it doesn't surprise me that he's in the lineup every night because I know what to expect from him."

Rookies set the mark

At the beginning of this season, freshmen James Marcou and Paul Dainton stepped into big roles for the Minutemen with heavy expectations set, not necessarily on them, but on a team that came within a game of the Frozen Four the previous year.

With the 2006-07 regular season in the books, Marcou and Dainton have already left their marks on the UMass record books.

With at least two games remaining on the schedule, Marcou is three assists away from the freshman record at UMass, set by Warren Norris (1993-94) who recorded 27 helpers in the team's first year in action in nearly two decades.

Marcou said he hasn't really taken time to ponder his personal impact on UMass sports, saying he's just focused on New Hampshire this weekend, where the Mass Attack will need Marcou to continue to make plays.

"It's good to get a good start in my first year here," Marcou said. "It's good that we got into the playoffs. We want to know what it's like and get that experience. But we're looking to go far here, and we've got UNH coming up."

Goaltender Paul Dainton also set some impressive numbers in his first year in maroon and white.

Dainton set marks for saves (808), goals against average (2.45) and minutes played (1,860:47) as a freshman. Previously, Gabe Winer had played the most minutes (1,763) and saved the most shots (615) as a freshman in 2002-03. Mike Johnson had the best freshman goals-against average in his first year, with a 2.62 mark in 1998-99.

A year after Jon Quick had the best goaltending season in UMass history, the Minutemen found themselves with an empty net after Quick departed for professional hockey. Dainton won the goaltending position over sophomore Dan Meyers, and has a 12-12-6 record as a starter.

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http://www.dailycollegian.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=4475ac96-e92b-44e0-bee1-f213106f7e2a

By: Jeremy Rice, Collegian Staff

Posted: 3/13/08

Three months ago, I could have imagined writing this column with a much different angle. If you had asked me after the Massachusetts hockey team defeated New Hampshire, 4-1, in front of 5,756 fans on Dec. 8, if the Minutemen could repeat such a feat in the playoffs, I would have had two responses.

First, it would have to take place in Boston at the TD BankNorth Garden in either the semifinals or the Hockey East Championship, and second, yes, the Minutemen have the right type of talent - and enough of it - to outduel one of the nation's top teams.

Three weeks later, the Minutemen reinforced my opinion with impressive wins over Notre Dame and Colorado College in the Lightning College Hockey Classic.

Then the floor fell out from beneath the Mass Attack, who plummeted out of the national rankings and nearly hit the basement of Hockey East.

The Minutemen opened the 2008 portion of their schedule with consecutive losses to UNH, went winless in their first seven games after the break and were 2-11-1 before winning their final three games of the regular season.

No one had an explanation for what happened to a team many expected to at least match last year's success. Opposing coaches all said the same thing at post-game press conferences: no one knew why UMass wasn't winning, and everyone was surprised that they weren't.

Regardless of the whys and hows, the Minutemen began playing like they did for all of the 2007 calendar year right when they absolutely had to, beating a red-hot Boston University team with a convincing 5-1 victory at home and then sweeping Merrimack, as they should, in a home-and-home series this a past weekend.

Therefore it's hard to say what this team could do in Durham, N.H., this Friday, Saturday and possibly Sunday, because, really, they could do anything. It would not surprise me anymore to see the Mass Attack shock the Wildcats and win the first two games of the series than it would to see them get trounced and quickly sent packing.

The simple fact remains that UMass is good enough to beat New Hampshire, BU, Boston College or anyone else that's still standing in Hockey East. They proved that last fall, and other than a few losses to injuries, the roster hasn't changed.

The same group of guys that upended three straight Top 10 teams and moved to fifth in the nation won just five games during the second half of the season.

That said, the Minutemen still have the ability and the playmakers to make this weekend a very difficult one for the Wildcats.

Over the last two seasons UMass is 3-4 against UNH, the difference being a 3-2 double-overtime loss in the Hockey East Semifinals last year. And the two teams are no strangers when it comes to the postseason. The three times UMass has reached the semifinals, it played the Wildcats, going 1-2 in those contests. The pair has met just once before in the quarterfinals, a sweep by UNH in 1997.

However, those games have even less bearing on Friday night than the three meetings earlier this season.

What does matter is whether the Minutemen can continue to play the way they have the last two weeks.

After a terrible January, UMass coach Don Cahoon saw a lot of improvement in the team in February, even though the win-loss record didn't really indicate that. Now in March, the improved play has turned into victories.

The line of center Cory Quirk and forwards Alex Berry and James Marcou has anchored the UMass offense and carried the team through its current three-game winning streak. That may be enough at home against BU or against a Merrimack team that won six games this season in conference play, but that won't cut it inside the Whittemore Center, where the Wildcats are second in the conference in scoring offense (3.11 goals/game) and first in scoring defense (2.00).

In order to extend this season beyond Durham, Cahoon must continue to find ways to get more production behind the Berry-Quick-Marcou line. Michael Lecomte has played well between P.J. Fenton and Chris Davis, and the trio is starting to find a rhythm.

One of the best goals this season came in the first period Friday against Merrimack. With UMass already leading 2-0, Lecomte set Davis up perfectly for the third goal of the period.

Lecomte skated down into the corner and then from nearly behind the net, rifled the puck toward the crease, where Davis put his stick's blade to the ice and redirected the pass past the Warriors' Andrew Braithwaite.

It was the type of goal the Minutemen needed. Already up a pair, Lecomte and Davis broke the game open early.

UMass will need to find a way to do the same this weekend. It's no secret that the Minutemen play better when their ahead. In fact, they have not won a single game this season when trailing in the third period. And the last time they won after trailing by two goals was Nov. 17 against BC. UMass trailed 2-0 after one and scored three goals in the second period.

Again, once they were ahead, the Minutemen managed to hold on in the third period for a significant road win. Whether they score early or simply control the momentum, the Minutemen have to come out swinging Friday night to have any chance of scoring the big upset.

And much like the game itself, winning the series will likely depend on UMass jumping ahead early. Winning on Friday is a must for the Minutemen to move on to Boston. If they lose that first game, they will be hard pressed to take two in a row facing elimination.

As far as talent is concerned, there is no concern. UMass has proven both earlier this year, and even last year for those players who returned, that they can play with anybody.

The question that remains is will they?

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http://www.dailycollegian.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=5d895695-83d0-431d-9671-22b0da81da7b

By: Joe Meloni, Collegian Staff

Posted: 3/13/08

The play looked like a goal the moment it developed.

Sophomore defenseman Martin Nolet of the Massachusetts hockey team turned up-ice before spotting a teammate streaking through the neutral zone uncovered. Nolet made the 55-foot pass from face-off circle to red line. His teammate accepted the pass in stride with one thing on his mind - score.

The shot, a slap shot just inside the blue line on the left side, blistered through the air and over the shoulder of the opposing goaltender before tucking itself under the crossbar and rattling around the cage.

At the time, the goal gave UMass a 1-0 lead over Northeastern. But it also signaled the start of two resurgences. Firstly, UMass's rise back into the Hockey East playoff picture and, secondly, that of junior Alex Berry - a 6-foot-2-inch winger from Danvers with a rare combination of size, skill and tenacity. It was that which attracted UMass coach Don Cahoon and his assistants to Berry in 2004 when he was 19-years-old dominating the Eastern Junior Hockey League with the Boston Junior Bruins.

Alex spent two seasons with the Junior Bruins before committing to UMass. Initially, UMass was not on his radar screen, but after both sides made contact and Alex came to a game in Amherst, his decision was easy.

"I hadn't really given UMass much thought until I came here and I saw the kind of passion and commitment to winning that coach Cahoon and his staff had," he says. "I came back for my official visit and just fell in love with the school and the atmosphere. I came to a few games and it felt like a great fit for me. It was a place trying to build a tradition in Hockey East, and I wanted to be a part of that."

UMass's run to the quarterfinals of the 2007 NCAA Tournament marked the first big step in the building process. But while Alex played his part in the team's run to the NCAA Regionals, it wasn't to the extent he may have anticipated. A tough freshman season in 2005-06 became a mediocre sophomore year. And in 2007-08 with his team off to the best start program history, Berry still hadn't found his rhythm.

The Minutemen fell from No. 5 in the USCO/CSTV Division I Men's Poll and the top of Hockey East to the verge of elimination until defeating Merrimack, 4-2, last Saturday night in North Andover to clinch a spot in this weekend's Hockey East Tournament. UMass closed the season on a three-game winning streak after going 2-11-1 in the 14 games between the No. 5 ranking and the 5-1 win over Boston University that started the winning streak.

Since Berry scored that goal on Feb. 16 he has found the scoring touch that eluded his grasp during the first two-and-a-half years of his career with the Minutemen.

For Berry, UMass coach Don Cahoon and his teammates it just doesn't make sense why it took as long as it did - how a player blessed with such natural ability could become a mere footnote on a team quickly becoming a power in college hockey?

Oftentimes, players can't explain their struggles nor can they articulate their success. In Alex's case, perhaps his emergence correlates with the success of the line he's played on for three weeks with center Cory Quirk and winger James Marcou. But for Berry it all reverts back to the level of confidence he's gained since firing that shot over Northeastern goaltender Brad Thiessen's right shoulder 26 days ago.

Losing it

The summer of 2005 represented a major turning point in Alex's hockey career. Not only was he beginning his time at a Division I hockey program in the fall, but he received even better news in early June.

After recording 52 points and rating at a plus-17 in his second season with the Junior Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected him in the fifth round of the NHL Entry Draft.

"Coming into the draft, I didn't really know where I was going to go," Alex says. "To find out I was drafted by Toronto in the fifth round was just one of the greatest days of my life and hockey career; getting picked by an Original Six team."

When Alex arrived in Amherst, and his first season with UMass began, he failed to replicate the success he enjoyed at lower levels of hockey. As is the case with most young players, adjusting to the higher rate of failure was no easy task. But the alterations Alex needed to make were not on the ice.

"When Alex got here, he thought the transition was going to be a lot easier," Cahoon says. "He didn't realize how mature the players were, how strong they were, how well conditioned they were and the conviction they played with. That first year was a learning experience for him."

Alex played on different lines during that first month but couldn't get into a rhythm with any of the combinations. With his confidence floundering more and more through each scoreless game, Alex's mindset took the ultimate blow.

"It was the ninth game of the season against Northeastern, and I was going into the boards to finish my check," Alex recalls. "I came down on my knee wrong and tore my MCL; I was out for about six weeks. It was really frustrating. I was finally getting into the groove of college hockey."

The injury forced Alex to cope with different frustrations early but never imagined they would build on each other so quickly. It wasn't until the middle of February that Alex fully recovered from the injury. He scored the first goal of his career at the end of the month, a 4-2 win over Northeastern on Senior Night. Even with the goal, however, Alex fell short of his personal expectations and didn't always find himself in the lineup from night-to-night, damaging his confidence further.

Finding it

He tried to move on during his sophomore season, and believed himself to be making progress within the UMass system. The off-the-ice preparations he needed to undertake became part of the routine, and he felt healthy when the season began.

So when the MCL became a problem again at the beginning of his sophomore season, his body responded and healed much faster than it did the first time around. By the time Alex returned to the lineup, it was evident that Cahoon and his staff had built something special. For the first time since he came to Amherst, Alex became the offensive weapon he hoped to be when he signed with the Minutemen,

UMass's run to the NCAA Tournament ended with a 3-1 loss to Maine in the quarterfinals. It wasn't easy for Alex and his teammates to deal with the loss, but the steps they took as a program represented everything Alex came to UMass to be a part of.

Midway through 2007-08, Berry scored UMass's first goal while down 2-0 to Colorado College, leading a comeback that resulted in the program's first-ever tournament championship. With the Lightning College Hockey Classic Championship trophy in tow, the second half of the season began with UMass in the race for a Hockey East Championship and ranked fifth in the country.

The losing streak that followed baffled everyone involved with the Minutemen, and UMass stood on the verge of elimination and a huge step back from the progress of 2006-07.

But all of it ended with a slap shot. The shot Alex took, one night in Amherst against Northeastern.

He scored another goal later in the game and hasn't stopped since. It's been seven games since then and Alex's six goals in that span secured UMass's spot in Hockey East's postseason.

"It's just starting to click for me. I'm playing my best hockey right now. I'm shooting the puck, getting the puck in some great spots. Shots are going in for me. I have so much confidence going for me right now. It's so much easier to play when you're confident," Alex says. "In the middle of the season, I wasn't really scoring and my confidence just wasn't there so I was pressing a little bit. But, you get a couple of goals and the confidence builds and builds."

Keeping it

The Minutemen will leave Amherst Friday morning for Durham, N.H., and a date with the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East Tournament, New Hampshire. They're certainly not the favorite but they believe they're more than capable of upsetting the Wildcats.

Situations like this are nothing new to Alex and his teammates. The dismal record that was their January and February turned into a 3-0 mark so far in March. There's nothing in Alex's head second-guessing a decision he makes in the game or during practice. He's worked himself into a good place right now. He knows his job and where he fits it with the Minutemen. The adjustment he had to make was more mental than anything, developing sound habits, executing his assignments on the ice and playing like the physical presence Cahoon brought him here to be. And for the first time in his career, Alex is completely confident. He knows he will score if the situation presents itself, and he knows his teammates will do the same.

"I'm trying to do what ever I can to get our team going in the right direction. It came down to the last game, but we're in the playoffs now," Alex says. "Anything I can do to help my team, that's what I'm going to do. I'm in a position on a good line, maybe seeing some time on special teams. But I'm focusing on the playoffs right now and going up to UNH and getting a win with my boys."

Joe Meloni can be reached at joe.meloni@gmail.com

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http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/sports/stories/4859363.html

BY JENN MENENDEZ

Blethen Maine Newspapers

Next fall's recruiting class will bring speed and grit to the University of Maine hockey team, coach Tim Whitehead said, just days removed from his team's bittersweet season finale.

What Whitehead can't talk about just yet is 6-foot-6 goalie Scott Darling, a 19-year-old that Maine fans may have to get acquainted with quickly. Junior goalie Ben Bishop, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, appears close to a decision about turning pro this week and forgoing his senior season at Maine.

A move would catapult Darling to the forefront. Darling committed verbally to Maine, but until he signs a national letter of intent, Whitehead is forbidden to discuss him publicly.

"We're anxiously awaiting a decision from Ben and his family," Whitehead said. "We've got Plans A, B and C ready to go. When the time comes we'll move forward. I would anticipate we'll hear something before the end of the week."

Maine was mathematically locked out of the Hockey East playoffs Saturday despite winning its finale against Massachusetts-Lowell after 2:20 of overtime.

The victory capped a surge of five wins in the team's last six games, but it wasn't enough for Maine to overtake No. 8 Massachusetts and reach the eight-team Hockey East playoffs.

From the seasons outset, Maine wasn't projected to be as strong as years past. The team lost some 67 percent of its scoring from the year before and had no game-breaking forwards.

It was clear that success would hinge on how quickly the eight freshmen would adjust to the college game, and how several longtime role players would react to more significant spots. Both were lofty expectations.

The Black Bears fell lower and lower in the standings and when crunch time hit -- January and February -- the team lost some 35 man-games to injuries to top forwards. Freshman Andrew Sweetland (back), seniors Billy Ryan (hip) and Keenan Hopson (shoulder), and junior Chris Hahn (jaw) each missed a significant chunk of time.

The lineup was too thin on talent to dig out wins in games when a soft goal was allowed or when a defensive blunder turned into a goal.

Maine lost seven straight from Jan. 26 to Feb. 16 and was close to being mathematically eliminated multiple times. The team got healthy down the stretch and got the best goaltending of the year from Bishop. But it was too little, too late.

"I was proud of how our team fought through a difficult season to finish strong," Whitehead said. "You could see a difference in our confidence with the puck with everyone back. I'm so proud of our seniors. They showed some true character."

Before this season, when it finished 13-18-3, Maine's only losing record in the last 20 years was 1993-94, after the team forfeited 11 wins and three ties because of NCAA violations. Before that the Black Bears hadn't had a losing season since 1985-86, when they went 11-28-1 in Shawn Walsh's second season as coach.

Since then Maine has made 17 appearances in the NCAA tournament and 11 trips to the Frozen Four, winning two national titles.

"This program will rebound from a losing season," said Billy Ryan, a senior assistant captain. "They'll be a national power again soon."

Athletic director Blake James said he understands fans are frustrated, and believes the team will compete for a Hockey East championship next year.

"As hard as it is to look at it as a fan and say 'Wow, we're in ninth place,' if we really analyze it, this team wasn't that far away from being right there," James said. "There are a lot of positives and these guys will be a year older next year."

Maine's current freshmen saw the kind of ice time historically earned by upperclassmen.

That experience, said Whitehead, should provide dividends next year.

"More than anything they'll have an opportunity to step up and play more minutes if they earn it," Whitehead said. "They played quite a bit but didn't end up on the score sheet much. That's their challenge (next year), to make a big impact with their ice time and hope to expand it. I'm hopeful they will."

Sweetland was the standout of the freshmen with eight goals and nine assists in 28 games. He adjusted quickly to the college game, flashing goal-scoring instincts and a strong sense of the game.

Center Tanner House (one goal, 10 assists) also progressed well and is likely to be a first- or second-line skater next year.

On defense, Maine got strong production from freshmen Josh Van Dyk and Jeff Dimmen, both of whom appear to have the right tools to keep progressing into standouts.

Wing Robby Dee, a third-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers, progressed slower than expected and had just a goal and two assists.

"He can skate. He's got some size and a lot of tools but you've got to put them all together," Whitehead said. "I'm confident he will emerge for us. The second half of the year he was scoring in practice, which is a good indication he's adjusting to the level."

Maine's remaining freshmen -- forwards Glenn Belmore, Keif Orsini and Lem Randall, and defenseman Mike Banwell -- all progressed and hinted of good things to come.

Said outgoing captain Travis Ramsey of the group: "I can't say enough about the freshman class. They're going to be a force to be reckoned with."

PLEASE WELCOME

Next year's recruiting class is also a large one.

Whitehead, whose contract runs through June 30, 2011, said he"s particularly excited about a Swedish recruit, Gustav Nyquist, who has speed and scoring ability.

Nyquist's new teammates will include a U.S. under-18 national team member, Ryan Hegarty, and two players from the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, Joey Diamond and Will O'Neill.

"Hegarty is gritty and has a lot of hockey sense," Whitehead said. "O'Neill is also a very tough kid with good hockey sense. Diamond is a well-rounded player, a tough smart forward."

Kevin Swallow, a transfer from Dartmouth, also will debut next year. He sat out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Kelen Corkum, whose father, Bob Corkum, played for the Black Bears from 1985-89, had committed to Maine but instead will play for the Junior Monarchs of Manchester, N.H., next season.

Maine also has verbal commitments from defenseman Mark Nemec of the Junior Monarchs, forwards Spencer Abbott of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, Brian Flynn of the Junior Monarchs and Kyle Solomon of the Junior Bruins. And of course from Darling, the heir apparent in goal from the Indiana Ice of the United States (Junior) Hockey League.

Maine also could lose 6-foot-7 defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick who made significant strides this season. Danis-Pepin would be a 20-year-old senior, which is younger than many freshmen. He has come a long way with his offense but still has some defensive problems to iron out.

"I'm sure Chicago will go after him," Whitehead said. "But at his age it would be foolish to leave. He's elevating so much each year and next year he'll have a chance to become the complete player Chicago hopes he'll be. We're prepared but I'm pretty confident he's going to stay."

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http://kennebecjournal.mainetoday.com/sports/stories/4859363.html

BY JENN MENENDEZ

Blethen Maine Newspapers

Next fall's recruiting class will bring speed and grit to the University of Maine hockey team, coach Tim Whitehead said, just days removed from his team's bittersweet season finale.

What Whitehead can't talk about just yet is 6-foot-6 goalie Scott Darling, a 19-year-old that Maine fans may have to get acquainted with quickly. Junior goalie Ben Bishop, a St. Louis Blues draft pick, appears close to a decision about turning pro this week and forgoing his senior season at Maine.

A move would catapult Darling to the forefront. Darling committed verbally to Maine, but until he signs a national letter of intent, Whitehead is forbidden to discuss him publicly.

"We're anxiously awaiting a decision from Ben and his family," Whitehead said. "We've got Plans A, B and C ready to go. When the time comes we'll move forward. I would anticipate we'll hear something before the end of the week."

Maine was mathematically locked out of the Hockey East playoffs Saturday despite winning its finale against Massachusetts-Lowell after 2:20 of overtime.

The victory capped a surge of five wins in the team's last six games, but it wasn't enough for Maine to overtake No. 8 Massachusetts and reach the eight-team Hockey East playoffs.

From the seasons outset, Maine wasn't projected to be as strong as years past. The team lost some 67 percent of its scoring from the year before and had no game-breaking forwards.

It was clear that success would hinge on how quickly the eight freshmen would adjust to the college game, and how several longtime role players would react to more significant spots. Both were lofty expectations.

The Black Bears fell lower and lower in the standings and when crunch time hit -- January and February -- the team lost some 35 man-games to injuries to top forwards. Freshman Andrew Sweetland (back), seniors Billy Ryan (hip) and Keenan Hopson (shoulder), and junior Chris Hahn (jaw) each missed a significant chunk of time.

The lineup was too thin on talent to dig out wins in games when a soft goal was allowed or when a defensive blunder turned into a goal.

Maine lost seven straight from Jan. 26 to Feb. 16 and was close to being mathematically eliminated multiple times. The team got healthy down the stretch and got the best goaltending of the year from Bishop. But it was too little, too late.

"I was proud of how our team fought through a difficult season to finish strong," Whitehead said. "You could see a difference in our confidence with the puck with everyone back. I'm so proud of our seniors. They showed some true character."

Before this season, when it finished 13-18-3, Maine's only losing record in the last 20 years was 1993-94, after the team forfeited 11 wins and three ties because of NCAA violations. Before that the Black Bears hadn't had a losing season since 1985-86, when they went 11-28-1 in Shawn Walsh's second season as coach.

Since then Maine has made 17 appearances in the NCAA tournament and 11 trips to the Frozen Four, winning two national titles.

"This program will rebound from a losing season," said Billy Ryan, a senior assistant captain. "They'll be a national power again soon."

Athletic director Blake James said he understands fans are frustrated, and believes the team will compete for a Hockey East championship next year.

"As hard as it is to look at it as a fan and say 'Wow, we're in ninth place,' if we really analyze it, this team wasn't that far away from being right there," James said. "There are a lot of positives and these guys will be a year older next year."

Maine's current freshmen saw the kind of ice time historically earned by upperclassmen.

That experience, said Whitehead, should provide dividends next year.

"More than anything they'll have an opportunity to step up and play more minutes if they earn it," Whitehead said. "They played quite a bit but didn't end up on the score sheet much. That's their challenge (next year), to make a big impact with their ice time and hope to expand it. I'm hopeful they will."

Sweetland was the standout of the freshmen with eight goals and nine assists in 28 games. He adjusted quickly to the college game, flashing goal-scoring instincts and a strong sense of the game.

Center Tanner House (one goal, 10 assists) also progressed well and is likely to be a first- or second-line skater next year.

On defense, Maine got strong production from freshmen Josh Van Dyk and Jeff Dimmen, both of whom appear to have the right tools to keep progressing into standouts.

Wing Robby Dee, a third-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers, progressed slower than expected and had just a goal and two assists.

"He can skate. He's got some size and a lot of tools but you've got to put them all together," Whitehead said. "I'm confident he will emerge for us. The second half of the year he was scoring in practice, which is a good indication he's adjusting to the level."

Maine's remaining freshmen -- forwards Glenn Belmore, Keif Orsini and Lem Randall, and defenseman Mike Banwell -- all progressed and hinted of good things to come.

Said outgoing captain Travis Ramsey of the group: "I can't say enough about the freshman class. They're going to be a force to be reckoned with."

PLEASE WELCOME

Next year's recruiting class is also a large one.

Whitehead, whose contract runs through June 30, 2011, said he"s particularly excited about a Swedish recruit, Gustav Nyquist, who has speed and scoring ability.

Nyquist's new teammates will include a U.S. under-18 national team member, Ryan Hegarty, and two players from the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League, Joey Diamond and Will O'Neill.

"Hegarty is gritty and has a lot of hockey sense," Whitehead said. "O'Neill is also a very tough kid with good hockey sense. Diamond is a well-rounded player, a tough smart forward."

Kevin Swallow, a transfer from Dartmouth, also will debut next year. He sat out this season because of NCAA transfer rules.

Kelen Corkum, whose father, Bob Corkum, played for the Black Bears from 1985-89, had committed to Maine but instead will play for the Junior Monarchs of Manchester, N.H., next season.

Maine also has verbal commitments from defenseman Mark Nemec of the Junior Monarchs, forwards Spencer Abbott of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League, Brian Flynn of the Junior Monarchs and Kyle Solomon of the Junior Bruins. And of course from Darling, the heir apparent in goal from the Indiana Ice of the United States (Junior) Hockey League.

Maine also could lose 6-foot-7 defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick who made significant strides this season. Danis-Pepin would be a 20-year-old senior, which is younger than many freshmen. He has come a long way with his offense but still has some defensive problems to iron out.

"I'm sure Chicago will go after him," Whitehead said. "But at his age it would be foolish to leave. He's elevating so much each year and next year he'll have a chance to become the complete player Chicago hopes he'll be. We're prepared but I'm pretty confident he's going to stay."

I would think Dave Wilson would get an equal consideration at G, but this Scott Darling sounds promising so I'll have to wait and see. Losing Pepin would be bad, very bad. Im glad Whitehead gave the freshman alot of ice-time this year so they have a better shot at contributing next season, but I dont see UMaine being a "force" right out of the gate if they are at all. With the youth this team will be made of it will be another sub 500 year IMO, but I hope Im wrong.

BU SUCKS!!!

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I would think Dave Wilson would get an equal consideration at G, but this Scott Darling sounds promising so I'll have to wait and see. Losing Pepin would be bad, very bad. Im glad Whitehead gave the freshman alot of ice-time this year so they have a better shot at contributing next season, but I dont see UMaine being a "force" right out of the gate if they are at all. With the youth this team will be made of it will be another sub 500 year IMO, but I hope Im wrong.

BU SUCKS!!!

5th last year

9th this year.

Whitehead better get this team into the top 4 next year or he will be in real trouble.

And Pepin is going to be a hell of a player... I hope he leaves...:P

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5th last year

9th this year.

Whitehead better get this team into the top 4 next year or he will be in real trouble.

And Pepin is going to be a hell of a player... I hope he leaves...:P

I bet you do, you bastid. :gfight:

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BC over Prov 5-1 in the most surprising result of the night.

So all home teams won.

UNH Leads Series over UMass 1-0

BU Leads Series over Lowell 1-0

BC Leads Series over Providence 1-0

VT leads Series over Northeastern 1-0

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http://www.cstv.com/sports/m-hockey/stories/031408aag.html#

March 14, 2008

DURHAM, N.H. - The UMass hockey team dropped a 4-1 decision to the UNH Wildcats in the first game of their Hockey East Quarterfinal match-up on Friday evening.

With the score tied at one through two periods, the Wildcats scored three times in the third period for the victory. Will Ortiz scored the lone goal for the Minutemen, his seventh of the season. Paul Dainton made 23 saves in goal for UMass.

The two teams will square off again tomorrow night at the Whittemore Center. Gametime is scheduled for 7 p.m.

UMass (14-15-6, 9-14-5 HEA) took an early lead in the first period when Ortiz took a pass from Brett Watson and shot the puck through UNH goalie Kevin Regan. The goal was Ortiz's first since November 20 against Vermont. The Minutemen were awarded two power plays during the game, but went 0-for-2 against Hockey East's best penalty killing squad.

The Minutemen carried the play during the opening minutes of the first period, but UNH started to generate some chances of their own as the period wore on. Cory Quirk nearly gave UMass an early lead when he intercepted a clearing attempt by the Wildcats. Quirk gathered the puck and snapped a shot from the right face-off dot, but Regan got a piece of the puck and redirected it into the corner.

UMass would not be denied, however, as Ortiz netted his seventh goal of the season 2:28 into the period. After Ortiz had two chances on the doorstep, Watson collected the puck and fed Ortiz with a pass at the top of the left face-off dot. Ortiz fired a low shot on goal that beat Regan five-hole for the score. Matt Burto also assisted on the goal.

UNH (24-8-3, 20-5-3 HEA) started to pick up the tempo after the goal, as they forechecked aggressively on Dainton and the UMass defense. The Wildcats tied the game at one 6:24 into the stanza when Jerry Pollastrone scored his ninth goal of the season. When Mike Kostka attempted a shot from the point, Pollastrone blocked the shot and the puck squirted out into the neutral zone. Pollastrone picked up the puck, went in alone on Dainton, and shot the puck low on the freshman netminder. Dainton made the initial save but his momentum carried his body behind the goal line, taking the puck with him.

The Minutemen took two penalties in the opening frame, and the UNH power play constantly swarmed around the crease looking to collect any loose pucks. But the UMass penalty kill weathered the storm to prevent the Wildcats from taking the lead. The period ended with the Minutemen outshooting UNH 14-9.

Both teams traded chances during the second period, but neither squad could break the stalemate. The Minutemen and Wildcats each had eight shots on goal in the period, but UMass also had many shot attempts that were either blocked by UNH or shot wide. Regan seemed to struggle with rebounds during the period, giving UMass extra chances to take the lead.

Chris Davis had multiple scoring opportunities during the second period, the first coming with 8:23 left in the frame. Davis sent a cross-ice pass to Michael Lecomte, who blasted a shot from inside the UNH zone. Regan stopped the shot, but the puck fluttered up into the air for a few seconds, where he caught the puck to cease play.

Davis and P.J. Fenton had consecutive scoring chances with seven minutes to play in the period. Davis fed Fenton, who rifled a shot that was saved by Regan. Fenton picked up the rebound and guided a pass to Davis at the right face-off dot. Regan made the save, but the Wildcats were called for crosschecking, giving UMass their first power play chance of the night. The Minutemen, however, had trouble setting up the power play and getting shots on goal while on the man-advantage.

The Minutemen had their chances in the third period, but three goals by the Wildcats put the game out of reach. UMass looked to take an early third period lead when Fenton threaded a pass to Davis, but Davis' shot went off Regan's blocker.

UNH took a 2-1 lead 4:15 into the third when Mike Radja fired a pass cross ice to Matt Fornataro. Dainton dove across the crease to try to beat the puck, but Fornataro had already shot the puck into the net. The Wildcats almost scored again three minutes later when Danny Dries stick-handled through two UMass defensemen and backhanded a shot that hit the post.

UMass nearly tied the score when Kostka blasted a shot from the point that was blocked. Jordan Virtue gathered the loose puck and shot the puck towards the net. The puck got through traffic and just went wide. The Wildcats gathered the loose puck and skated up ice, where Thomas Fortney shot the puck from the right face-off dot. Dainton made the save, but the puck ended up on the stick of Greg Collins, who shot the puck in for the 3-1 lead.

The Minutemen had some chances of their own to get back into the game after the goal. David Leaderer sent a pass to Alex Berry, who backhanded the puck on goal, but Regan made the save. Berry had another chance when he dangled through the UNH defense, but again his shot was saved by Regan.

Fornataro nearly put the game out of reach when he was sent in on a breakaway on Dainton. Fornataro deeked to the left and tried to put the puck past Dainton, but he flashed the right pad to deny the scoring chance. After UMass called a timeout and pulled Dainton, Fenton blasted a shot from the point that hit the post. Pollastrone iced the game for UNH with an empty net goal with 45.8 seconds to play in regulation.

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http://goterriers.cstv.com/sports/m-hockey/recaps/031408aaa.html

BOSTON - Senior Pete MacArthur tallied two goals and an assist and junior linemate Chris Higgins added a pair of goals, helping the second-seeded Boston University men's ice hockey team earn a 5-3 victory over seventh-seeded UMass Lowell in the opening game of their Hockey East quarterfinal series on Friday evening at Agganis Arena. The No. 14/13 Terriers extend their home winning streak to seven games and improve to 18-15-4 on the season.

The Terriers allowed the game's first goal, but reeled off three straight tallies to take a lead they would never relinquish. The visitors got to one on two occasions - at 3-2 and 4-3 - but BU got a late empty-netter from Higgins to seal the victory.

In addition to a 26-save performance from sophomore goaltender Brett Bennett, the Terriers also had the defensive play of the game, as freshman Colby Cohen blocked a third-period shot while sprawled in the crease in front of virtually open net. The River Hawks, which fell to 15-16-4 on the year, got a 28-save effort from sophomore Carter Hutton.

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BU empty netter 5-3 final

Tough night for Lowell. They couldn't get anything going even strength. If that BU defenseman hadn't made that miracle save I think they would have been able to get to OT.

What happened to UMass in the 3rd period?

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Tough night for Lowell. They couldn't get anything going even strength. If that BU defenseman hadn't made that miracle save I think they would have been able to get to OT.

What happened to UMass in the 3rd period?

they fell apart defensively. Too bad since they played pretty well the first 2 periods. But the talent of UNH overpowered UMass.

Game was a lot closer than the score indicated.

Oh well....

On to tonight.... hoping they can squeeze out a victory with me there.. and force me to make the decision of whether to drive to Durham on sunday night or not....

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http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080316/SPORTS/803160440

DURHAM - After winning Friday's hard-fought series opener, the University of New Hampshire entered the second game of the Hockey East quarterfinals intent on finishing off the University of Massachusetts as fast as possible.

Before breathing life back into the Minutemen by letting them begin to believe an upset was achievable, the Wildcats wanted to take the momentum created by Game 1's stellar third period and use it to squelch the eighth seed. They wanted to squash UMass's spirits before it recovered from the disappointment of a day prior.

And that they did.

Scoring twice in the first nine minutes, and putting the game away with four goals in the second period, New Hampshire handed Massachusetts a 7-2 setback, sweeping the conference quarterfinal and advancing to the semis for the seventh consecutive season.

Captain Matt Fornataro and junior Jerry Pollastrone led the way with three goals apiece - giving the pair nine for the two games - though the thrashing was the product of a thorough effort that included points from 10 players and 37 saves from Kevin Regan.

"I told the team," UNH Coach Dick Umile said, " 'Pack the bags, we're going to Boston.' I'm excited. It's always special."

Who top-seeded New Hampshire (25-8-3) will see when it gets to Boston Garden remains to be seen. No. 6 Northeastern and No. 7 UMass-Lowell each forced a rubber match in its respective series with wins over Vermont and Boston University last night, and either is a candidate since UNH will meet the lowest remaining seed.

If they're both eliminated, the Wildcats will face No. 4 Boston College - which eliminated Providence last night thanks to a 5-1 win.

Should UNH play like it did this weekend, though, the opponent could be almost inconsequential. From the third frame Friday through the second period last night - equivalent to one full game - UNH outscored UMass, 9-1, and that was against a Minutemen team that hadn't surrendered six scores in any game this year. In fact, it had yielded more than four on only three occasions, and one of those came in overtime.

"It doesn't matter to me. Whoever we play is going to be a tough matchup, and we'll be ready for anyone that gets through," said Fornataro, hopeful today's games take a toll on the participants. "The more they play, the better for us."

UNH earned the right to relax after a fast start furnished by a five-minute major penalty assessed to Minuteman forward Scott Crowder. Pursuing the puck into the corner at Regan's right, he drilled Nick Krates from behind, dropping the defenseman awkwardly into the boards and drawing a game misconduct from referee Tim Benedetto.

That put the Wildcats in a position to pounce, and they wasted little time in taking advantage. Just 57 ticks into the ensuing power play, Pollastrone put a wrist shot through traffic and under Paul Dainton's left arm to give New Hampshire a 1-0 lead, then just 21 seconds later Danny Dries fed Fornataro on the doorstep. As soon as the senior chipped it home, UNH had doubled its edge.

"We knew it was a good opportunity, and wanted to get one, at least," Fornataro said. "To get two was huge, and we just rolled from there."

UMass (14-16-6) actually answered with a power-play strike from Alex Berry about five minutes after falling behind, and would eventually outshoot New Hampshire, 15-13, in the opening period. But Regan made a couple of big stops - including a breakaway bid by Mike Lecomte - so the Wildcats were able to stay standing on their skates through what amounted to the Minutemen's final flurry of punches.

They held their lead into intermission, and within eight minutes of the break they'd busted things open, taking a 4-1 lead on goals by Dries and Fornataro. Each of those - like Pollastrone's first - caught a piece of Dainton before rolling over the line. So after four goals on 21 shots, the freshman was yanked in favor of backup Dan Meyers.

"We got behind the eight-ball early, with the five-minute major and the two goals, (and) never really got back into it," UMass Coach Toot Cahoon said. "We got the goal, but we couldn't get the big save in the big moment, and UNH is too good a team - too offensively capable - to not have your goaltender going 100 percent.

"I'm not laying this all on Paul, but that was clearly when the game got out of hand."

And it would get worse before it got better. Pollastrone put home his own rebound with 10:02 left in the second, and less than six minutes later his hat trick was complete.

Bobby Butler's shot hit Meyers in the shoulder and bounced over him, and with the rubber lying in the crease it became a race between Pollastrone and freshman James vanRiemsdyk to see who would ram it home first.

The junior won, giving himself 13 goals for the season - six of which are against UMass.

"I think it was actually going in, and I stopped it and put it in," Pollastrone said. "I wanted that one."

David Leaderer scored Massachusetts's second power-play goal about six minutes into the third, but Fornataro nullified that mark with a shorthanded score with three minutes left.

But the game - and the series - was long over by then.

"I think they're playing with confidence," Umile said. "We were just determined to get it done tonight. We did a lot of good things."

Congrats to UNH and good luck in Boston.

I thought the 5 min major was a very bad call. It looked worse than it actually was. 2 min maybe, game misconduct? No way. The defender was out of position when he was hit and fell awkwardly. But Benedetto had to ensure UNH would be in Boston I guess...

Umass dominated the offensive zone, but it seemed like every time they turned it over UNH got a shot on net that trickled through the goalie(s). It was a poor effort by the goalies and a bad defensive effort for the D.

I really didnt think UNH played that well... certainly not 7 goals good. Their forecheck was aggressive and very productive. But they are going to struggle in Boston if they dont realize that they got a lot of breaks in this game.

Its a disappointing end to a season that held so much promise when the calendar turned to 2008. From 5th in the nation to 8th in the conference and out in the first round is tough to swallow. The season turned in early Jan against UNH at Amherst when Umile went nuts on the refs and they did nothing other than issue a bench minor. He should have been thrown out.. but no, instead the refs started calling everything UNH;s way. It was a disgusting display. UMass never recovered from that night.

Good luck to the remaining teams. Its been a great season discussing hockey.

Go Lowell... kick some Terrier ass!

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