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BU finds stride late to down UNH, advance to Hockey East title game

Freshman Jack Eichel scored twice in the third period to lead top-seeded Boston University to a 4-1 win over New Hampshire in the second Hockey East semifinal game Friday night at TD Garden.

Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- Boston University's Hockey East quarterfinal series victory over Merrimack last weekend could certainly be described as easy.

It was exactly the opposite on Friday night as eighth-seeded New Hampshire gave the Terriers everything they could handle, but eventually moved ahead for a 4-1 conference semifinal win at TD Garden.

Freshman Jack Eichel needed a bit to warm up but found the back of the net twice in the second half of the final period to help the Terriers to their 24th win of the season and eighth since the start of February.

"I thought all four lines contributed tonight; it truly was a team effort," BU head coach David Quinn said. "We talk an awful lot about our top line ... but I didn't think they had a great night tonight. Even when they don't have a great night, they find a way to get on the scoresheet."

BU advances to the title game for the second time in three years and the 11th time in conference history. The Terriers will face UMass Lowell, the team they lost to by a 1-0 score in 2013, on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

"That's as good of a team as we've played," Quinn said. "I thought after the first period, we settled down and played a much better second period. Our penalty killing was huge ... and we just got some timely goals."

The Wildcats got off to an excellent start, taking the first three shots of goal on the game and playing a very sound game against the tournament's top seed.

Sophomore Tyler Kelleher took advantage of an uncharacteristic defensive breakdown for a one-on-one look at goal. It was not the prettiest of plays, but the Longmeadow, Mass. native shot a dribbling puck between BU junior Matt O'Connor's legs for his 18th goal of the season.

"I was really proud of the way we played, competed tonight against one of the top teams in the country," UNH head coach Dick Umile said. "The score, obviously, wasn't indicative of the game (because) we had our chances."

Just over three minutes later at the 17:38 mark, BU tied the game on senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann's ninth goal of the season. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk set up the play with a great pass from the point to the goal line for the easy finish.

Grzelcyk, who scored the winning goal in overtime against Northeastern in the Feb. 23 Beanpot title game at the Garden, has eight goals and six assists during a current ten-game point streak dating back to Feb. 13 against UNH.

"I got hammered. I didn't really see where the puck went," Hohmann said of the play developing. "I got up, looked up and Grizzy had it. I just went through the back door and he made a great play. I knew he was going to put it on my tape."

In a 1-1 game, UNH also started the second period with very calculated play. Additionally, its excellent defense, led by sophomore Matias Cleland and junior Brett Pesce, held Eichel to just one shot on goal in the first half of the game.

"I thought they were setting the tempo (early in the game). If it wasn't for (O'Connor, who finished with 32 saves), that game could have gotten out of control in a hurry," Quinn said. "I thought we were standing around, watching too much."

It was the Terriers that were able to tip the scale next, taking a 2-1 lead at 9:53 of the second period. UNH freshman goaltender Daniel Tirone's pad greeted a wraparound try by BU sophomore Nick Roberto at the doorstep, but the rebound squirted back outside the crease for freshman Chase Phelps to knock home his second goal of the season.

A pair of Eichel goals in the final seven minutes put the game out of reach. At 13:45, he finished off a net drive by pouncing on a rebound at the right crease off a shot from senior Evan Rodrigues.

Rodrigues assisted Eichel on the game's final goal and the latter's 22nd marker of the season, an empty-netter from center ice. Eichel's 63 points are the most by a Division 1 freshman since Iona's Ryan Carter posted the same amount in 1998-99.