BC Stops NU Rally, Merrimack Beats UNH to Advance to Hockey East Finals
By Dan Libon
BOSTON, MA – It was another exciting night of hockey at the TD Garden. With spots in the Hockey East Finals on the line, the remaining four teams looked to gain momentum with the NCAA Frozen Four only a week away.
Boston College 5 – Northeastern University 4:
The last three meetings between these squads were epic, but incredibly close, so this game would be practically be identical to their exciting Boston Beanpot finale at the TD Garden. Despite getting ahead, 5-2, the Eagles allowed the Huskies to get back in the game, but they would hold on to win 5-4.
“I thought the game was fairly secure late in the third period,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York. “Then all of a sudden Northeastern came to life.”
The first period started out like most BC-Northeastern contest with the Eagles setting the tone early. Pat Mullane had a chance to make it 1-0 on a shorthanded chance for BC, but credit Northeastern’s Drew Daniels, who cut off the angle, as well as Chris Rawlings for making a great save. Northeastern would make it 1-0 after an early goal by Tyler McNeely, but BC would come back with a Brian Gibbons goal nearly a few minutes later.
Despite going into the intermission tied, Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin was not happy with his team’s play.
“Throughout the first period for us it was a bit ‘measured in vanilla’. It didn’t have the same jump and desperation that i thought we’d come out with particularly with the fact that we were fighting for an NCAA playoff birth,” said Cronin.
BC eventually took a 2-1 lead to start the second period thanks to a power-play goal from Kevin Hayes with the assist coming from his brother, Jimmy Hayes. Northeastern would not be down for long, as Wade MacLeod scored 25-seconds later to tie the game.
Yet, despite the momentum shift, BC would get two more goals from Steve Whitney and Tommy Cross. Whitney’s goal came after being benched for getting two quick penalties and Cross’s goal came off the power-play.
The third period started with the Huskies replacing Rawlings for back up goaltender, Clay Witt. It would not matter, as the Eagles would extend their lead to 5-2 with a power-play goal from Pat Mullane.
Northeastern would attempt a late rally, but Boston College denied any chances, as the Eagles defeated the Huskies for the second time this season the TD Garden and punched their ticket to the Hockey East finals for the second year in a row.
Merrimack College 4 – University of New Hampshire 1:
Merrimack caught a break early on in the first period after a Blake Kessel goal was overturned by video replay. After further review it was decided that UNH was offside when Kessel took his shot around the goal like.
Despite the break for Merrimack, UNH continued to control the momentum with a goal from Stevie Moses during the final minutes of the first period.Merrimack would tie the game on a 2 on 1 shorthanded breakaway goal from Ryan Flanigan off of a great pass Stephane De Costa across the slot.
Being able to sneak past two Merrimack defenders, Kessel waited too long to make a move on Merrimack’s goalie, Joe Cannata. Merrimack would instead be the one to take the lead into the intermission when Brendan Ellis gave the Warriors the lead on a slap shot just inside the blue line with 3:34 to go in the period.
It became a goaltender showdown with neither team giving up a goal going forward, as UNH goalie Mattt Di Girolamo did an excellent job of making saves during the Merrimack power-play. UNH had a couple of chances but could get anything past Merrimack goalie Stephane De Costa.
UNH did their best to tie the game in the third period, but were unsuccessful. Mike Collins gave Merrimack a 3-1, which was followed up by Elliott Sheen‘s empty net goal during the final seconds of the game.
Both Merrimack and BC will play against each other on Saturday in the Hockey East Finals. This is the first time that the Warriors have made it to the conference finals.