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UMass Lowell heading to Frozen Four with 2-0 win over UNH

In a contest eerily reminiscent of the first time they met, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team got off to a slow first period start against the University of Denver only to the rally in the second and third periods to win going away, 5-2.

The big difference being that November’s match-up meant little. Friday’s confrontation came in the NCAA championship quarterfinals and means the Wildcats will meet Hockey East rival UMass-Lowell Saturday for chance to advance to the Frozen Four in Pittsburg in two weeks for the first time since 2003.

The victory was a bit of redemption for UNH goalie Casey DeSmith who was pulled nine minutes into the first game after giving up three goals. This time around, after giving up a pair of first period strikes he shut out the Pioneers the rest of the way making 31 saves in all.

Casey Thrush paced the UNH attack with a pair of goals with Trevor van Riemsdyk, John Henrion and Dalton Speelman adding singles.

Of concern for New Hampshire is that both Keven Goumas and Grayson Downing left during the game and did not return after taking a couple of hard hits. In Goumas’ case the Pioneers Nick Shore received a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for a hit to the head.

The Wildcats didn’t score on the advantage but it didn’t take long after the penalty expired for Speelman to extend UNH’s lead to 4-2 with eight minutes gone in the period.

Thrush’s empty netter with 2:20 to go finished the scoring.

After a slow start where it trailed 2-1 after one, UNH stepped up its game in the second period. It paid off with a pair of goals that push it to 3-2 lead.

The Wildcats increased pressure after Larkin Jacobson was called for cross-checking with seven minutes left. Two strong scoring chances by Austin Block and Grayson Downing were stymied by Olkinuora. But the ‘Cats offensive thrust left the Pioneers in just enough disarray to clear a lane for Trevor van Riemsdyk to blast a slap shot into the net from the top of the slot.

After a slow start where it trailed 2-1 after one, UNH stepped up its game in the second period. It paid off with a pair of goals that push it to 3-2 lead.

Another Denver penalty set up the go ahead goal. David Makowski was called for tripping with less than two minutes left in the period. Two second after he exited the penalty box Dalton Speelman converted on the rebound of a Brett Kostolansky shot.

For a moment UNH thought it had tied the game before the second period was three minutes old. That’s when a Nick Sorkin shot from the right circle hit off the inside of the far post and popped out. The initial signal of "no goal" was upheld on review.

The Wildcats outshot the Pioneers 16-7 for the period.

The game got off to wild start with both teams getting on the scoreboard before the game was four minutes old.

Denver got things going at 2:24 when UNH tried to wrap the puck around the boards but instead it bounced off the net and in front of netminder DeSmith. Jacobson had a chance at it but dribbled to Daniel Dormeus who glided backwards with the puck in the low slot until he got enough room to roof the puck over a sprawled DeSmith.

Three minutes later Thrush tied the game at 1-1 after Brett Pesce raced down the right wing and blistered a slap sho from the top of the face off circle that Olkinuora slapped down with his glove. The puck squirted up the slot where Thrush got it and drifted right before slamming inside the near post.

Denver reclaimed the lead with two minutes left in the period when a clearing attempt up the right boards bounced to Nick Shore just inside the point. DeSmith made the stop on his slap shot but the rebound came to Quentin Shore in the slot who had plenty of open net to deposit the puck.

Tempers flared a few seconds later when the teams traded blows around the Denver crease on a failed Wildcat scoring foray. UNH ended up with two skaters in the penalty box – Matt Willows and Kevin Goumas, and the Denver only one. The Pioneers came up empty on the advantage.

Earlier in the period UNH came close to scoring when Austin Block set up Sorkin at the right circle inside hash marks for snap shot that Olkinuora turned aside with a desperate should-high fling of his stick.

DeSmith was equally good at the other end of the ice making one of his better saves when he flashed his right pad on shot in close from Garrett Allen.

The period’s wide open play was reflected in the shot totals. The Pioneers had 19 and the ‘Cats 14 for an impressive one period total of 29.

In the opening contest Hockey East champions UMass-Lowell had little trouble putting away the University of Wisconsin. The Riverhawks scored once in the first period, twice in the second and three times in the third to cruise to 6-1 victory. Two of the goals came in the final minute of regulation.

Six different Lowell skaters scored goals and six different skaters earned assists, leaving a dozen skaters to end the night with at least a point. No Riverhawk registered multiple points. The lopsided score bellies the shot totals with the Badgers outshooting the Riverhawks 32-26.

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