Frozen Four: BU, Providence Advance To NCAA D1 Championship

Boston University's Jack Eichel netted a pair of goals on Thursday evening, while registering one assist as the Terriers defeated North Dakota, 5-3. (Photo Credit: CBS Sports)
Boston University’s Jack Eichel netted a pair of goals on Thursday evening, while registering one assist as the Terriers defeated North Dakota, 5-3. (Photo Credit: CBS Sports)

By Matt Noonan 

BOSTON, Mass. – A pair of Hockey East teams will compete on Causeway Street on Saturday evening at the TD Garden as Boston University and Providence College earned Frozen Four semifinal victories on Thursday evening.

The Friars, who competed in the first semifinal match, defeated Nebraska-Omaha (4-1), while the Terriers skated past North Dakota (5-3).

BU’s Jack Eichel clinched the victory for the Terriers late in the third period when he sailed a shot into an open North Dakota net from behind the face-off circle, which halted a late rally.

Eichel opened the scoring for the Terriers, netting a back-handed shot off a rebound before Brandon Hickey doubled the Red and White’s advantage with a strike at 19:12 in the first period.

North Dakota sliced the deficit 44 seconds into the second frame when Luke Johnson slipped the puck past Matt O’Connor, but the Terriers responded with back-to-back tallies from A.J. Greer and Doyle Somerby that provided BU with a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes of hockey.

Troy Stecher and Connor Gaarder closed the gap for North Dakota at 12:10 and 16:17, respectively, in the third period, but that would be the closest they would get to the Hockey East champions. O’Connor deflected 33-of-36 shots, while North Dakota’s Zane McIntyre turned away 23-of-27 attempts.

Providence’s Nick Saracino led the Friars with three-points (one goal and two assists) and set-up the game’s first and second tallies, which were recorded by Noel Acciari and Mark Jankowski. Saracino eventually located the back of the net in the third period, capping the Friars’ offensive outburst at 19:23.

Jon Gillies picked up his 23rd victory between the pipes, deflecting 25 shots, including nine attempts in the opening frame. Omaha’s Ryan Massa dipped to 14-8-6 and recorded a game-high 44 stops. Massa’s 14 wins were the most the senior goaltender has recorded with the Mavericks.

Omaha’s Jake Guentzel recorded the Mavericks’ lone goal of the contest – his 14th of the season – at 10:46 in the third period. The loss ended Omaha’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance run.

Mass. College Hockey: UML Tops UNH, Claims Second Straight Hockey East Crown

By Matt Noonan 

BOSTON, Mass. – For the second straight year, UMass Lowell claimed the Hockey East crown as the River Hawks skated past University of New Hampshire, 4-0, on Saturday evening at the TD Garden.

With the win, UMass Lowell is now 2-2 in title contests. Their last win occurred last season when the River Hawks defeated Jack Parker and the Boston University Terriers.

Similar to their semifinal contest against Notre Dame last night, the River Hawks scored two goals in both the first and second periods. They also relied on their backstop, Connor Hellebuyck, who deflected 30 shots and was named the Hockey East Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“I thought we started the game rather well,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin, who guided the River Hawks to its second consecutive Hockey East championship.

“(The) first and second periods obviously were very opportunist and getting off to that type of lead certainly eases attention, but it didn’t make it easier in the third, I can tell you that.”

A.J. White provided the River Hawks with an early lead as he redirected a shot in front of the New Hampshire cage at 12:12.

UMass Lowell netted its second goal literally three minutes later as Josh Holmstrom fired a shot past a diving Casey DeSmith (26 saves), which provided the River Hawks with a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

Joe Gambardella and Jake Suter each netted goals in the middle frame that pushed the River Hawks ahead by four goals.

New Hampshire ramped up its intensity during the final minutes of the third period; desperately trying to find a goal, but Hellebuyck and the River Hawks defense dashed any hopes of a potential comeback.

“It was a strange game,” said New Hampshire head coach Dick Umile, who guided the Wildcats to the title game following a series win last weekend against Northeastern University and a semifinal victory last night against Providence College.

“I thought our team competed, we played hard, (but) it just didn’t happen. Eric (Knodel) and the seniors have been a great group for us with great leadership and the difficult part is it’s a team with great chemistry, we wanted to keep going, (but) not only were they winning and playing hard, but we were enjoying it and having fun doing it and its tough for the season to end.”

UMass Lowell finished with 35 shots on net, while New Hampshire fired 30 shots. The River Hawks were one for four on the power play, thanks to their final goal by Suter, while the Wildcats were unsuccessful on two attempts.

UMass Lowell, which will be making its sixth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, will look to build on its success this weekend when they return to the ice next week. The River Hawks made it to semifinals (Frozen Four) last year, but lost to Yale University, 3-2.

“Tonight, like I told you, it wasn’t a work of art, but we found a way and that’s a good trait of a winning club,” said Bazin. “This year was such a grueling year. We’re going to give them some time off here before we play next week and we’re going to make sure we keep working on special teams, (which) seems to be the difference in all these games. Thankfully for us we were one for four I believe tonight, scoring another power play goal. Yesterday, we scored a couple, so from that standpoint it has been the difference and will be for all teams.”

Mass. College Hockey: UML Tops Notre Dame In Hockey East Semis, 4-0

By Matt Noonan 

BOSTON, Mass. – The UMass Lowell men’s ice hockey team is headed back to the Hockey East Championship.

The River Hawks, who’ll compete for their second consecutive conference title tomorrow evening against either New Hampshire or Providence College, blanked Notre Dame, 4-0, in the Hockey East semifinals on Friday evening at the TD Garden.

“It was a great win,” said UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin, who guided the River Hawks to 24-10-4 overall record this season.

“I felt the guys were on cue this morning in the pregame skate and they certainly were. I thought we were sharp, our special teams capitalized and that’s always a big factor.”

Christian Folin provided the River Hawks with the lead for good in the opening session by firing home a pass from A.J. White from the nearside circle, which bounced of Notre Dame’s Kevin Lind’s skate and trickled into the Fighting Irish net at 10:13.

Derek Arnold doubled his team’s advantage roughly three minutes later when he raced down the nearside wing and rifled a shot past Steven Summerhays (18 saves), which provided the River Hawks with a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

“Notre Dame had a line rush and we were back-checking. Zack Kamrass made a great play standing up with a great stick, a poke check and I was coming back and picked up that puck from Zack and I just went off to the races,” Arnold said of his first period goal, which was his 11th tally of the season. “I saw little daylight, so I went with it.”

UML added to its total by potting two more goals in the second period. Evan Campbell netted a rebound in front of the Notre Dame cage before Kamrass blasted an attempt from the nearside circle. Both goals were power play strikes.

“I thought we capitalized on our chances,” Bazin said. “It’s always important to do that against good competition and in (the) playoffs you don’t get that many opportunities, so when you can capitalize on two power plays and start with a lead that helps.”

According to the Hockey East website, UMass Lowell has registered 31 power play goals on 148 attempts this year, while Notre Dame has stopped 144 of 171 attempts. The Fighting Irish had one power play in this evening’s contest, but was unable to push the puck past UML’s Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 35 shots and earned his 11th career shutout.

“It’s a great feeling, it’s definitely a milestone in my life and I am very thankful for the opportunity that Lowell’s give me and I don’t think I would be setting any records if it wasn’t for the team I have in front of me too,” said Hellebuyck. “It’s not just me it’s them too.”

With tonight’s setback, Notre Dame falls to 23-14-2 overall. The Fighting Irish are now 0-3 this season against the River Hawks, as they dropped back-to-back contests in Lowell in November.

Notre Dame will most likely continue its 2013-14 campaign next weekend, but won’t know its next foe until the NCAA Division 1 bracket is released on Sunday, March 23.

“It’s not easy getting (to the semifinals),” said Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson. “You have to take advantage of it when you do.

“Getting to the Boston (TD) Garden, it should be everything and that’s what we all should be striving for and having a chance to win in this environment…so when you get here you have to enjoy the experience and take advantage of it.”

UMass Lowell will look to even its conference championship mark at 2-2 tomorrow with a win. They hadn’t won a Hockey East crown until they defeated Jack Parker’s Boston University Terriers last March, 1-0.

“The first time’s hard, but the second time is even harder,” said Arnold, who netted the game-winner last year against the Terriers. “We put ourselves in a position to go after another championship and we’re going to prepare properly tonight and tomorrow and go for that.”

62nd Boston Beanpot: BC Claims Fifth-Straight Beanpot Crown, Tops NU 4-1

By Matt Noonan 

BOSTON, Mass. – For the fifth consecutive year, Boston College skated around the TD Garden with the coveted Boston Beanpot cup following their 4-1 victory over Northeastern University.

The win marked the third time in four seasons that the Eagles have topped the Huskies in the tournament’s final and claimed some additional hardware.

“It is something that we strive for and when you accomplish something you strive for it’s a real proud moment,” said Boston College head coach Jerry York, who has guided the Eagles to eight Beanpot championship victories in 15 attempts. “I think a quality we have is we’re happy for other peoples’ success, which is a hard quality to possess.

“Our seniors were talking about how it was great to win four straight as a class, but it was better to look at the freshman and see them win it for the first time. I think that is great that our team can be happy for each others’ success.”

Boston College has a lot to be happy about, especially after their team’s 22nd win. The Eagles, who’ve now won 19 Beanpot championships, will look to continue their momentum heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

BC is currently the top squad in the country and hasn’t dropped a contest since falling to Holy Cross after Thanksgiving.

“Everyone’s working hard every day in practice, no one is taking days off and no one hiding,” said BC senior captain Patrick Brown, who netted two goals last night, including the go-ahead strike at 14:30 in the third period.

“We’ve got talented guys, but they’ve got to work hard too and the guys with less talent have got to work harder.”

The Eagles worked hard for their team’s eighth consecutive win by setting up scoring chances, while assisting first-year goaltender Thatcher Demko, who finished with 29 saves.

“Each possession was just huge for each team,” said Demkow, who is now 11-1-2 between the pipes. “You never knew what was going to happen with guys going up and down the ice here and there, so it was a really fast paced game and a really fun game to be a part of.”

BC’s Kevin Hayes provided the Eagles with a 1-0 lead from the top of the slot during the first period before Northeastern answered in the middle frame with John Stevens, who redirected a shot attempt from Kevin Roy, which sailed past Demko.

The 1-1 tie concluded during the final minutes of the third period when Brown tipped a shot attempt by Isaac MacLeod from the point into the Huskies cage, which provided the Eagles with all the momentum.

“Isaac MacLeod works really hard and he’s always shooting for sticks, he’s got a great shot pass,” said Brown. “I was just trying to find a spot in the slot where he could hit my stick. I was getting mauled a little bit and I fell down, but just got my stick on it because he made a great tape-to-tape pass.”

Northeastern attempted to even the score and force an extra session, but a turnover in the neutral zone with less than two minutes to play resulted in an open net goal by Johnny Gaudreau, which sealed the win.

Brown scored his team’s final goal literally 30 seconds after Gaudreau’s strike when he raced down the nearside wing and flipped the puck past Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt.

“In the third period we just couldn’t match their speed in that third and they came at us and we didn’t have a quick enough response to that,” Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan said. “I thought we did a good job actually on their winning goal in tying up Brown down at the net and he was falling and he had a stick and somehow he got a stick on it and scored the winning goal.

“So, congratulations to (Boston College) and we’ve got another rabbit to chase – we’re chasing a Beanpot rabbit and we’re chasing a Hockey East playoff opportunity. So, we’ll take a day off and then get ready for UMass on Saturday.”

While Northeastern will have an additional day to prepare for the Minutemen, a squad that recently defeated them 3-0, Boston College will get back to work on Friday when they travel to Vermont for a weekend series with the Mountaineers.

Both teams aren’t schedule to face-off again this season, but could meet in the Hockey East playoffs.

62nd Boston Beanpot: BC, Northeastern To Square Off In Beanpot Championship

By Matt Noonan 

Boston College will look to capture its fifth straight Boston Beanpot championship this evening when they meet Hockey East foe Northeastern University at the TD Garden at 7 p.m.

The 62nd Beanpot Final will be a rematch of last year’s championship, which saw the Eagles claim a 6-3 win. BC also defeated Northeastern in the 2011 title match, 7-6 (OT).

The 62nd Boston Beapot begins this afternoon with Harvard vs. Northeastern followed by Boston College vs. Boston University. (Photo Credit: BeanpotHockey.com)
The 62nd Boston Beapot Championship is the evening between Boston College and Northeastern University. (Photo Credit: BeanpotHockey.com)

Northeastern hasn’t hoisted the coveted trophy since 1988, the same year the Denver Broncos lost in the Super Bowl. Prior to the Huskies’ first contest last Monday against Harvard University, the Broncos lost to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8 (maybe that’s a good omen for the Black and Red?).

The Huskies have won four tournament championships, but this particular squad might be able to provide the university with its fifth.

Against the Crimson, the Huskies were able to net six goals from six different skaters, while goaltender Clay Witt did his job between the pipes, stopping 27 shots en route to his 14th win of the season.

Northeastern ranks second in the Hockey East in scoring offense. They’ve netted 91 goals this season. 34 of their strikes have been recorded in the final frame. The Huskies have also recorded one goal in the extra session, which came off the stick of Braden Pimm against Providence College on January 7.

Kevin Roy leads the Huskies in point scoring with 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists). He netted one goal last Monday in his team’s 6-0 win over Harvard, which ended his scoring drought. He hadn’t located the back of his opponent’s cage since scoring one goal against UMass on January 4.

Boston College isn’t new to the title game. In fact, this will be their 34th appearance in the championship. The Eagles have faced the Huskies four times prior to this evening’s clash and have won three of those meetings.

Eagles head coach Jerry York has guided Boston College to seven tournament championship titles, including the unit’s last four championships.

Boston College ranks first in the conference in scoring offense (123 goals), as well as first on the power play (24/108) and penalty kill (117/128). They’re second in scoring defense (60 goals).

Johnny Gaudreau leads all Division 1 skaters in points (56), goals (24) and assists (32), while Kevin Hayes ranks second in points (47). Hayes’s classmate, Bill Arnold, is fourth in the country in assists (30).

The Eagles and Huskies have faced-off twice this season with Boston College winning both contests.

Prior to BC-Northeastern, Boston University and Harvard will skate in the consolation match. Both teams met in this game last year with the Crimson claiming a 7-4 victory. The Terriers rebounded and earned a spot in the conference championship, but fell to UMass Lowell, 1-0. That game was the final contest that legendary head coach Jack Parker coached.

Follow updates from this evening’s Beanpot Championship on Twitter (@NoontimeSports or @NoonSportsBlog). Matt Noonan is the head editor/founder of NoontimeSports.com. He can be reached at NoontimeSports@gmail.com