BOSTON -- What a turnaround.
Top-seeded Boston University completed a dominant run to its eighth Hockey East title on Saturday night, scoring twice in each of the first two periods for a 5-3 win over UMass Lowell at TD Garden.
Entering the season, the prospect of the Terriers finishing the season in the conference's winner's circle, with freshman Jack Eichel or not, may have seemed unthinkable.
But the Terriers finished the night hoisting the Lamoriello Trophy for the eighth time and first since 2009.
As BU head coach David Quinn said, they did the job with a total team effort.
"I couldn't be prouder of (the team)," Quinn said. "From September on, it's been about as much fun as possible coaching this team; we are a true team. We have stars, as you can see, but you don't win with just stars."
One of those stars was given Bill Flynn Most Valuable Player honors at the conclusion of the night as Eichel scored twice and added an assist to lead the BU attack. He finished with 11 points in four Hockey East playoff games, tying Maine's Jim Montgomery (1993) and Notre Dame's Robbie Russo (2015) for the most in conference history.
There was no shortage of action in the first period as the teams combined for three goals on just 15 shots, but the Terriers carried a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
BU's starts were not as strong as it would have drawn them up during their first three games on Garden ice this season, but the opposite turned out to be the case when the game mattered most.
"I think the guys responded well and played with confidence," Grzelcyk said. "We didn't stay back on our heels. We chipped pucks deep and stayed aggressive."
Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk got the scoring going with his ninth goal in 11 games at the 13:08 mark, taking a deflected feed from freshman Jack Eichel on the power play.
BU looked to have taken a 2-0 lead just 41 seconds later on a goal by freshman Nikolas Olsson who retrieved a puck from the side board and placed a shot past River Hawk junior Kevin Boyle. The goal was overturned after further review on an offsides call.
Eichel made up for it as 15:02, finishing off a near end-to-end rush, toe-dragging at the front of the net and driving home his 23rd goal of the season and his tenth point of the Hockey East playoffs.
"I kind of saw, I think it was (junior linemate) Danny (O'Regan) driving back door," Eichel said. "I just tried to put the puck around the defenseman and make a pass to him. I think it deflected off the defenseman and between the goalie's legs."
The River Hawks halved their deficit with a power-play goal at the 18:10 mark as sophomore Joe Gambardella took advantage of a rebound left out in the slot for his 14th goal of the season.
Freshman Tommy Panico took a shot from the center point that was kicked right back between the circles by BU junior Matt O'Connor, leaving the rebound in a perfect position for the River Hawks.
BU doubled its output in the second period, putting two more goals behind Boyle to take a commanding three-goal lead.
Senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann hit the double-digit mark with his tenth goal of the season at 5:38, cashing in on an odd-man rush with freshman A.J. Greer. Hohmann made a nice move down the left side, faking a pass and dribbling the puck through Boyle's five-hole.
Olsson got on the board, for real this time, with 45 seconds left in the frame as he received a pass back from Grzelcyk on a nice give-and-go between the circles.
Just after a successful penalty kill, the River Hawks cut back within two goals at the 6:47 mark of the third period as sophomore defenseman Michael Kapla wristed home a shot from just outside the left circle.
Eichel put BU back ahead by three at 14:28, rushing ahead of two River Hawk defenders and slid the puck between Boyle's five-hole again.
UML freshman Michael Louria scored his second goal in as many nights and sixth point of the playoffs at 16:52, taking away a puck that slid free after a check on linemate A.J. White.
That was as close as the River Hawks would get as O'Connor held the fort in the end, finishing off a 22-save outing and earning a unanimous spot on the All-Tournament Team.
The impossible turned into reality. Twenty-one losses one year to 25 wins the next, but it was never once easy.
"This was a lot of hard work and we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we're certainly going to enjoy this for the next 24 hours," Quinn said. "I know what a special feeling this is."
BU is a lock for one of the NCAA Tournament's top seeds and will await tomorrow's selection show for their regional placement and opponent.