Boston Colleges: Ice Hockey

Gaudreau up for Best College Athlete ESPY

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
Johnny Gaudreau’s college career is over and his professional career with the Calgary Flames is just starting off, but the Boston College star may not be done collecting hardware for his collegiate feats just yet.

The diminutive winger, listed at 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds on his ESPN player page, won the 2014 Hobey Baker Award after putting up 80 points with 36 goals and 44 assists in 40 games as a junior at BC.

He played in one game for Calgary after signing following the Eagles’ season, playing 15:11 and scoring a goal (of course) on his only shot.

And now Johnny is up for an ESPY.

Gaudreau is up against Creighton’s Doug McDermott (basketball), Penn State’s David Taylor (wrestling), Albany’s Lyle Thompson (lacrosse) and Florida State’s Jameis Winston (football).

Voting is open (starting from the bottom) and will continue until host Drake says the awards show is here on July 16 at 9 p.m. ET.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Union edges BC, makes Frozen Four final

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10

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.

Game notes
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.

BC has familiar foe in Frozen Four

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
The last time Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau stepped on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, he was in elementary school, skating in a "Mites on Ice" scrimmage between periods of a Flyers game. By his own admission, Gaudreau was probably more adept at making snow angels back then, than of embarrassing opposing defenses.

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.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Gaudreau
AP Photo/Charles KrupaBC's Johnny Gaudreau, the nation's leading scorer, is thrilled to return to a rink he played on as a youth.
"It's just a fun time of the year," he said. "It's playoffs, it's fun to be at practice, and it's fun to be hanging out with all the guys this late in the season. The energy is going to be high, and we just have to make sure to keep our practices up-tempo."

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."

[+] EnlargeColin Stevens
AP Photo/Fred BeckhamIt's been nearly two months since Union's Colin Stevens has surrendered more than two goals in a game.
Gaudreau said the Eagles understand that they need to do to get pucks behind Union's mobile defensemen if they hope to beat Stevens.

"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."

BC freshmen deliver when it counts

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
WORCESTER, Mass. -- The NCAA hockey tournament is going exactly according to script for Boston College.

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.

[+] EnlargeIan McCoshen
Richard T Gagnon/Getty ImagesIan McCoshen reacts after beating UMass Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the go-ahead goal with 8:44 to play.
"Are we fortunate to come out of this with a trip to Philadelphia? Absolutely," BC coach Jerry York said. "It easily could have gone the other way."

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.

[+] EnlargeAdam Gilmour
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaBC's Adam Gilmour and UMass Lowell's Christian Folin collide going for the puck in the first period.
Lowell had a golden opportunity to stretch its lead to open the second period, after BC's Arnold mugged UML's Joe Gambardella as he broke to the net. The River Hawks got close, when Demko lost Holmstom's deflection attempt, but the Eagles recovered and managed to kill off Arnold's penalty.

"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.

BC edges UMass Lowell for Frozen Four

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
The Boston College Eagles, in a black-and-blue Northeast Regional final that was decided by razor-thin margins, willed their way to the Frozen Four with a nail-biting 4-3 win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks Sunday at the DCU Center in Worcester.

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.

Ice Hockey

BC, Lowell in all-Hockey East regional final

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
Johnny Gaudreau, Joseph Pendenza, A.J. White, Teddy Doherty, Bill ArnoldAP Photo/Elise Amendola
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Sunday's NCAA Northeast Regional final between Boston College and UMass Lowell will showcase Hockey East's top two teams, but their styles could not be more different. The second-seed River Hawks employed their trademark grinding, 200-foot game to edge the Minnesota State Mavericks 2-1 in the second game of the regional opening round at the DCU Center.

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."

[+] EnlargePendenza
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJoseph Pendenza celebrates his goal with teammate A.J. White.
After several near misses by Lowell to open the game, including a shot that caromed off the crossbar, the River Hawks broke through on a typical gritty play by alternate captain Joe Pendenza, the team's leading scorer, at 12:54. With Lowell's Ryan McGrath serving two minutes for charging, Pendenza blocked a point shot from Minnesota State's Matt Leitner, and then broke in clean on Huggins. The senior from Wilmington, Mass., shifted to his backhand and coolly slipped the puck between Huggins' legs for a short-handed tally and his 14th goal on the season.

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.

BC blows out Denver in NCAA opener

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
WORCESTER, Mass. - Boston College continues to mine a rich vein in this working-class city, as the top-seeded Eagles got a first-rate performance from their first line and clobbered the Pioneers of Denver 6-2 in the opening game of the NCAA Northeast Regional.

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.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Gaudreau, Sam Brittain, David Makowski
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaJohnny Gaudreau beat Denver goalie Sam Brittain on a wraparound for his second goal of the game.
In the first postseason clash between these two traditional collegiate powers since 1973, the result emphasized a well-established belief regarding the country's most potent offense: If you're going to beat the Eagles, you need to contain BC's top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold. The high-flying linemates accounted for all of BC's six goals, and 13 of the Eagles' 17 points. The game was effectively over by the end of the first period, with the Eagles registering as many goals (3) as the 17th-ranked Pioneers (20-16-6) had shots.

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.

Video: Breaking down NCAA hockey

March, 23, 2014
Mar 23

ESPN's John Buccigross and Dave Starman look at the first-round matchups in the NCAA men's hockey tournament.

Ice Hockey

BC, UMass Lowell paired in Northeast

March, 23, 2014
Mar 23

After being unceremoniously dumped from the Hockey East tournament in the quarterfinal round, Boston College could get a shot at league champion UMass Lowell after all.

The Eagles and the River Hawks are both part of the Northeast region in the NCAA men's hockey tournament in pairings that were announced Sunday. BC, the region's top seed, and No. 2 seed UMass Lowell will open NCAA play on Saturday in Worcester, with the Eagles (26-7-4) facing Denver (20-15-6) at 4 p.m. on ESPNU and the River Hawks meeting Minnesota State Mankato (26-13-1) at 7:30 on ESPN3.

That sets up the possibility of an all-Hockey East regional final on Sunday for a berth in the Frozen Four. UMass Lowell was a Frozen Four team last season, losing in the national semifinals.

Since going 1-0-1 against UMass Lowell in a two-game series Feb. 21 and 22, BC has played only four games, all against Notre Dame. The Eagles went 1-3 in that stretch, including a best-of-three loss to the Irish in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

BC coach Jerry York was asked about the "rust vs. rest" dynamic by ESPN's John Buccigross during the tournament selection show.

"My biggest concern is that our bracket has three tournament champions," York said, citing conference tournament wins by UMass Lowell, Denver (NCHC) and Minnesota State (WCHA). "Rest or rust doesn't matter to me. We're scheduled to face Denver, which is a very, very good hockey team."

Buccigross then asked York what message he would deliver to his team this week in practice.

"We're always talking here about national championships," York said. "That's our main goal and now we're in the field of 16. We understand that no lousy teams make this field.

"We're going to have be on top of our game, polish some things in our game -- defensive coverage, our forecheck. It' more about what we do as a club rather than what (Denver coach Jim Montgomery) does on the power play or PKs. We're more concerned about ourselves."

CLICK HERE for more on the tournament.

Lowell blanks UNH for Hockey East title

March, 23, 2014
Mar 23
Christian FolinAP Photo/Michael Dwyer
BOSTON -- Hockey is a game of bounces. Come playoffs, everyone is hoping for a little puck luck. Both UMass Lowell and New Hampshire were beneficiaries of the bounces on Friday, each getting game-winning goals that deflected off their opponents. But on Saturday, the Lowell River Hawks proved effort could trump Lady Luck, as they outskated and outhustled the UNH Wildcats to defend their Hockey East crown with a convincing 4-0 victory before 12,051 at TD Garden.

"Tonight wasn't a work of art, but we found a way, and that's a good trait of a winning club," said UML coach Norm Bazin, who has now taken his squad to the NCAAs each of the three years he's been at Lowell.

In the end, the third time wouldn't prove the charm for UNH, which dropped two tough decisions to UML in early November. Lowell (25-10-4) swept past the Wildcats (22-18-1) behind timely scoring, a tenacious defense, and the rock-solid goaltending of tourney MVP Connor Hellebuyck to capture its second Hockey East title. Even though the River Hawks' lofty Pairwise Ranking (No. 7) assured them a spot in the NCAA tournament, they can now head into the field of 16 on a big-time roll.

"Congrats to Lowell," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "Back-to-back championships, that's pretty special. They're an excellent hockey team."

Hellebuyck, who become the only player in the league's 30-year history to win a second tournament Most Valuable Player award, didn't give up a goal in back-to-back 4-0 victories, and hasn't surrendered a single tally at TD Garden since the semifinals in 2013, when the River Hawks beat Providence, 2-1 (he shut out Boston University, 1-0, in last year's final).

"Connor is stellar," said Bazin. "There's no question that you don't win a championship without a good goalie, and he's provided us with great goaltending all year."

Hellebuyck, however, was quick to share his accolades with his teammates. "It's more the guys in front of me," said the sophomore from Michigan. "It's playoff hockey, and we play hard in playoff hockey, and it brings out the best in the guys in front of me, I think you saw that tonight. They blocked shots, they really did everything. So it's really on them."

The Wildcats, meanwhile, saw their season, and hopes for a 23rd NCAA tournament bid, come to a decisive end.

"I thought our team competed, played hard. It just didn't happen," said Umile. "The difficult part is it's a team with great chemistry. We wanted to keep going. Not only were we winning and playing hard, but we were having fun."

[+] EnlargeConnor Hellebuyck
Richard T Gagnon/Getty ImagesTournament MVP Connor Hellebuyck hoists the Lou Lamoriello Trophy after UMass Lowell defeated New Hampshire.
The weekend showcased Lowell's depth. On Saturday the River Hawks got goals from four different players, none of whom scored the night before in UML's 4-0 win over Notre Dame.

"It's been a point of emphasis since I arrived" at Lowell, said Bazin. "To have a great team at Lowell, you have to have multiple threats. We don't have the 50-, 60-point guy. But we have an awful lot of good hockey players. And we feel that (because scoring) can come from any line, that makes us a real threat. And as you can see from these last two games, it can come from anywhere. You need strong goaltending and you need strong defense, but four goals a game is pretty good."

In a game that was fast and physical from the start, both teams got decent chances early on. Midway through the opening period, New Hampshire had the first Grade-A chance, when Wildcat Dalton Speelman got a step behind the Lowell defense and broke in on Hellebuyck. The River Hawk defenders closed the gap, and before he could get off a shot, Speelman dished a pass to linemate Tyler Kelleher. But UML's Christian Folin, hustling back, broke up Kelleher's bid at the right post.

It would prove to be a pivotal play, as Lowell got the all-important first goal, breaking the scoreless tie just two minutes later. Lowell's Joe Pendenza, the team's leading scorer, sent a wide-angle prayer on net that UNH goalie Casey DeSmith blocked. But the junior netminder was a split second too slow to cover the loose puck, and UML's A.J. White split the UNH defense and tapped it past DeSmith for a 1-0 River Hawks lead.

At 15:28, the River Hawks doubled up, again with Pendenza and White in the thick of the play. White made a crisp cross-ice pass to an open Pendenza, who snapped a shot toward an open net that was denied by a spectacular diving glove save by DeSmith. But the puck squirted into the slot, and UML's captain Josh Holmstrom pounced, shoveling a shot into the net to put the Wildcats in a 2-0 hole.

It was a significant tally, as Lowell came into the game undefeated, with a 17-0-3 record, when leading after the first period. And things would go quickly from bad to worse for the Wildcats.

Just 2:13 into the middle period, the River Hawks bumped their lead to 3-0. Lowell's Terrence Wallin carried the puck into the UNH zone along the right wall, patiently waiting out the Wildcats defense before finding trailing Joe Gambardella in the slot. Wallin hit his linemate in stride, and the freshman from Staten Island snapped the puck past UNH's Brett Pesce and DeSmith's blocker to put Lowell in command.

Hellebuyck, meanwhile, looked twice the size of his 6-foot-4 frame, finishing the second period with 120 consecutive saves in Hockey East play at the TD Garden, dating back to last year. He would end the game with a shutout streak at TD Garden of 230 minutes, and the first-ever back-to-back shutouts in the final two nights of the tournament. However, his defense did a superb job taking time and space away from the Wildcats forwards, who found no room to make plays.

"They're a great defensive team. They play their systems unbelievably," said UNH senior captain Eric Knodel. "Their defense (seems to) block every shot. They do a great job making sure their goalie doesn't get the hard save. He gets the easy save, which is good for them. They limited our opportunities, but we got a couple there, and we should have capitalized on them."

With just over a minute remaining in the second, Lowell put the game completely out of reach. UML defender Jake Suter gathered the puck in the high slot off a faceoff, waited for White to set up a screen in front of DeSmith, and then ripped a shot that ticked off Wildcats defender Dylan Maller and past the UNH netminder for a power-play strike and a 4-0 lead.

The River Hawks thought they had stretched their margin to 5-0 just 28 seconds into the third, but Pendenza's adroit tip past DeSmith was ruled a high stick, and waved off. At 3:46, Pendenza had another chance to pad Lowell's lead, when he was awarded a penalty shot. DeSmith, however, robbed the senior's backhand attempt with his glove, and then defiantly tossed the puck out to center ice.

With only 6:30 left in the game, Hellebuyck's shutout streak appeared over when the sophomore was caught out of position, but UML's Dylan Zink jumped in front of a point-blank Wildcat bid and blocked the shot. It was as close as the Wildcats would come to breaking through the Lowell defense.

Now, the River Hawks will set their sights on the NCAA tournament, with the goal of improving on their Frozen Four appearance last year, when they lost in the semifinals to Yale in overtime.

"I mentioned before the weekend started that I think this could be the best team I've coached in my three years. And I still believe it," said Bazin. "We ran into a rash of injuries halfway through the year, that we were able to overcome, and that proved to me that these guys can fight through a lot of stuff. They're a resilient bunch. I'm glad we won the championship, so I didn't eat my words.

"They don't always find the easy way, that's why I have so much gray hair," he said. "But they get it done in the end."

UNH tops Friars to make Hockey East finals

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
Matt WillowsRichard T Gagnon/Getty Images
BOSTON -- The UNH Wildcats have only one option to guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament, and that's to win the Hockey East title. Friday, the fourth-seeded Wildcats kept that dream alive, knocking the third-seeded Providence Friars out in the league semifinals, 3-1, at TD Garden in Boston.

"It's an honor to play here," said New Hampshire junior Matt Willows. "It's a great league, and every year it's just a battle to get here. To get the win tonight, and the opportunity to win tomorrow night, is great. We look forward to tomorrow night."

Coaches like to say that good teams need their best players to step up on the big stage of the playoffs. UNH senior Kevin Goumas did just that on Friday, as the Hockey East second-team all-star led the Wildcats (22-17-1) with a pair of goals to send the Friars (21-10-6) packing.

"He's determined not to have his season end," UNH coach Dick Umile said of Goumas. "He's played well for us all season. He's had a terrific year. It's great to see the puck go in for him."

Asked afterward if he thought about the possibility of each game being his last, Goumas said: "That's been on my mind for the last week or so. The way I've been playing, I'm just going out there and making sure it's not my last game.

"I want to take care of business here at Hockey East first, but I want one more chance to get to the NCAA tournament and a national championship," he said.

Waiting for the Wildcats is the 2nd-seeded UMass Lowell River Hawks, the defending Hockey East champs, who dispatched the Notre Dame Fighting Irish earlier on Friday afternoon, 4-0.

"The first time's hard, but the second time is even harder," said UML's Derek Arnold, when asked how tough it is to get to the Hockey East final. "We put ourselves in the position to go after another championship, and we're going to prepare properly for that tonight and tomorrow, and go for that."

In the nightcap, goals were hard to come by early, as both teams played a tight-checking style and both netminders -- PC's Jon Gillies (28 saves) and UNH's Casey DeSmith (25 saves) -- were in playoff form.

New Hampshire's leading scorer gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead at 7:05 of the second period on a spectacular solo rush. Picking up the puck from a scrum in the high slot, UNH's Goumas went into overdrive as he motored down the right side, blew past PC's Anthony Florentino, curled behind the net and tucked the puck into the net before Gillies could recover for an unassisted short-handed tally.

"I thought the game changed at that point," said PC coach Nate Leaman. "I thought from that point on, [UNH] really won all the battles. And I thought we played soft from that point on, and just didn't execute that well."

The Wildcats went up 2-0 at 13:31, on a goal that had the Garden crowd experiencing a sense of déjà vu. In a scoring play eerily similar to Lowell's first strike in the opening semifinal, Wildcat Justin Agosta flicked a shot from the right point that caromed off PC defender Kevin Hart as he chased UNH's Maxim Gaudreault, and the puck skidded behind Gillies.

The backbreaker, though, came with just a second remaining in the middle stanza, and again Goumas was in the middle of the action. With the clock ticking down, Goumas had the puck locked and loaded on the right side, but instead of shooting, the senior dished it across the slot to linemate Nick Sorkin. PC's Drew Brown made a great defensive play to break up Sorkin's bid, but Goumas stayed with the play, picking up the puck behind the net and jamming it past Gillies just before the buzzer sounded for a 3-0 Wildcats lead. It was Goumas' fifth goal in his past two UNH games.

Less than three minutes into the third, UNH threatened to put the game on ice when Agosta cruised in from the right point and ripped a shot that beat Gillies, but the puck clanged off iron and ricocheted away.

Instead, it was the Friars who struck next, and another outstanding play by Brown. Fighting for the puck behind the UNH net with a Wildcat defender, Brown got upended but still managed to swat the puck to linemate Kevin Rooney. The sophomore stepped out from behind the goal line and roofed a shot over DeSmith's glove to cut the Wildcat lead to 3-1 at 3:22.

Rooney's goal seemed to wake up the Friars, who outshot the Wildcats by a 2-to-1 margin (12 shots to 5) in the final period. But despite several flurries deep in the UNH zone, the Friars couldn't get another puck past DeSmith.

"We were just staying on the perimeter too much," said Rooney. "I think if we got to the inside a little more, we could have got more pucks on DeSmith, created some more traffic and rebounds. We just didn't get to the dirty areas."

Providence, currently tied for ninth in the national Pairwise Rankings, is all but assured a spot in the NCAA tournament field of 16. New Hampshire, tied for 16th, has to win Saturday to make certain it gets an invitation.

"Right now, it's about the moment," said Umile. "This team is feeling good about itself. We're just looking forward to coming out here and competing and giving it our best shot. We had a solid game. We played as well as we could play. We have to do that again tomorrow against Lowell.

"We're going to need to win to get into the NCAA tournament," he said. "And that's our goal, winning a national championship."

Lowell advances to Hockey East finals

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
BOSTON -- Maybe the jetlag and the 1,800-mile round trips simply caught up with Notre Dame. But after two straight successful visits to Boston, the Fighting Irish wilted under a relentless attack of the Lowell River Hawks, as the defending Hockey East champions clipped Notre Dame, 4-0, at the TD Garden on Friday in the league's opening semifinal game.

Lowell will defend its crown Saturday against the winner of the second semifinal between 3rd-seeded Providence and 4th-seeded New Hampshire. It was the River Hawks' third straight win over the Irish this season.

[+] EnlargeDerek Arnold
Eric Canha/CSMUMass Lowell's Derek Arnold celebrates his goal in the River Hawks' 4-0 win over Notre Dame.
The 2nd-seeded River Hawks (24-10-4) won with the type of opportunistic scoring that UML coach Norm Bazin expected from Notre Dame. Bazin promised a high-energy effort from his troops, and they delivered, riding a pair of power-play goals to deny the 8th-seeded Irish (23-14-2) the chance to take the Hockey East crown in their inaugural season in the league after winning the final Central Collegiate Hockey Association title last year.

The luck of the Irish deserted Notre Dame when Lowell drew first blood on a deflection off ND defenseman Kevin Lind at 10:13. Lind was battling Lowell's Josh Holmstrom down low in front of ND goalie Steven Summerhays when Lowell's Christian Folin wristed a shot from the point that was a good foot wide right. But the puck glanced off Lind's skate and behind Summerhays for a 1-0 Lowell lead.

Lowell doubled its lead at 13:54, taking advantage of a surprisingly passive Irish defense. UML's Derek Arnold carried the puck with speed into the Irish zone, and when ND defender Eric Johnson backed off, the senior from Foxboro fired a dart over Summerhays' glove into the top right corner for his 11th of the season and a 2-0 River Hawks advantage.

The River Hawks threatened to break the game open with 40 seconds left in the opening stanza, but Summerhays made a terrific stop of Holmstrom's stuff attempt at the doorstep to keep the Lowell lead at two. The Irish netminder was sharp to start the middle frame as well, blunting Michael Colantone's deflection at the two-minute mark.

Ninety seconds later, though, the River Hawks got their third, capitalizing on David Gerths' boarding penalty. Summerhays (18 saves) was able to block a Scott Wilson blast from the right faceoff dot, but lost the puck in an ensuing scrum with Holmstrom. The biscuit squirted free to Lowell's Evan Campbell, and the freshman from British Columbia buried it for a commanding 3-0 Lowell lead. It was the first time the River Hawks enjoyed a 3-0 lead since early February.

Lowell's Connor Hellebuyck preserved the lead with a big-time stop at 10:25. The sophomore went post-to-post to deny a wide-open Jeff Costello, who was set up by a seeing-eye cross-ice feed from ND's Steven Fogarty.

Another Irish penalty, and another Irish deflection, gave the River Hawks a 4-0 lead at 13:21. With ND's Johnson serving two minutes, Lowell's Zack Kamrass patiently walked the puck in from the left point, and then fired a shot into the low slot that deflected off the stick of Irish defender Stephen Johns and past a beleaguered Summerhays.

Notre Dame picked up the intensity in the third, but Lowell's layered defense, and several top-flight stops by Hellebuyck (35 saves), kept the Irish at bay. Hellebuyck, a Hockey East first-team all-star, clearly enjoys playing at the Garden, having surrendered only a single goal in three games dating back to last season. His TD Garden shutout streak now exceeds 171 minutes. He and the River Hawks will have a chance to add to those numbers on Saturday in the Hockey East title bout.

New-look Hockey East semis start Friday

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
Due to a scheduling quirk, the Hockey East quarterfinals last weekend featured three matchups of teams that knew each other intimately, with the opponents having just met in the final weekend of the regular season. The semifinals this Friday at Boston's TD Garden are the polar opposite, showcasing four teams -- UMass Lowell, Notre Dame, Providence and New Hampshire -- that may need to reintroduce themselves.

Stranger still, for the first time in the league's 30-year history, there won't be a single local school playing at the Garden, with Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University all getting bounced in earlier rounds.

In the opening game, the 2nd-seeded Lowell River Hawks take on the 8th-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish in only the third meeting ever between the two programs. The first two games took place just before Thanksgiving last fall, with the River Hawks sweeping a pair at home against the Irish.

The nightcap boasts two founding members of Hockey East -- 3rd-seeded Providence and 4th-seeded New Hampshire -- that share a long history, but haven't seen each other since late November, when the squads split two games in Rhode Island.

UMass Lowell (23-10-4) vs. Notre Dame (23-13-2), 5 p.m.

The Irish are racking up the frequent-flyer miles to the Commonwealth's capital this month. This weekend marks the third time in the past four weeks that the Notre Dame hockey team has flown to Boston. But with a record of 3-1-0 against the Hockey East regular-season champion Boston College Eagles in those games, the Irish appear road-worthy.

"You do worry a little bit about the travel aspect of things, especially with the academic load these kids have, the emphasis is all about taking care of their school work early in the week this week," said ND coach Jeff Jackson. "But I worry about the overall mental fatigue more than the physical fatigue."

Expect adrenaline to compensation for any potential lack of sleep, as the Irish pay their first-ever visit to the TD Garden. Waiting for them is a Lowell team that left the Garden last spring hoisting the Lamoriello Trophy as tournament champions. The River Hawks earned their spot in the semifinals by ousting Vermont last weekend. ND forward Bryan Rust, fresh off dispatching BC, said Lowell was a carbon copy of the fleet, rugged Irish. His coach agreed.

"There's probably going to be some similarities between the two teams, and I don't think it's going to be a snooze-fest," said Jackson. "I think it's going to probably be a good hockey game with good tempo, because both teams do play well defensively but they transition well. It could be a lot more entertaining than people might imagine."

The defending Hockey East champions have put together another solid season under third-year coach Norm Bazin, rolling four lines that all employ a blue-collar work ethic that mirrors this old working-class city.

"We feel we've got a true team," said Bazin. "Our top scorer (Joseph Pendenza) has got 25, 26 points, so it's probably nothing alarming for opponents. At the same time, we feel our offensive contributions can come from all four lines. I feel very good about the way [Ryan] McGrath is playing. I feel very good about the way Derek Arnold's playing. I feel strong that Pendenza can contribute on any given night, but there's also guys like [Evan] Campbell and [Michael] Fallon, and [Michael] Colantone, who have been chipping in.

"We feel that if we can get four lines to contribute, we have a chance to win," he said. "That's been our motto all year. It doesn't matter where it comes from, as long as we're producing chances and we're pushing the pace."

The River Hawks had some late-season success against Boston College by dumping the puck behind the Eagles defense, and Lowell's forwards will likely take a similar approach against a big Irish backline.

"There's no question that they're very good defensively," said Bazin. "We had the luxury of hosting them in our rink here earlier this year, and they were two very low-scoring games. Both clubs are fairly strong structurally. They seem to be even stingier this time of year. In watching their games with Boston College, I thought they were certainly opportunistic offensively.

"But they're very good defensively, so we're going to have to find a way to be strong on special teams, and try to get the pucks all over the ice," he said. "We feel good about our game, in how we're getting to pucks, and we're going to have an extra challenge here this weekend, as far as trying to get there first."

The River Hawks also have two terrific netminders, senior Doug Carr and sophomore Connor Hellebuyck. And while Carr sports a nifty 8-2-2 record, it's the youngster Hellebuyck who backstopped Lowell to its Frozen Four appearance last year, and has backboned his team down the stretch this season as well.

For the Irish, senior goaltender Steven Summerhays has been tremendous over the second half of the season. Combined with a number of key players returning from injury, and newcomers adjusting to the college game, Summerhays gives Notre Dame strength and confidence at all three positions.

"As a team, I think that we're feeling a lot better about ourselves than we were, say, two months ago. And that comes with winning," said Jackson, who wondered aloud after the BC victory how a team as good as the Irish could be ranked 8th in Hockey East. "Regardless of how you win, when you win games, it's easier to come to the rink every day and have a smile on your face, and that's the way it should be.

"You want the guys to be excited and energized this time of the year, and we all, as coaches, try to make sure that our teams peak at the right time of the season."

According to Bazin, the difference in Friday's first semifinal may simply boil down to effort.

"We may not have the high-end offense that you're looking for this time of the year, for somebody to be able to break the game open like [BC's Johnny] Gaudreau," said the two-time Hockey East coach of the year. "But we're certainly going to wear on our opponents."

Providence (21-9-6) vs. New Hampshire (21-17-1), 8 p.m.

Talk about a role reversal. Last year, the Friars needed to win the Hockey East championship outright to get a bid to the NCAA field of 16, and fell short with a semifinal loss to eventual champ Lowell. UNH, which Providence beat in the quarterfinals, got in based on its Pairwise Ranking. This year, it's the Wildcats, currently ranked 17th in the Pairwise, who are on the outside looking in, and will need to run the table to keep playing past this weekend.

"The team feels good about itself right now, and the opportunity we have ahead of us, playing Providence College," said Wildcats coach Dick Umile. "We're familiar with each other. We've had great games with them, and that goes back to the quarterfinals last year down at Providence. We went three games, all the games were tight, overtime.

"We haven't played since November, but we're familiar with the way they play," he said. "They're well-coached. They've got a lot of balance."

Providence, currently tied for No. 9 in the Pairwise, is close to a lock for the NCAAs, regardless of the results of this weekend. But PC coach Nate Leaman made it clear that he and his squad are focused on the trophy named after former Providence coach (and current New Jersey Devils general manager) Lou Lamoriello. Leaman said the team's two-game sweep against Maine in Orono to finish the regular season, coupled with a sweep of the Black Bears at home in the quarterfinals, has the Friars skating with some extra jump.

"When you play road hockey, it really forces you to be really detailed, and I think we were missing some of that detail at home," said Leaman. "We were able to go on the road for three games. We knew it was going to be a tough environment. We knew what a good team Maine is, what a quality opponent they were. It really forced us to play great hockey, and forced us to play together, and forced us to play some great defense."

Both of these teams can put up points, especially with the Friars recently rediscovering their power-play game after sputtering earlier with the man-advantage.

"Our power-play production has been excellent the past five games," said Leaman. "I believe we have six goals. We had three goals over the weekend against Maine, so actually, in the playoffs, we're 30 percent."

UNH, returning to the TD Garden for the first time since 2011, can score as well. Led by a rejuvenated Kevin Goumas (a hat trick in the series-clinching win over Northeastern), Nick Sorkin and Matt Willows, the Wildcats had the third-best offense, and third-best power play, in the league this year. Which puts even more emphasis on PC's stingy penalty-killers.

"I believe we're in the top five in the country on the penalty kill, and our penalty kill has really saved us all season when our power play has struggled," said Leaman. "There's no doubt that any game you play this time of the year, faceoffs, power play, goaltending, those things are going to be extremely important."

The goaltending matchup is also an intriguing one, with two former teammates -- PC sophomore Jon Gillies (whose father played goal at UNH) and Wildcats junior Casey DeSmith (who played together for the USHL's Indianapolis Ice prior to college) -- getting the nod in the nets. Both have had moments of brilliance, and moments when they've been less than stellar, this season.

"You don't have to worry about Jon's focus or his commitment," said Leaman of his prized netminder, who represented Team USA at the World Junior Championships. "His freshman year went so well for him that there wasn't a lot of adversity, and this was kind of some of the first adversity he had hit, and learning to get back to the basics when you hit adversity like that, and get back to your strengths. So there were a lot of talks along those lines, and give a lot of credit to Jon, because he's worked his tail off and kind of powered through that stretch."

Umile, meanwhile, praised DeSmith, saying: "He gives us an opportunity to win every night. You look at save percentages of goalies in our league, it's phenomenal. I think Casey is a .912 [save percentage], Gillies is at .920, and then we've got guys at .940, so his save percentage is probably seventh in the league."

"But I can tell you he's been very, very consistent throughout the season," he said. "He gives us an opportunity to win, and we've been pleased obviously with Casey's performance this season."

BC stunned by Irish in quarterfinals

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Leave it to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to spoil the St. Patty's Day revelry of the Boston College faithful. On Sunday, the late-arriving crowd of 3,246 at the Conte Forum saw the eighth-seeded Irish play party crashers, employing a suffocating third-period defense to take the Hockey East quarterfinal rubber match from the top-seeded Eagles, 4-2.

It was the seventh straight time the Irish won the deciding game of a three-game series, dating back to their affiliation with the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Sunday's win propels Notre Dame (23-13-2) to its first visit to TD Garden on Friday, when it will take on second-seeded UMass Lowell.

Meanwhile, the Eagles (26-7-4), ranked no. 2 in the country, will fail to make the trip across town for the league semifinals for the first time since 2004, when they were ousted by Boston University. It will be the first Hockey East semifinal without either BC or BU since 1988.

"Certainly, a very difficult loss for us," BC coach Jerry York said. "The locker room is just crushed. We're very disappointed in the outcome."

The teams played to a 1-1 stalemate after one period, but the Eagles had the early hop. A poorly timed Irish shift change sprang BC's Quinn Smith down the left side just after the 2-minute mark, and the junior blew his shot past ND senior netminder Steven Summerhays but hit the right post squarely. At 4:43, the Eagles got the game's first goal, gift-wrapped by the Irish.

Vince Hinostroza's ill-advised clearing pass was intercepted by BC's Adam Gilmour. The Eagles freshman cruised into the low slot, and when Summerhays challenged him, dished a perfect pass to Kevin Hayes at the doorstep. Hayes slammed the puck into the vacated net for a 1-0 BC lead, and his 24th tally of the season. The goal, however, should have been as much cause for concern as celebration, as the team to score first in the opening two games of the series had lost.

Sure enough, Stephen Johns drew the Irish even, 1-1, after finishing off a rink-long rush with a backhander that broke between BC's freshman goalie Thatcher Demko and the left post at 11:31. Ruled no goal on the ice, the referee's decision was overturned by video review, and the Irish were on the board. It was a critical moment in the game, said ND coach Jeff Jackson.

"You don't want to go down 2-0 to a team of that caliber," he said.

The second period began much like the first, with BC's Austin Cangelosi ringing a shot off iron at the 20-second mark. The Irish took a 2-1 lead at 4:10. ND's T.J. Tynan snapped a shot into a crowd in front of the BC net. Linemate Bryan Rust settled the rebound, and while Demko searched for the puck, the Irish senior calmly potted it for his 16th goal of the season.

But the Irish again insisted on helping out the Eagles. With Notre Dame already shorthanded due to a bench minor, Tynan carelessly tripped up Demko at 7:53 and was sent off for goaltender interference. The Eagles needed only 13 seconds to capitalize, when captain Patrick Brown tapped in the rebound of a Bill Arnold shot to tie the game, 2-2, at 8:05.

The Eagles appeared to take a 3-2 lead at 9:41, when the rebound of a wide-angle shot by Johnny Gaudreau ricocheted off Brown, just as he was being nudged by Johns, and bounced into the net. However, after video review, the goal was disallowed and Brown was given a two-minute penalty for goalie interference. It was as close as Gaudreau would come to scoring, as he saw his 31-game scoring streak come to an end.

Summerhays came up big with a shoulder save on Arnold at 13:11, after ND defender Shayne Taker blew an edge and fell down. Then, with less than five seconds left in the middle frame, the Irish struck again. Rust, steaming down the right side with a step on BC's Danny Linell, converted a tape-to-tape pass from Tynan for his second of the game and a 3-2 Irish lead.

In the final period, the Irish put an end to their charitable gaffes, closing out the game and the series. Summerhays kept the Eagles at bay, stuffing Hayes' attempt down low at 2:15, then shutting the door on a number of high-quality, in-tight bids by Gaudreau, Quinn Smith, Linell, Gilmour and Brendan Silk, and a nice glove stop on a long-range bomb by Mike Matheson.

"You have to give Summerhays a tremendous amount of credit," York said. "He was the difference, from my perspective."

ND's Mike Voran may have saved the game for the Irish at 12:33 when he hooked BC's Chris Calnan at the top of the crease, preventing the Eagle from getting a shot off with Summerhays out of position. Notre Dame killed off Voran's penalty, then got an insurance marker.

Irish captain Jeff Costello put the game out of reach at 18:08 when he was sent in alone on Demko by Steven Fogarty. Costello corralled the pass, shifted to his backhand and tapped it five-hole past Demko to send the Irish to the Hockey East semifinals.

Now the Eagles will need to regroup. York didn't like having a 13-day layoff between the Eagles' final regular-season game and the Hockey East playoffs. Now he and his squad are looking at a minimum of 12 days before the start of the NCAA tournament, where the Eagles are assured an at-large bid.

UMass Lowell, UNH advance in Hockey East

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
Sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves as UMass Lowell edged Vermont, 2-1, in the deciding game of the teams' Hockey East quarterfinal series on Sunday afternoon at Tsongas Center.

The River Hawks took a 2-0 lead in the first period, with Christian Folin scoring a shorthanded goal at 10:08 and A.J. White adding a power-play goal at 15:43.

Vermont made it 2-1 at 17:46 of the second period on Jake Fallon's power-play goal, but couldn't beat Hellebuyck again.

Next up in the semifinals for UMass Lowell is Notre Dame, which surprised BC 4-2 in Sunday's deciding game.

Friday's other semifinal at TD Garden will pit Providence against New Hampshire, which advanced with a 5-4 win over Northeastern on Sunday in Durham, N.H.

Kevin Goumas recorded four points, including his second career hat trick, to lead UNH.

Goumas set up the Wildcats' first goal and scored the team's next three goals to give UNH a 4-3 lead early in the third period that they would not relinquish.

The Huskies thought they tied the score, 4-4, with a power-play goal at 7:38 but the referees immediately waved off the tally on a high-stick redirection by Mike McMurtry. After a lengthy review, the initial call stood.

UNH extended the advantage to 5-3 at 13:41 when Brett Pesce crashed the net and banged in a rebound.