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Vermonter lifts UMass-Lowell men's hockey team to NCAA Regional final

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Although the University of Vermont didn't even qualify for its own college men's hockey conference tournament, to say nothing about the national tournament, Vermont hockey fans still have a rooting interest in the UMass-Lowell River Hawks.

That's because a Vermont native, Swanton's Riley Wetmore, is playing a key role in UMass' bid to reach the NCAA Frozen Four.

Friday night, Wetmore, a junior, but already the team's captain, scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 nationally-televised overtime win over Miami (Ohio) University in the East Regional semifinals at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.

The River Hawks (23-12-1) take on third-ranked Union (27-7-7) tonight at 6:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Frozen Four in Tampa on April 5. The game will be televised on ESPN U and ESPN 3.

Wetmore, who graduated from Missisquoi Valley Union High School, but played for the Green Mountain Glades in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, scored twice for the River Hawks against the Redhawks, giving him 14 goals this season to go along with 25 assists.

In 110 career games at UML, Wetmore has 34 goals, 50 assists and has scored five game-winning goals.

On his game-winner Friday night, Wetmore was in the right place at the right time to jam a rebound from a sharp angle past the Miami netminder.

“It was a good shot and I’m still not sure how the puck went in,” Wetmore said of his winner on the official NCAA tournament website. “I just saw the guys celebrating in front of me. We were fortunate they hit the crossbar and then we came down and scored.”

ESPN Boston quoted Wetmore in it's coverage, as well.

"It was a good shot and I'm still not sure how the puck went in," Wetmore said of his winner. "I just saw the guys celebrating in front of me. We were fortunate they hit the crossbar and then we came down and scored."

The win was the first in the NCAA tournament for the UMass since 1996.

"Obviously, we're excited to get an opportunity to play in the championship game," said first-year head coach Norm Bazin in a press release. "It was a goal of ours, and we're realizing that now. It should make for another very exciting day."

Bazin, the Hockey East coach of the year, has turned around a program that scuffled to a 5-25-4 mark last season.

The UMass-Lowell men's hockey website has a complete box score, recap and several interviews posted, including one with Wetmore.

An interview with Wetmore also appears on the ESPN Boston website.