Hanlan had been considering leaving school early to enter the NBA draft, and after Boston College fired coach Steve Donahue the move seemed even more likely.
But after testing the pro waters and meeting with new coach Jim Christian, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound Hanlan decided to stay in school.
Tom Layman of the Boston Herald first reported the news.
An Aylmer, Quebec, native, Hanlan ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in multiple statistical categories in 2013-14. He was third in scoring (18.5 points per game), fourth in minutes (36.2), sixth in free-throw shooting percentage (81.1) and seventh in field goal percentage (44.7).
"I was kind of just looking at all my options, trying to find the best fit in terms of getting better and improving," Hanlan told the Herald. "I was not leaning on one side or the other. I was just trying to put myself in the best situation to where I can get better.
"I felt like hearing back from different people just helped me with what I have to improve on this summer and really focus on the little details of my game and try to put that into play next year," he said.
Hanlan is ranked No. 137 overall on Chad Ford’s Big Board, and No. 31 at the point guard position. Ford projected Hanlan to either be a second-round pick or go undrafted.
After Ryan Anderson announced he would transfer, Hanlan’s decision to stay is a big boost to Christian and the Eagles for 2014-15.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.
Christian is making progress on his staff, officially hiring Scott Spinelli as an assistant coach on Monday.
The long-rumored move gives Christian a top assistant with ties to New England -- Spinelli is a Leominster, Mass., native and Boston University graduate -- and experience in high-profile programs. Spinelli spent the past eight years as an assistant for Mark Turgeon, first at Wichita State (2006-07), then at Texas A&M (2007-08 to 2010-11) and Maryland (2011-12 to 2013-14).
"We are excited to have Scott join our basketball staff here at Boston College," Christian said in a statement. "He is an outstanding young coach, a proven recruiter and he has developed strong relationships in the New England area.
“Scott has had success everywhere he's coached and he has a few important qualities I was looking for: the ability to recruit and coach at a high level, and to develop the student-athletes in our program."
Spinelli is credited with helping Turgeon and the Terps land consecutive Top 25 recruiting classes, including bringing in four-star prospect Jake Layman (a Wrentham, Mass., native and ESPN100 prospect) in the Class of 2012.
Christian no doubt hopes that Spinelli can help the Eagles convince some of the state’s top talent to play college ball in Chestnut Hill.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.
PHILADELPHIA -- Daniel Ciampini and tiny Union College are thriving on college hockey's biggest stage.
Ciampini broke a third-period tie with the second of his three goals to help Union beat Boston College 5-4 in the NCAA hockey semifinals Thursday night.
The Dutchmen (31-6-4) advanced to the final for the first time. They will face the Minnesota-North Dakota winner in the championship game Saturday night.
"When I came in here as a freshman, there were goals set, but our ultimate goal was not to win the national championship that year," said Ciampini, now a junior. "It's just been growing each year."
Mat Bodie and Mike Vecchione also scored and Colin Stevens made 34 saves for Union, a liberal arts college in Schenectady, N.Y., with only 2,200 students.
Johnny Gaudreau, Steve Santini, Ryan Fitzgerald and Patrick Brown scored for Boston College (28-8-4), trying to make its fifth title game appearance in eight years.
Ciampini broke a 2-2 tie on a power play at 6:31 of the third period, tipping in Shayne Gostisbehere's one-timer from the point.
"I got very, very lucky," Ciampini said. "Shayne blasted my stick away there -- it broke on the tip. It's good that I can produce."
Only 18 seconds later, Union's Matt Hatch was given a major penalty and game misconduct for checking Scott Savage from behind into the boards, giving Boston College a 5-minute power play.
"We were pretty sure if we kill that, we get the momentum," Gostisbehere said.
Sure enough, he was right.
The Eagles failed to score and, only seconds after the power play ended, Vecchione gave Union a two-goal advantage off a rebound after goalie Thatcher Demko stopped Kevin Sullivan on a breakaway attempt.
"They're a great shot-blocking team," Brown said. "I was in front and I couldn't even see the puck because they had two or three guys in the lane every time."
"We just never quite got in sync on that major penalty," Boston College coach Jerry York said.
With Demko off for an extra attacker, Fitzgerald cut it 4-3 with 1:45 to go. Ciampini restored the two-goal margin with an empty-net goal with 1:09 left, and Brown completed the scoring on a power play with 4.2 seconds to go.
"There was never any give-up in us," York said. "This particular senior class has done an incredible job for us. I'm very, very proud of them."
Union is 21-1-1 when it scores at least four goals.
Gaudreau put the Eagles on the board less than 4 minutes into the first period, scoring on a rebound in the crease off Kevin Hayes' initial shot for his NCAA-leading 36th goal.
Union tied it on Bodie's slap shot from the top of the right circle 2:39 into the second. Eight minutes later, Ciampini put back a quick rebound off a faceoff win to give Union a 2-1 lead.
Santini countered for Boston College with 4:07 left in the second.
Union also played in the 2012 Frozen Four, losing to Ferris State in the semifinals. ... Gaudreau is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award to be awarded Friday to the top player in the country. Gaudreau leads the nation with 80 points. ... The meeting was the second meeting between the programs. Union beat Boston College 5-1 in the first round of the tournament last year.
The 22-year-old shooting guard came out to his family, coaches and teammates in just a few days at the beginning of April. That's when he also decided to publicly acknowledge his sexuality.
"I just didn't want to hide anymore, in any way," Gordon told ESPN. "I didn't want to have to lie or sneak. I've been waiting and watching for the last few months, wondering when a Division I player would come out, and finally I just said, 'Why not me?'"
Gordon, a native of Plainfield, N.J., said that a key moment for him came when the Brooklyn Nets signed veteran center Jason Collins to a 10-day contract in February. Collins, who publicly acknowledged his sexuality in April 2013, became the first openly gay player in NBA history when he took the court against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23.
"That was so important to me, knowing that sexuality didn't matter, that the NBA was OK with it," Gordon said.
A number of people in the UMass athletic administration worked closely with Gordon behind the scenes as he prepared to come out to his teammates.
Here's a shout out from his coach, Derrick Kellogg, on Twitter:
I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly.— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but most importantly, he is a wonderful human being.— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a coaching staff, a team and a family, we stressed to him...— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
that we support him in every way possible. Derrick is a first-class representative of this University...— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
and this program since he joined us and we are all very proud of him.— Derek Kellogg (@CoachKellogg) April 9, 2014
(Read full story.)
On Monday night Christian lost a big part of that core, as Ryan Anderson announced via Twitter that he would be leaving Chestnut Hill:
I have decided to transfer from BC. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last 3 yrs. Proud I was able to be an Eagle #RIPDK— Ryan Anderson (@_AndersonBC12) April 7, 2014
A three-year starter for the Eagles, Anderson was former coach Steve Donahue’s best post player in 2013-14 when he averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-9, 219-pound junior from Lakewood, Calif., was forced to play out of position at the 5 for much of last season after 7-footer Dennis Clifford missed the majority of the season due to injury.
Anderson confirmed his decision to transfer to ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman on Tuesday, Goodman tweeting:
BC forward Ryan Anderson told ESPN he'll transfer. Received release today. Will have shoulder surgery, sit next year, then play final year.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 8, 2014
Ryan Anderson is a California kid. Natural assumption is he heads back west, although he told me he just wants best fit.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 8, 2014
At his formal introduction on Tuesday, Christian was asked whether he talked to Anderson about leaving.
“We talked briefly,” he said. “Let’s face it, Ryan has done some great things at Boston College. In my conversation [with him] I let him know how much I would’ve loved to have coached him. I think he’s really, really good for the way I like to do things and I can help him, but again at the end of the day I want all the players to do what they think is best for them.”
Olivier Hanlan, BC’s star guard and the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2012-13, is considering leaving school early and entering the NBA draft. Tom Layman of the Boston Herald reported Monday that Hanlan hasn’t made a decision on that yet.
“We had a couple of great conversations,” Christian said when asked about Hanlan. “And we’ll continue to do so.”
Also, Maryland assistant coach Scott Spinelli is expected to take a similar position on Christian's staff, sources told ESPN.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.
Today, the junior from Carneys Point, N.J., who still looks like he's in high school, is enjoying a homecoming as he prepares to lead his third-ranked Eagles (28-7-4) to Philadelphia and the Frozen Four semifinals against Union College (30-6-4) on Thursday.
"It's something pretty special to be coming home and play in the Frozen Four with a great team, great coaches," said Gaudreau, the nation's leading scorer and a Hobey Baker favorite. "My brother [Matt] is on the team as well, so it's a pretty special moment, and I'm just trying to take it all in as well right now. I'm pretty excited.
Gaudreau and the rest of the Eagles aren't about to take any opponent lightly. They have to think back to only earlier this season to find the turning point for this season's BC squad, when on Nov. 29, Holy Cross tripped up the Eagles at Conte Forum, 5-4.
"It was certainly at a juncture in our season where we were a pretty good club, but just pretty good. And Holy Cross played exceptionally well against us," BC coach Jerry York said. "We expected to win pretty easily, that particular game, and got upset before the home crowd. So I think that kind of started us [thinking] that pretty good wasn't going to help us accomplish the goals we'd like to think we had during the course of the year. So that helped us become a better club, no question."
The Eagles responded by going on a 19-game unbeaten streak. In capturing the Northeast regional last weekend, knocking out Denver and Hockey East rival UMass Lowell, the Eagles earned the program's 24th berth in the Frozen Four, tying the all-time mark of Michigan. Waiting for the Eagles on Thursday will be one of college hockey's "new kids on the block," second-ranked Union.
The Dutchmen are the ECAC Hockey champions and the team that unceremoniously eliminated BC from the NCAAs last spring, 5-1, in the first meeting between the programs. Rick Bennett's team served notice this season that two straight NCAA invitations, including a Frozen Four appearance in 2012, were no flukes. Union is the only team in college hockey to hit the 30-win plateau.
But while Bennett said he welcomed the "Rocky tag," Union's captain Mat Bodie said the underdog label didn't fit. "I don't feel like we're the underdog here," he said. "The team's been playing well all season. We've worked hard to get back to this point. All four teams are really skilled, so I don't think there's an underdog in the group."
"I think from the outside perspective, people are still going to throw that tag on us," the senior from Manitoba said. "A lot of people still haven't heard of Union College. From the players' perspective, and from the coaches' perspective, we're a lot more prepared for this [Frozen Four]. Last time, we celebrated pretty hard after we got there. And this year, it's a little more subdued because we know there's a lot more hockey to be played."
Although Union doesn't have the storied tradition of BC and the other semifinalists, Minnesota and North Dakota, college hockey is a game of here and now. York, who has more wins than any coach in college hockey history with 963, is well aware of that fact.
"What Rick has done there in the last three years is incredible," he said. "Over the last three years, he had six opportunities to win a league championship and conference [tournament] championship, and he's won five of those of six trophies.
"So I think the fan of college hockey is thinking Minnesota, North Dakota, Boston College, we've got historically strong programs, but the person who really follows closely knows Union might be the favorite of all of us. They've had a great run here," York said. "We ran into an excellent hockey team in Union last year. We certainly have a great deal of respect for them, and the national coaches are now starting to recognize that Union is legit."
Somewhat coincidentally, Bennett's squad ousted his two predecessors at Union in the East regional -- Kevin Sneddon at Vermont and Nate Leaman at Providence. Still, Bodie said the Dutchmen aren't putting too much stock in their win over the Eagles in last year's NCAA tournament.
"They're a real dangerous team, they have been for years," he said. "Last year, they were just as dangerous. We were fortunate to jump out on a lead against them. We're going to have to play our game, be sound defensively, if we're going to try and shut them down."
Much like the Eagles, the Dutchmen had a couple of midseason stumbles, but turned things around in early February and enter the Frozen Four on a 15-game unbeaten streak (14-0-1). Since Union erased a two-goal deficit to tie Colgate 4-4 on Feb. 15, junior goaltender Colin Stevens (1.93 goals against, .932 save percentage) hasn't surrendered more than two goals in a game.
"Colin has faced a lot of adversity through his three years, and I think through that adversity he's really learned from that," Bennett said. "He's matured. He's gotten bigger, gotten stronger, throughout his time here. He came in very young, and it just takes time. I think the time he has spent on getting bigger and stronger, and he just had to go through a season of games."
Stevens' teammate Bodie agreed. "The biggest thing is [Stevens] brings a calming presence to the team," Bodie said. "With him back there, guys are calm, guys can try to make some plays they otherwise wouldn't be because they know Stevo's there to bail us out. He's just been terrific for us all season."
"We have to make sure we're getting shots," he said. "Coach [York], and the coaching staff, says no shot is a bad shot in the playoffs, so we've got to make sure we're getting a lot of shots on Stevens and make sure we test him early. Hopefully, we get a few quick ones in the net and get him off his game early in the game on Thursday."
Union's stalwart defensive corps is led by Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere, a Hobey Baker hopeful in his own right (he was one of 10 finalists, though he didn't make the "top three" cut) and a player familiar to Gaudreau. The two were teammates on Team USA for the 2013 World Junior Championships.
"He's a really offensive player," Gaudreau said. "Coming up on Thursday, we've got to make sure we're watching out for him. He's shifty. He's very quick and fast. He moves the puck, he's got great vision. We definitely need to keep an eye on him."
As a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, Gostisbehere is drawing considerable attention from the local media. Bennett made it abundantly clear that his prized junior blueliner has his priorities straight, and he doesn't expect Gostisbehere's draft status will be a distraction.
"Shayne Gostisbehere plays for Union College," Bennett said. "He doesn't play for the Philadelphia Flyers. So I don't see that being a big issue at all. We have a lot of guys in that locker room, tremendous leaders, so I'm not too worried about that at all."
While the Eagles have three players among the nation's top six scorers -- Gaudreau (35 goals, 77 points), Kevin Hayes (63 points) and Bill Arnold (52 points) -- Union only has one in the top 50 (senior Daniel Carr, at eighth, with 22 goals and 48 points). However, Union isn't hurting on the offensive side of the puck. While BC leads the nation with 4.1 goals a game, Union is second, at 3.7. The Dutchmen have 10 players with 20 or more points, led by Carr, Daniel Ciampini (36 points), Kevin Sullivan (35 points) and Bodie (35 points).
York, conversely, said he hopes to get more balanced scoring from his Eagles, after BC's top line of Gaudreau, Hayes and Arnold combined for eight of the 10 Eagles goals in the regionals.
"In a perfect world, sure, you'd like all four lines contributing to the offense, you want your defense to contribute to offense, but again, each game is different," said York, who quipped after BC's regional final win over Lowell that he's happy as long as his offense scores one more goal than the opposition. "You're never quite sure how the game's going to play out.
"But we've got players capable of scoring goals in all four lines, and they're allowed to score," he said. "It just happens to be John's line. But we'd like to get some more offense from different people, certainly the blue line would help us an awful lot."
BC's winning goal against Lowell was scored by freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen, set up by a perfect pass from sophomore defenseman Teddy Doherty. In fact, York said this might be the youngest team he has ever brought to the Frozen Four, with four freshman forwards, three freshman defenders and a freshman goaltender getting regular ice time. York said he had confidence in his young netminder, 18-year-old Thatcher Demko (2.16 goals against, .920 save percentage), who bounced back from a shaky Hockey East quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame to play well in the Northeast regional.
"No one has a crystal ball, so we really can't figure out how this is going to play out," York said. "He's had his ups and downs during the course of the year, like any freshman, but his competitiveness in practice and his desire to get better have never wavered."
Special teams, which York said often hold the key to any playoff match, could be the difference. The one glaring difference between the clubs is on the penalty kill, where BC is tops in the country (90.4 percent), but Union ranks 24th (83 percent). Expect the Eagles to go for the jugular with the man-advantage, and the Dutchmen to be on their best behavior to avoid time in the box. Both BC and Union spend roughly the same amount of time playing a man down, averaging 11.9 and 11.25 penalty minutes per game, respectively.
"I think right now we're playing our best hockey throughout the whole season so far," Gaudreau said. "So it's just making sure we keep improving every single day in practice and get ready for the Frozen Four."
Each of BC's last four national title runs have been launched from Worcester, and the third-ranked Eagles (28-7-4) are headed back to the Frozen Four after slipping past the gritty fifth-ranked UMass Lowell River Hawks, 4-3, to capture the Northeast Regional at the DCU Center on Sunday.
This win, however, had a different flavor. Instead of BC's all-world line of Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes making the difference in crunch time, a pair of freshmen stepped up big in the third period to score the tying and winning goals.
Local product Ryan Fitzgerald erased a 3-2 BC deficit early in the final stanza, and Ian McCoshen, an import from Minnesota, put the Eagles up for good with 8:44 to go. But the game wasn't decided until Hayes dove to knock the puck out of his zone as the clock ran out, ending Lowell's season.
In a match that pitted the nation's top offense against Lowell's top-ranked defense, the Eagles showed they could defend as well. York noted that his high-octane offense usually gets the lion's share of the credit for the team's success, but he was proud of how freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko and a defense featuring three freshmen weathered the Lowell storm.
"As long as we get one more goal than our opposition, I'm pretty happy with our offense," said York, who won his record 39th NCAA tournament game (39-20-1).
The Eagles are the lone Hockey East team left in the tournament, after five made the NCAA field of 16. The BC win sets up an intriguing Frozen Four match in Philadelphia against Union, the nation's No. 1 team and the ECAC Hockey squad that bounced the Eagles from the NCAAs last year by a 5-1 count.
"I definitely remember losing to them last year," said Arnold, a senior and BC alternate captain. "They came in and kind of drove us out of the building. So we're going to respect them as an opponent."
On Sunday, the River Hawks (26-11-4), despite playing a grueling late-night semifinal against Minnesota State on Saturday, appeared to have the same game plan. "I don't think fatigue became a huge factor," Lowell coach Norm Bazin said regarding the black-and-blue battle with the Mavericks. "You (have) to finish on your opportunities, and we had a couple of flurries where we just didn't finish."
Still, the River Hawks came out of the gates attacking, taking the early play to BC. A minute into the game, Eagles defender Isaac MacLeod made a great sliding block to break up a Lowell 2-on-1.
That got the Eagles' attention, and BC responded with a couple of scoring chances. But more than anything else, the serve-and-volley opening to the game brought the match to a nice boil, epitomized by matching roughing penalties to BC's Arnold and UML's Joe Pendenza.
BC got the all-important first goal at 12:57, with Gaudreau -- the regional's most valuable player -- again showing his preternatural predatory instincts. Jumping on a loose puck in the neutral zone, Gaudreau immediately launched a 3-on-1 rush down the left side, with Arnold drifting down the slot and Hayes filling the right lane. Rather than surrender the puck quickly, Gaudreau held it, forcing defenseman Zack Kamrass to make a decision. When Kamrass peeled off to protect against a pass, UML goalie Connor Hellebuyck dropped to take away a short-side shot. Gaudreau passed anyway, zipping the puck behind Kamrass to Hayes, who slammed it home for a 1-0 lead.
The goal made Lowell's task considerably more difficult, as the Eagles entered the game with a 20-2-2 mark when scoring first. If Lowell had reason to believe, it was that those two losses came earlier in March against Notre Dame, when the Fighting Irish knocked BC out of the Hockey East tournament. The River Hawks themselves had battled back from a 2-0 deficit against the Eagles in late February, salvaging a 2-2 tie.
"We know Boston College is a good team, and that they're probably going to score some goals," Lowell captain Josh Holmstrom said. "But we came right back at them a couple of times."
At 18:08, Lowell capitalized on a Fitzgerald boarding penalty to knot the game. Stationed at the blueline, UML's Michael Kapla took a pass from teammate Derek Arnold and fired a low wrister through traffic and Demko's legs for his third goal of the season, drawing the River Hawks even, 1-1.
"It's the same old adage," Bazin said. "When you get an opportunity against a good team, you better finish it because it could come back and haunt you. And it certainly did."
At 5:11, Gaudreau unveiled another talent in his creative repertoire when he headed a deflected pass, much like a soccer player, on goal. But Hellebuyck, tight to the post, made the stop.
Gaudreau was at the center of things again when the Eagles took a 2-1 lead at 17:34. After wrong-footing one UML defender, Gaudreau brought the puck into the Lowell zone along the right wing. Kamrass blocked Gaudreau's shot, but Arnold fired the rebound past Hellebuyck's glove, off the post and into the UML net.
Lowell responded almost immediately on a strike by Holmstrom at 18:44. UML's Christian Folin flicked a shot from the right point that Scott Wilson appeared to tip before it began bouncing around the crease. The puck finally fell to Holmstrom's stick, and Lowell's captain snapped it past Demko's blocker to tie the game, 2-2.
The goal prompted a lengthy video review to make sure Wilson didn't tip Folin's shot with a high stick before Holmstrom buried his game-tying tally, but the goal stood.
Lowell took its first lead just 43 seconds into the third. Freshman Evan Campbell drove deep along the right wall and flicked a centering attempt that glanced off the skate of BC defender Scott Savage and past Demko for his ninth goal of the year.
This time, it was the Eagles who wasted no time answering. Just 21 seconds later, Fitzgerald took a pass from captain Patrick Brown, split the Lowell defense, pulled the puck onto his backhand and tucked it beneath Hellebuyck to knot the game, 3-3.
"That goal by Ryan Fitzgerald was unbelievable," Arnold said. "Just a really skilled goal."
It was BC's first goal of the Northeast Regional that wasn't scored by Gaudreau, Hayes or Arnold. It also cost Lowell the luxury of playing out front.
"I was hoping to play with the lead for a little while and see how we did that way, and make them earn it," Bazin said. "But they responded fairly well on their end, and that was it."
At 11:16, the Eagles reclaimed the lead on a heads-up play by a defensemen not known for his scoring. With the Lowell defense sagging and the puck in the right corner, McCoshen snuck down the left side, tapping his stick. BC defender Teddy Doherty dished a perfect pass to McCoshen, and the freshman cranked it underneath a diving Helleuyck for his fifth goal of the season and a 4-3 BC lead.
"I was thinking to shoot all the way, but he was screaming, and thankfully I passed it over to him and he made a nice shot," Doherty said. "I'm glad he's loud."
It was only the second time this season that Hellebuyck had surrendered four goals. The River Hawks continued to press, outshooting the Eagles for the game, 32-29, but Demko (29 saves) and the BC defense got stronger as the game went on.
"We had plenty of chances to get over the top, but their goaltender was equal to the task," Bazin said.
Now Demko, his freshmen classmates and the rest of the Boston College squad can make travel plans for Philadelphia.
At the tail end of a 60-minute see-saw battle worthy of the top two teams in Hockey East, two BC freshmen -- Ryan Fitzgerald and Ian McCoshen -- got the tying and winning goals to propel the Eagles to their sixth Frozen Four appearance in the past eight years.
The third-ranked Eagles (28-7-4), who won national championships in 2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012 after winning their opening tournament games in Worcester, will be the sole Hockey East representative in Philadelphia. The fifth-ranked River Hawks, who were attempting to return to the Frozen Four for the second consecutive year, finished 26-11-4.
Earlier Saturday, the high-octane Boston College Eagles punched their ticket to Sunday's final with a convincing 6-2 win over the Denver Pioneers. The winner of Sunday's game can book its flight to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.
"We started very, very quickly," said BC coach Jerry York of the win over Denver. "We got some terrific play out of Billy Arnold's line [which includes the team's top scorers Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Arnold]. They have been our mainstays through their careers, and I thought tonight they were really sharp, moved pucks well. But, just as importantly, [they] competed really hard coming back, and playing good defense."
The second game of the Northeast Regional provided a sharp contrast to the opener. While the Eagles turned their game into a Formula One race, the River Hawks (26-10-4) and Mavericks (26-14-1) resembled a quintessential "if you ain't rubbing, you ain't racing" NASCAR demolition derby, with both squads taking the body every chance they got.
"Defensively, they were hunting us down," said Mavericks captain Johnny McInnis. "They backcheck with a lot of pressure, so you've got to make quick decisions. And I think that's their game plan, to take time and space away."
It wasn't artistic hockey, but a hard-nosed battle of wills. Lowell may need a few ice packs and aspirin, but coach Norm Bazin said his squad will be ready Sunday.
"We do know our opponent, and they're a great team," said Bazin of Boston College.
The River Hawks went 0-1-1 against the Eagles this year, losing at BC 3-0 on Feb. 21, and coming back to garner a 2-2 tie in Lowell the next night.
Lowell and Minnesota State both came into the NCAAs with topflight goaltending, and neither UML's Connor Hellebuyck (35 saves) nor Maverick Cole Huggins (33 saves) disappointed. In the end, though, Hellebuyck, who came within 11 seconds of notching his third straight shutout (including the semifinals and finals of the Hockey East tournament), was the difference.
"It was a classic goalie battle," said Huggins. "He made a lot of great saves. There were a couple of posts, both ways, and that could have gone either way too. But he played out of his head."
Asked what it would take to beat Lowell when the River Hawks are playing on top of their game, Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings said, "I think you've got to get to three [goals]."
"You’ve got to get to them early if you can," said Hastings. "Because as we've seen, once [Hellebuyck] gets settled, he's pretty confident."
In the middle stanza, both goaltenders stepped up their game. Huggins made a nice stop on Lowell's Adam Chapie in the opening minute, and UML's Hellebuyck matched him with a sprawling right pad stop on Chase Grant moments later. Hellebuyck again frustrated the junior from Oklahoma City at the 5-minute mark, flashing the left pad to deny Grant's point-blank bid from the slot.
"I thought he made some exceptional saves tonight," said Hastings.
Huggins and the Mavericks caught a break just past the 8-minute mark, when the on-ice referee lost sight of a loose puck in the crease and blew the play dead. At 9:50, Minnesota State's Dylan Margonari, steaming down the left side, cranked a shot that beat Hellebuyck clean, but clanked off the right post.
Still, the Mavericks kept inching closer. Another in-tight attempt by Minnesota State's Teddy Blueger hit a post and pinballed across the crease.
Huggins kept the Mavericks within striking distance with two superb saves less than 90 seconds apart, denying Scott Wilson and then absolutely robbing Evan Campbell to close out the second period.
UML's Chapie had two solid chances to stretch the lead at the start of the third period, but he fired his first bid wide left in the opening minute, and then was hooked during a breakaway bid at 3:13. During the ensuing power play, the goal light went off during a scrum at the Mavericks’ net, but video review upheld the on-ice officials' ruling of no goal.
At 18:30, UML's Derek Arnold hit the post, and had a second bid blocked by Zach Palmquist with Huggins out of position.
Finally, with Huggins pulled for the extra attacker, Lowell got a second goal with 40 seconds left. After a brief flurry in front of Hellebuyck, the puck squirted to Zack Kamrass, and the junior from Atlanta flung it 180 feet into the empty net for a 2-0 Lowell lead.
The River Hawks would need the insurance marker. Minnesota State made it interesting with just under 11 seconds left, when Zach Stephan spoiled Hellebuyck's shutout bid, burying a rebound from a McInnis shot off the back boards to cut the Lowell lead to 2-1, and ending Hellebuyck's shutout streak at just under 202 minutes.
Despite getting an offensive-zone faceoff with 2.2 seconds left, however, the Mavericks wouldn't get another shot on goal.
"I liked the way we bent, but we never broke," said Bazin.
Sunday, Hellebuyck will again need to be on his game, as Lowell faces the nation's most potent offense. At the opposite end of the ice, BC freshman Thatcher Demko will step between the pipes.
"I thought Thatcher did not play fairly up to his standards in the last series [losing to Notre Dame in the Hockey East quarterfinals]," said York. "I think it was really important to his confidence to have ... a good game in goal. He's still only 18 years old, so this is a big step."
None will be bigger than Sunday. In the regional final, goals may be few and far between, and the first one might be the most important either team scores this season. The Eagles are 20-2-2 when scoring first, while the River Hawks are 20-2-3. There's little doubt that both teams are keenly aware of those statistics.
"After thoughtful deliberation, I continue to realize my heart is at Harvard," Amaker said in a statement released by the school Saturday. "To teach, lead and serve at this amazing institution, and in this special community, is truly meaningful to me."
Amaker's name had been floated in connection with other high-profile openings, including one across town at Boston College.
Because he has an ACC pedigree (playing for and coaching with Mike Krzyzewski at Duke), experience at high-major institutions (at Seton Hall and Michigan) and a record of success on the court and on the recruiting trail, and because he wouldn't even have to move in order to take the BC job, Amaker was a logical candidate for the Eagles.
But in the end, Amaker decided to stay with the Crimson -- the team he has led to six straight wins over BC.
Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise praised Amaker as "a great leader, a great coach and a great educator."
"He is an inspiration to many in the Harvard community," Scalise said in the statement. "We are excited he will continue to lead our men's basketball program."
In seven seasons as the Crimson coach, Amaker has overseen a transformation from perennial Ivy League also-ran to powerhouse. The Crimson have won four straight Ivy titles, including a share of the title in 2010-11 and outright titles the past three seasons, and played in the NCAA tournament in three straight seasons.
After they upset No. 5 seed Cincinnati in a second-round matchup this season, the Crimson have won NCAA tournament games in back-to-back seasons. Prior to those wins, Harvard had never won an NCAA tournament game.
Amaker is 139-71 overall at Harvard, including a 67-31 mark in Ivy play, and has led his team to 20-plus victories in five straight seasons -- the first Ivy team to do so since Penn had a run of six consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins from 1970 to 1975.
Though the Crimson lose key veterans Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry and Laurent Rivard to graduation this season, Amaker returns a strong core for 2014-15.
Point guard Siyani Chambers, star guard Wesley Saunders (Ivy Player of the Year in 2013-14) and big man Steve Moundou-Missi will all be back, meaning three-fifths of the starting five will remain in place as Amaker & Co. chase a fifth straight Ivy League crown.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.
The third-ranked Eagles (27-7-4) have now won nine straight postseason contests at the DCU Center since 2005 (11-1 overall), and hope to make it 10 straight Sunday when they face the winner of the UMass Lowell-Minnesota State Mankato nightcap. All of BC's four title runs since 2001 have originated in Worcester. More important for this year's squad, the Eagles showed little rust from their two-week layoff after getting bounced from the Hockey East playoffs on March 16.
In a classic confrontation between student and teacher, BC's Gaudreau, the odds-on favorite to win the Hobey Baker Award, got the best of his former USHL coach Jim Montgomery, Denver's bench boss. Just 25 seconds into the contest, Gaudreau found a seam behind the Pioneers' defense, took a brilliant behind-the-back, no-look pass from Hayes and roofed the puck over DU goalie Sam Brittain's right shoulder for his 33rd on the season and a 1-0 BC lead.
Montgomery, Gaudreau's coach during his tenure with the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints, had almost predicted the goal the night before. "You don't want to be running at them defensively, because they'll make you look stupid. You've got to mark your men well.
"I know, coaching Johnny ... his anticipation of when to transition from defense to offense is going to happen. He doesn't end up on breakaways like he does by a fluke. His timing is impeccable," said Montgomery. "I've been trying to show our players that when you realize a turnover has happened, he's already two strides ahead of you and behind you."
BC's second goal showcased Hayes' brute strength and patience. Starting deep in the left corner, the senior from Dorchester, Mass., skated in a large circle, waltzing through the entire Denver defense along the way. The final move was a crisp deke on Brittain, who bit, and Hayes switched the puck to his forehand before jamming it home.
Gaudreau stretched the lead to 3-0 with his second of the game before the midway point of the first period. Collecting the puck at center ice, Gaudreau burst down the left side, leaving DU's David Makowski in his wake. The junior then sliced behind the DU net, and before Brittain could recover, tucked the puck neatly inside the right post for his 34th of the season.
The trend continued in the second, when Hayes got his second. Gaudreau's pass from the corner glanced off Arnold to Hayes, who took it in stride and fired a dart into the top right corner at 5:29. Gaudreau then completed his hat trick at 8:13.
Brittain made a dandy right pad save on defenseman Michael Matheson as he slashed across the crease, but Gaudreau was Johnny on the spot. The junior from New Jersey pounced on the rebound, and fired a shot from behind the goal line that caromed off a prone Brittain and into the DU net for a 5-0 BC lead.
At 15:35, Arnold got into the act, beating his man down the ice and converting a perfectly weighted pass from Hayes to put the game completely out of reach, 6-0.
The Pioneers got a goal back in the final minute of the middle frame when Trevor Moore snuck a backhander past BC's Thatcher Demko while the freshman netminder was distracted by his defenseman Ian McCoshen and DU's Ty Loney tangled in the crease.
However, Montgomery all but sent up the white flag to start the third, pulling his senior netminder for freshman Evan Crowley. The Pioneers, playing to the final whistle, cut the final margin to four with only 13.4 seconds remaining, when the puck deflected off DU's Evan Janssen and past Demko. But it would be the last goal of Denver's season.
Sunday, it will be another team's turn to try to stop Gaudreau and his BC Eagles.
The Falcons trailed A&M late in the second half but rallied to seize the first Division 2 national title for their program and coach Barbara Stevens.
Senior Courtney Finn, an All-America selection from Winthrop, Mass., led the way for Bentley with 21 points.
Sure, the River Hawks may take I-495, and BC will probably opt for the Mass Pike. More importantly, though, is that the Eagles must shake two weeks of rust before their opening-round game. Meanwhile, the River Hawks are riding the momentum of capturing their second straight Hockey East championship last Saturday.
Three league tournament champions will gather in Worcester on Saturday. The Eagles, thanks to their No. 3 national ranking, earned the No. 1 seed and will face the No. 17 Denver Pioneers, the NCHC champs and the last team to win back-to-back national titles (2004 and 2005). Lowell, ranked fifth in the country, got the No. 2 seed and squares off against the No. 11 Minnesota State Mavericks, formally known as Mankato State, the WCHA champions who are riding a 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1).
Boston College (26-7-4) vs. Denver (20-15-6), 4 p.m.
Worcester's DCU Center has been good to the Eagles, who have gone 10-1 at the arena in NCAA postseason competition since 2001. Each of BC's last four championship title runs (2001, 2008, 2010, 2012) started in the City of Seven Hills. But the Eagles have also been rudely booted from the NCAAs as defending champs in recent years, including a 5-1 loss to Union in 2013 and an 8-4 battering at the hands of Colorado College in 2011.
The Pioneers were one of two teams (Atlantic Hockey champ Robert Morris being the other) outside the Top 16 in the national Pairwise Rankings to make the NCAA field. They were awarded an automatic bid by taking the inaugural National College Hockey Conference tournament with a 4-3 victory over Miami of Ohio in Minneapolis.
While the Pioneers are rolling into the NCAA Regionals, the Eagles have been home, no doubt stewing over their Hockey East quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame. BC coach Jerry York, however, was quick to point out that losing to the Irish wasn't a death knell for the Eagles' NCAA title hopes.
"In Tampa Bay (in 2010), when we played Ferris (State) for a national championship, they got upset in the quarters and never played in the Joe Louis Arena (for the CCHA league championship)," he said. "So there's a lot of precedent set. You don't necessarily have to win your league title to win a championship. It probably happens more the other way. So that's where our mindset is now."
York was clearly more interested in making sure his team is playing at their best. It is the second time this month that the Eagles have had to deal with a two-week layoff between games. The first one didn't end well, as the Irish lit up BC, 7-2, in the first game of their quarterfinal series.
"When the goal is a national championship, that's a pretty big goal to have, so that'll keep us focused," said York after the Irish series. "We'll take some time off, because this has been a pretty tough series for us. Three games, three nights. But that'll be the least of our problems, trying to get them motivated. That (national championship) is what they all want. Now we just have to use our practice times correctly."
Secondary scoring will be a point of emphasis for the Eagles. BC's top line of Johnny Gaudreau (69 points), Kevin Hayes (56 points), and Bill Arnold (48 points) has been outstanding, with both Gaudreau and Hayes named as Hobey Baker Award finalists (the former being the odds-on favorite). Those three players accounted for almost half (68) of the team's 150 goals. Production drops off sharply after those three (captain Patrick Brown is next with 28 points), but the Eagles still have the most prolific offense in college hockey at 4.05 goals a game.
BC's formidable offense is matched by a stout defense, surrendering just 84 goals. The Eagles need freshman netminder Thatcher Demko (2.13 goals against average, .921 save percentage) to recapture his Beanpot championship form. He can't afford any soft goals, like the bad-angle backhander he surrendered to Notre Dame that allowed the Irish to back into the quarterfinal deciding game after BC took a 1-0 lead.
"I think he's going to be fine," said York. "He's a freshman goaltender who is earning his stripes. He's playing in some big, big games for us, and I feel very, very confident in Thatcher."
UMass Lowell (25-10-4) vs. Minnesota State (26-13-1), 7:30 p.m.
The River Hawks owned TD Garden in Boston last weekend, dispatching Notre Dame and New Hampshire, respectively, by identical 4-0 scores to defend their Hockey East tournament crown. UML coach Norm Bazin acknowledged that league play has his River Hawks battle-tested.
"It's such a difficult league to win in," said Bazin. "Every night poses such an incredible challenge, whether you're playing a Merrimack or UMass, or you're playing a BC, BU. It really doesn't matter. The parity is second to none. That's what makes it such a good conference. And we feel it prepares us very well for this type of post-season. And we feel it's going to prepare us very well for the NCAA postseason also."
Sophomore Connor Hellebuyck (1.73 GAA, .943 save percentage), who backstopped Lowell to its first Frozen Four appearance last spring, was again immense in the Hockey East tourney, recording the first back-to-back shutouts. Hellebuyck and the River Hawks have the stingiest defense in the country, allowing only 1.85 goals a game.
Hellebuyck, with his impossibly long limbs and a Lowell jersey eerily reminiscent of the Montreal Canadiens, is looking like a modern-day Ken Dryden, the man Phil Esposito called a "thieving giraffe" after he robbed the Bruins of a Stanley Cup in 1971. But Hellebuyck's defense is also similar to those great Canadien teams, with blueliners who play both physical and brave.
"What I remember is a bunch of guys in front of me, paying the price, and doing the right thing," said Hellebuyck after Friday's shutout win over Notre Dame. "A lot of blocked shots and a lot of ticks tonight. So my hat's off to the guys in front of me."
Up front, Lowell doesn't boast any superstars, but the team rolls four lines that can all do damage. "We're structured to have four lines that are always going to go at you," said Pendenza, the team's leading scorer with 29 points, one of 15 Lowell players in double figures.
"Game to game, you never know who is going to be scoring the goals. It's always usually somebody different," said the senior sniper. "I think that's very hard for teams to combat, because they don't know which line is going to be doing the scoring that night. It's all four lines that can get the job done. We just keep going and keep going, and sooner or later the puck is going to go in. But you never know who it's going to be."
Asked if the River Hawks were playing their best hockey, Hellebuyck was matter-of-fact. "I believe so," he said. "I still think we have more in us, because you improve every day, and you always have more to give. But the guys in front of me are playing great right now defensively, and they're producing a lot of offense."
The River Hawks will need to be sharp on both sides of the puck, as Minnesota State has outscored its opponents 50-16 during its current unbeaten streak. And the Mavericks have a hot young goaltender of their own. Freshman Cole Huggins has started 28 of 40 games, and owns a 21-7-1 record with a 1.91 GAA, a .924 save percentage and six shutouts.