Worcester, Mass. --- In a game that turned into a goaltending battle, 15th-rated Minnesota State came up one goal short at the NCAA Northeast Regional, falling to fifth-rated UMass Lowell 2-1 in Worcester, Mass., Saturday.
The Mavericks fell behind in the opening period when River Hawks forward Joe Pendenza took advantage of a turnover at the UML blue line and scored a shorhanded marker at 12:54.
Neither team was able to dent the twine in the second period, but at 19:20 of the third, with Minnesota State pulling netminder Cole Huggins in favor of an extra attacker, the River Hawks got an empty-net tally from Zach Kamrass. Then, with UML's Terrence Wallin in the penalty box on a roughing minor, the Mavericks finally solved UML goaltender Connor Hellebuyck when freshman forward Zach Stepan scored on with a backhander off of a rebound from Johnny McInnis' shot with 10 seconds left in regulation for a six-on-four power play goal. Junior forward Matt Leitner won the face-off to get the puck to McInnis and the goal by Stepan is his ninth of the year.
Huggins, who was brilliant in the game, turned aside 33 of the 34 shots he faced, while Hellebuyck, who leads the country in save percentage and goals against average, was credited with 35 stops.
"Really no regrets other than we're not moving on," said Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings. "We know he (Hellebuyck) was going to be good, and he was good. I think we had some second and third opportunities that he did a good job of keeping out of the net."
The loss Saturday ends Minnesota State's unbeaten streak at 13 games. The last time Mavericks had lost prior to tonight was Jan. 31 (Northern Michigan 5, Minnesota State 2 in Marquette, Mich.).
MSU, which was making its second consecutive NCAA post-season appearance, finishes 2013-14 with a 26-14-1 record. UMass Lowell, which ups its record to 26-10-4, moves on to face Boston College in tomorrow's regional final.