The season that no one wanted to see come to an end did so Sunday night in Albany, New York for the River Hawks in the NCAA East Regional Tournament’s championship game. Eighth-ranked UMass Lowell was defeated 4-1 by the number one team in the polls, Quinnipiac University.
The River Hawks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal by defenseman Dylan Zink at 3:01 of the first period and it looked like UML would join Boston College, Denver University, and North Dakota in the Frozen Four in Tampa, but it was not meant to be as Quinnipiac would score the next four goals and punch their ticket to Florida.
The River Hawks conclude the season with a 25-10-5 record.
UMass Lowell coach Norm Bazin was gracious after the loss but he was also direct and to the point in assessing his team’s performance.
“I’d like to congratulate Quinnipiac on moving on to the Frozen Four,” Bazin said. “It wasn’t a good enough effort on our part and the better team won tonight.”
And so ends not only the season for his squad but also the collegiate careers of the team’s seniors including goaltender Kevin Boyle, forwards Ryan McGrath, Adam Chapie, Robert Francis, AJ White, and Michael Fallon.
They leave a legacy as being the most successful class in UMass Lowell hockey history with an overall record of 100-44-17, which included four consecutive trips to the Hockey East championship game, two Hockey East championships, three trips to the NCAA tournament, and one Frozen Four tournament.
Some, if not all, will move on to professional careers.
After the loss to Quinnipiac, Bazin was asked to comment on his graduating players.
“It’s a special group and included in this group is Connor Hellebuyck and Christian Folin who signed (NHL contracts) after their sophomore season,” said the coach. “This is a good group of six seniors who have done a whole bunch for the program. They hit triple digits (in wins) and (they) are the winningest class in the history of the program. They did a great deal and should be very proud and they will be in the years to come.”
To no one’s surprise, Boyle is drawing the most attention from NHL teams. The goaltender was named 2015-2016 Hockey East co-player of the year and a member of the conference’s Second All-Star team. He entered the NCAA East Regional Tournament third in the nation in goals against average and fourth in save percentage. It is no secret, Boyle will receive contract offers from as many as 18, or more, NHL teams.
McGrath will leave UML having registered 25 goals and 35 assists for a total of 60 points in 139 career collegiate games. Six of his 25 goals were game winners. If he chooses, McGrath will most likely sign a minor league contract.
Chapie departs the Lowell campus with 95 career points on 46 goals and 49 assists in 147 games. He was named to the All-Tournament Team at this year’s Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh. He finished third in team scoring this season and has impressed NHL scouts with his overall game and defensive play.
Francis, a native of San Diego, California, transferred from Western Michigan University to UMass Lowell before the start of last season. Unfortunately, he battled injuries this season and saw limited action. During the course of his collegiate career, Francis scored five goals and seven assists, totaling twelve points in 64 games.
White, the team’s co-captain, will come close to receiving as much attention from the NHL as Boyle. His consistent attention to detail and timely goal scoring has drawn the attention of many National Hockey League teams. He finishes River Hawk career with 28 goals, 50 assists, 78 points in 152 games. This year, White placed fourth in the team’s point race and will always be remembered for his goal that ended the triple-overtime marathon against Providence College in the 2016 Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden.
Fallon, who hails from Glenview, Illinois is known for his faceoff prowess. He led UML in faceoff percentage by winning 54 percent this season. He saw action in 132 career contests and contributed 49 points on 14 goals and 35 assists. Fallon may be another River Hawk to join the minor league ranks to begin his possible ascent to the NHL.
After the loss to Quinnipiac, White spoke about his fellow seniors and the contributions the class of ‘16 made to the UML hockey program.
“Obviously, it means a lot,” White said. “It’s a tremendous group that we had and it’s not just all of us, it’s the group that we had before us and the group that we had this year that helped contribute to everything and just thankful to be a part of everything that’s happened so far.”
Of course, there are some undrafted underclassmen who are on the scouts radars.
Dylan Zink and Joe Gambardella among others may be forced to decide between signing professional contracts or returning to Lowell in the Fall.
According to sources, last Spring, Gambardella turned down offers from the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and the Anaheim Ducks to remain a River Hawk.
At least one thing is for sure, this year’s six seniors will walk proudly knowing they were major contributors to the turnaround of a program that was on the verge of being abolished just before their arrival, into one of the most successful in the country.
Well done, gentlemen. Well done.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL/NCAA Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.
Reprinted with permission of The Lowell Sun.