WORCESTER -- It's safe to assume that when it comes to leaving a legacy, UMass Lowell's senior hockey players have clocked a collective 15 minutes of fame that will withstand the test of time.
UMass Lowell's seniors only won five games their freshman season. But as a group, they persevered and helped the program take flight under the direction of third-year head coach Norm Bazin.
With seniors Joe Pendenza, Josh Holmstrom, Derek Arnold, Shayne Tompson, Doug Carr, Joe Houk and Daniel Furlong helping to lead the way, River Hawk Nation has been plunged into the delightful depths of an Ice Age that includes three straight NCAA Division 1 Tournament appearances, a Frozen Four appearance in 2013, back-to-back Hockey East Tournament titles the past two seasons, and a berth in the 2014 Northeast Regional final opposite perennial national power and Hockey East rival Boston College.
Alas, the last hurrah of a group that played such an important role in helping to resurrect UMass Lowell's program wasn't as loud they would have liked.
With a spot in this year's Frozen Four on the line, BC overcame a one-goal deficit in the third period and rallied for a hard-fought, 4-3 victory over the River Hawks in the Northeast Regional final at the DCU Center on Sunday night.
UMass Lowell won't be one of the four schools heading to Philadelphia to play for a national championship in two weeks. But a final overall record of 26-11-4 in their senior season, while laying the foundation for future River Hawks to build on, is a pretty impressive body of work.
Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.
"No question there were a lot of great moments this season," Bazin said. "We left it on the ice today, and it could have gone either way. We just needed to finish a few more of our chances.
"I'm especially proud of our senior class," Bazin added. "They battled back from a real adverse situation their first season to have three excellent years. Right now, it's probably hard for them to swallow, but in time, they will realize they were part of some great teams."
BC took a 2-1 lead on Bill Arnold's goal with 2:26 left in the second period. But as they have done so many times before, UMass Lowell's seniors responded and got the River Hawks right back in the game.
Holstrom scored his seventh goal of the season with 1:16 to play in the second period. That tying score late in the middle period gave the River Hawks momentum heading into the final period.
Freshman Evan Campbell scored 43 seconds into the third period, and the River Hawks were up 3-2 and appeared to have taken control. But BC, which improved to 28-7-4, refused to fold, getting goals from Ryan Fitzgerald (son of former NHL player Tom Fitzgerald of Billerica) and Ian McCoshen to secure its trip to the Frozen Four.
"It's pretty special to be part of this group," Holstrom said after the loss. "Coming back after our freshman year was, obviously, tough. But I think this senior class was the right class to go about it. The guys are very resilient. Just a great group of guys."
Pendenza, a forward from Wilmington, was named to the Northeast Regional All-Tournament Team.
"I guess it's pretty cool," he said. "But I'd rather keep playing, not just to keep playing, but to be around the guys more. We're a big family, and another road trip with the boys would have been fun."
Still, Pendenza managed to crack a smile through the pain of this most agonizing of defeats.
"I was just talking with Derek Arnold about how last week we won a second straight Hockey East Tournament championship," Pendenza said. "It's great to leave the program in this position. I don't think any of us could have imagined these things after our freshman year.
"It's going to take a little while to sink in, but once it does, we'll be very happy with our four years here," he added. "We started a whole new tradition for Lowell. We've always been kind of like the underdogs. But now teams know they're in for a game when they face Lowell. To know that is an unbelievable feeling."
UMass Lowell sophomore goalie Connor Hellebuyck (25 saves), who earned a spot on the Northeast Regional All-Tournament Team, was quick to praise his senior teammates for teaching the underclassmen the proper way to play the game.
"I think we have a great group of seniors who lead us really well," Hellebuyck said.
"We were a family in there," he said, referring to the locker room, "and they were a big part of all that. I feel they taught us everything. They taught us how to work hard. They taught us how to be accountable. They taught us how to act. I think that carried onto the ice every single day."
The seniors' college careers may be over, but their roles in turning the River Hawks into one of the premier programs in Hockey East will never be forgotten.
"I'm very proud of our guys," Bazin said. "They showed a lot of resiliency in that locker room, and a lot of that has to do with the leadership of our seniors."
Carmine Frongillo's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter and Tout @cwfrongi.