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Hockey East Friday Night Recap: No. 1 UMass Lowell advances to Championship Weekend

With a 2-1 overtime victory over Maine on Friday, UMass Lowell punched its ticket to the TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals. BU, Providence and BC each earned opening night quarterfinal victories.

Connor Hellebuyck has led Lowell to the Hockey East semifinals in his first year with the River Hawks. UML completed a sweep of Maine on Friday night, 2-1 in overtime.
Connor Hellebuyck has led Lowell to the Hockey East semifinals in his first year with the River Hawks. UML completed a sweep of Maine on Friday night, 2-1 in overtime.
Walter Rossini

UMass Lowell 2, Maine 1 (OT)

Junior Derek Arnold scored just 1:50 into a full overtime period as the top-seeded River Hawks were the first to punch their ticket to the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden with a 2-1 victory over the pesky Maine Black Bears at the Tsongas Center. With the victory, Lowell improved to 24-10-2 on the season, equaling the third-highest win total in the program's Division I history. Freshman Connor Hellebuyck completed the first round playoff sweep, posting 18 saves for his 16th win of the year, allowing a single goal on the night, to rookie Devin Shore on the power play at 7:51 of the second period. At the 4:00 mark of the third, the River Hawks squared the score on a goal from freshman Michael Fallon. Entering the weekend, UML had won just one of 15 playoff meetings between the sides, but advanced to TD Garden for the sixth time when winning the best-of-three opener. Lowell will be making its first trip to the semifinals since an exciting 3-2 overtime win over Northeastern in 2009.

Boston College 4, Vermont 2

Senior goaltender Parker Milner made 23 saves and nine different Eagles scored points as second-seeded BC won its 17th straight game in the Hockey East quarterfinal round with a 4-2 victory over Vermont at Kelley Rink. The Eagles scored the game's first three goals and took a 3-0 lead into the first period, but Ben Albertson and Matt White each found the back of the net for the Catamounts to cut the home team's lead to 3-2. With just over a minute to play, sophomore Johnny Gaudreau sealed the deal with an empty-netter for the Eagles, his 40th-career goal. Additionally, the BC senior class improved to a perfect 11-for-11 in conference tournament games over their four years. The game also marked the return of Eagle senior defenseman Patch Alber to the line-up for his first action since a pre-game knee injury in Minnesota on Dec. 29, 2012.

Boston University 3, Merrimack 0

Providence 3, New Hampshire 2

Freshman Nick Saracino scored a goal in the second and third periods, including the game-winner at 8:06 of the final stanza for a 3-2 Friar win in the opener of the quarterfinal series at Schneider Arena. The victory came as the Friars were hosting their first playoff game in the friendly confines since 2003. The win marked Providence's first home Hockey East playoff win since a 4-3 overtime decision over Boston University on March 11, 2001 and helped the Friars improve to a perfect 13-0-2 when leading after two periods this year. Sophomore Shane Luke returned to the PC lineup after missing the previous six games and posted a career-high three assists, while rookie Jon Gillies turned in another outstanding performance between the pipes with 35 saves in his playoff debut. Sophomore Grayson Downing scored a power-play goal at 13:50 of the second period, before assisting on senior Austin Block's 120 seconds into the final frame.

Joshua Kummins covers Hockey East for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaKummins.