LOWELL, Mass. – The review lasted longer than the overtime.
When the Hockey East officials finally looked up from their video monitor and the referee pointed to center ice, the goal was upheld and Maine’s season was over.
Derek Arnold, a junior who originally made a verbal commitment to Maine before deciding to enroll at UMass-Lowell, tapped a fluttering puck into an open net 1:50 into overtime to give the top-seeded River Hawks a 2-1 victory and a sweep of their quarterfinal series with No. 8 Maine before 5,399 at the Tsongas Center Friday night.
Lowell (24-10-2) advances to the semifinals next Friday night in Boston against an opponent to be determined.
The Black Bears, who rallied after a dismal first half of the season to clinch a playoff berth on the final weekend, finish at 11-19-8.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Maine Coach Tim Whitehead. “I’m proud of our guys, and the way they battled against a real good team. But more importantly than (Friday) night is how far we’ve come this year. We don’t even resemble the team we were at the start of the year.”
The Black Bears played all of the third period and overtime without senior captain Joey Diamond, who was ejected after being called for kicking late in the second period.
One night after taking six minors in a 4-2 opening-game loss and talking at length about how they had to stay out of the penalty box, the Black Bears spent even more time in the box.
They lost Diamond after the second of his two five-minute majors (sandwiched around a minor for roughing).
Maine’s all-time career leader in penalty minutes, Diamond’s reputation for thin skin and quick temper had the River Hawks testing him at every opportunity. After sitting in the box for five minutes during the first period for crashing into Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck on a near breakaway, Diamond was given a game disqualification late in the second period.
With Maine nursing a 1-0 lead on a Devin Shore power-play goal earlier in the second, Diamond and Lowell junior Joe Houk became entangled in the corner left of the Lowell net. Both went down, and Diamond got to his feet first. He tried to follow play up the ice, but his skate was either entangled with Houk or being purposely held.
At first, Diamond threw his arms wide as if pleading for official intervention, then decided to take care of the situation himself. He kicked hard to free his skate, and connected solidly with the prone Houk’s upper leg. Houk recoiled in obvious pain, and the men in stripes converged on Diamond as the Lowell crowd roared. Near the penalty box, and arguing strenuously with the officials, Diamond was given the misconduct, whereupon he slammed the boards with his stick before being escorted off the ice for the last time in a Black Bears uniform.
His teammates rallied around him and wound up killing all 12 of his penalty minutes, and four more to boot.
“When Diamond left the ice,” said Lowell Coach Norm Bazin, “I thought the urgency of their team went up two notches. They were outplaying us for a good 10- to 12-minute spurt.”
Lowell finally managed the tying goal four minutes into the third when Michael Fallon jammed the puck — and Maine goalie Martin Ouellette’s pads — over the line after a wraparound move by Scott Wilson with plenty of congestion in the crease.
Ouellette, who finished with 35 saves, pleaded his case to two officials, but the goal was upheld after video review.
“My pad was right on the post,” Ouellette said. “I made the first save and they just jammed it. There was not much I could have done because they pushed me into the net.”
The final 16 minutes of regulation included one Maine penalty and two on Lowell, but neither team’s power play connected. Jon Swavely had Maine’s best opportunity, sending a shot from the right circle to the high near post, but Hellebuyck deflected it away.
Ouellette made one final save as regulation ticked away with Wilson standing at the right post, swatting in vain. Lowell held a 34-18 advantage in shots in regulation, but Ouellette was superb.
On the winning goal, Ouellette made the initial save on a two-on-one attack, then watched helplessly after being taken out of the play by Maine defenseman Mark Nemec, who was sliding in an attempt to prevent a shot. Two more River Hawks swooped in, with Fallon using his hand to settle the fluttering rebound but seeming to fan on a backhand as Maine’s Conor Riley took him out.
With Fallon and Riley on the ice, Arnold snapped in the rebound and set off the Lowell celebration, which paused for six minutes while officials tried to determine whether Fallon was guilty of a hand pass.
“I felt (Friday) was more like a playoff game than (Thursday),” Shore said. “There was so much emotion.”
Nobody felt it more than Diamond, who has long struggled to keep his in check.
“It’s an emotional game and he’s an emotional guy,” Whitehead said. “We wouldn’t even be in the playoffs without Joey’s play, and the big goals he’s scored and his leadership. We love him and he’s still part of our family.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: