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Lowell destroys UNH in decisive Game 3; Hockey East semifinals set

03.12.17 at 6:50 pm ET
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It was surprising that top-seeded UMass Lowell didn’t sweep 10th-seeded New Hampshire in the Hockey East quarterfinals. It wasn’t surprising at all that Lowell blew the doors off UNH in Sunday’s decisive Game 3 at the Tsongas Center, winning by a rather convincing 8-2 margin.

The River Hawks had, as expected, been the better team all weekend. Even in the Game 1 loss on Friday, they outshot UNH 35-12. Then after falling behind 1-0 in Game 2, they took control and wound up cruising to a 3-1 win, once again holding UNH under 20 shots on goal.

But they took dominance to another level Sunday, especially in the first period. The River Hawks struck first with a power-play goal from John Edwardh 3:36 into the game. The only glimmer of hope all night for UNH came two minutes later when Marcus Vela tied things up.

Lowell had no interest in letting the Wildcats hang around and quickly slammed the door on any chance the underdogs had of pulling off the upset. Kenny Hausinger scored two goals four minutes apart, and then C.J. Smith scored 29 seconds after Hausinger’s second goal to put UNH in a 4-1 hole.

In case that wasn’t enough, Connor Wilson set up Colin O’Neill for a shorthanded goal two and a half minutes later and then Smith added his second goal of the period at the 18:32 mark. The first period wasn’t even over and it was 6-1. Good night, folks. Drive safe.

With the win, the River Hawks advanced to the Hockey East semifinals for the fifth straight year. They’ll take on fourth-seeded Notre Dame in the first semifinal Friday at 5 p.m. at TD Garden. Second-seeded Boston University takes on third-seeded Boston College in the second game at 8 p.m.

Lowell and BU are already 100 percent locks to make the NCAA tournament according to College Hockey News’ “Pairwise Probability Matrix,” while Notre Dame and Providence (whom Notre Dame swept this weekend) are pretty much locked in as well. BC, meanwhile, will most likely not get an at-large bid and therefore needs to win the Hockey East championship to make it.

For UNH, it was another early end to a disappointing season. The Wildcats will miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year, something that would’ve seemed crazy not too long ago given that they made NCAAs 10 straight years from 2002-2011 and 18 times in 22 years from 1992-2013.

There are already questions about whether this is the end for head coach Dick Umile, who took over the program in 1990. He signed a three-year extension in 2015 and said at the time that he would retire when that deal was up in 2018, with the plan being for associate head coach Mike Souza to take over. But with the poor seasons now piling up, there have been whispers that the handoff could be accelerated by a year.

When asked after the game if he would be returning next season, Umile offered a simple, “No comment.”

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