BOSTON -- Semifinal Friday at the 31st Hockey East Championship rolls along with top-seeded Boston University returning to TD Garden after a one-year absence for a date with New Hampshire in the 8 p.m. nightcap.
The teams are meeting for the 11th time in the Hockey East postseason history and in their fourth-ever semifinal in Boston. BU was also the top seed when the teams met in the 2006 semi, an easy 9-2 win for the Terriers before topping rival Boston College for the title the following night.
The Terriers were the lone team to win straight games in last weekend's quarterfinals, dispatching Merrimack with ease in 6-2 and 5-0 wins. BU, which lost 21 times last season, enters its 22nd-ever trip to the Garden with 23 wins.
Freshman Jack Eichel took home the major hardware at last night's Hockey East Awards Banquet, becoming just the third player in league history to win both Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. His 41 assists, 61 points and plus-42 rating all top the nation, ahead of teammates Evan Rodrigues (36 assists, 54 points) and Danny O'Regan (+35).
UNH advanced to Boston for the 17th time as it came out on top in the quarterfinals at Providence. The Wildcats are one of the nation's hottest teams with nine wins in ten games, including each of last weekend's by 2-1 scores in overtime.
Freshman goaltender Daniel Tirone's nine wins are best in the country over the course of UNH's 9-1-0 stretch (since Feb. 14), while his 1.17 goals-against and .953 save percentage rank in the top four. Tirone, who joined the team from the Boston Junior Bruins on Dec. 31, stopped 105 of the 109 shots he faced in the PC series to earn Hockey East Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Senior Grayson Downing is in the midst of a torrid stretch with includes a goal in each of last weekend's playoff games and seven goals and two assists in his last seven games, while classmate Jay Camper netted the winner in last Sunday's series-clinching game.
Here are tonight's lines:
Casey Thrush - Grayson Downing - Matt Willows
Dan Correale - Andrew Poturalski - Tyler Kelleher
Warren Foegele - Jay Camper - Shane Eiserman
Jason Salvaggio - Kyle Smith - Jamie Hill
Matias Cleland - Brett Pesce
Harry Quast - Cameron Marks
Ryan Randall - John Furgele
Evan Rodrigues - Jack Eichel - Danny O'Regan
A.J. Greer - Cason Hohmann - Ahti Oksanen
Nikolas Olsson - Matt Lane - Robbie Baillargeon
Chase Phelps - Mike Moran - Nick Roberto
Matt Grzelcyk - John MacLeod
Brandon Hickey - Brandon Fortunato
Doyle Somerby - Brien Diffley