CHESTNUT HILL -- On Friday, the Eagles took the Minutemen's best shot, winning a tight 2-1 contest despite being outshot 26-18. Saturday, the top-seeded Eagles (27-10-1) again started slow, surrendering an early lead to Massachusetts less than three minutes into the contest.
But the Eagles showed their championship mettle, scoring two opportunistic goals to take a first-period lead before grinding out a 3-2 victory at Conte Forum to capture their quarterfinal series against 8th-seed Massachusetts (13-18-5). It was the third straight year that BC bounced the Minutemen from the Hockey East tournament, and the 13th straight win for the Eagles.
"The quarterfinal series in our league, the one that gets you to the Garden, has always been extremely difficult," said BC coach Jerry York. "You're playing a team that you've played a number of times during the year. So it's not like a national or regional tournament, where you're playing teams you haven't played before and it's a one-game shot. These become real battles. This is the third year in a row we've faced a Don Cahoon team in the first round, and we've always felt Sunday morning, or late Saturday night, how fortunate we are to advance."
Both nights, BC's Parker Milner provided the Eagles with rock-solid goaltending, and his coach said the junior's play was the difference in the series.
"From our perspective, we played a lot better tonight than we did last [Friday] night. I'm very pleased with that," York said. "Last night was the Milner Show, that's about all we had going for us. But tonight we had a pretty good team effort, and we needed it, 'cause UMass is the quickest team we've played so far this year, in terms of skating ability."
The game-winner came off the stick of BC defenseman Brian Dumoulin with less than a minute to go in the second period. Milner, who got an assist on the goal, cleared the puck the length of the ice, but no icing was called. BU's Chris Kreider, fighting for the puck behind the Minutemen's net, was able to shed UMass forward T.J. Syner before sending a pass out to Dumoulin near the left faceoff circle.
The junior from Maine deftly toe-dragged the puck past Minuteman Michael Marcou before snapping a laser past UMass goaltender Kevin Boyle's glove at 19:11.
"I saw Kreids flying, and of course he was the first one on the puck. He always is," said Dumoulin. "They were changing a little bit, so I saw an opening down the middle. And Kreids gave me a great pass."
Afterward, Cahoon was inconsolable, saying that Milner's clear should have been called for icing, and that Kreider hit Syner illegally just before making the pass that resulted in Dumoulin's goal.
"I've never been more frustrated in all my life," he said. "I got 28 kids in that locker room that are absolutely devastated, and don't feel like they lost this series. We should still be playing out there right now. I don't think there's any question in the world. You get a chance to look at that third goal, and you won't believe what you see. It was disgraceful."
"If Syner didn't get hit from behind, behind the net, going for the puck, then there should have been a huge embellishment penalty [on Syner]," said Cahoon. "If it wasn't an icing, it was a hit from behind. If it wasn't a hit from behind, it was embellishment. There's no way of getting around it. And no one in this league or any other league is going to tell me otherwise. Because it just ended our season."
Asked about the play, York declined to comment specifically. "I try to coach," he said. "I have a hard enough time trying to coach, let alone referee games. I used to be a referee. I reffed some games in South Boston. I didn't like reffing. I'd rather play."
UMass came to play, with Conor Sheary converting a nifty behind-the-net pass from Syner for an early 1-0 Minutemen lead at 2:54. It was the first time the Eagles had actually trailed in a game since Jan. 27, a total of more than 11½ hours. But the UMass lead didn't last long.
"If we score, we're trying to get the next one," said York. "But if they score, it's almost imperative that you answer the bell there. Because once you get behind, if you can't get back in the game, you're not going to advance in this tournament."
After Minuteman Steve Guzzo was ejected from the game for a hit-from-behind major, BC's Pat Mullane evened the game, 1-1, at 4:25. Mullane took a neutral-zone feed from Johnny Gaudreau, chugged down the right wing before switching to his forehand and flicking the puck past Boyle's blocker.
BC's Paul Carey put the Eagles up 2-1 at 8:12 on a terrific give-and-go play. After sending the puck wide to Bill Arnold on the right wall, Carey drove hard to the net, sneaking behind UMass defender Joel Hanley. Arnold put the puck on his stick, and Carey redirected it past Boyle for a power-play tally.
BC's Kreider had a chance to extend the lead, but his uncontested wrister from inside the left faceoff dot sailed wide. Sixteen seconds later, Milner stoned Syner on a clean breakaway bid.
In the second period, Milner (33 saves) kept the Minutemen at bay with great stops early on against Rocco Carzo and Branden Gracel. At the other end, BC's Destry Straight rung the right post with a backhander, and Boyle (19 saves) denied Carey's redirect bid. At 18:03, UMass pulled even, 2-2, when Hanley redirected Michael Marcou's slap pass from the right wing for a power-play goal.
But before the Minutemen could get into the locker room, BC regained the lead, 3-2, on Dumoulin's sixth of the year. In the final frame, the Minutemen fired 13 shots at Milner, but none found the back of the net. And the Eagles skated off the Conte Forum ice as the only Hockey East team to sweep their quarterfinal series.
"I'm awfully excited about advancing," said York. "In our league, three of the four series are going to the third game. That just shows you how accurate I am with that assessment that the quarterfinal match-up is very, very difficult."
The Eagles will be the top seed in Friday's semifinal, though they'll have to wait until Sunday night to find out who their opponent will be.