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Frozen Four: Terriers hang on to topple North Dakota, face Providence next

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Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- Entering Thursday night's second Frozen Four semifinal, many thought Boston University could have been in for a home game at TD Garden.

While the Terriers won both the Beanpot and Hockey East titles on the same ice, any college hockey fan knows North Dakota had other plans to spoil the party. The sea of green and white was ultimately denied of a trip to the national championship for a second straight year as BU finished a 5-3 winner.

BU had outscored its opponents 68-25 in third periods this season, but had to hang on for dear life during the game's final stages.

It takes a lot of heart to win in late-season situations and that was just the case for BU on this night.

"There are all sorts of ways to win," BU head coach David Quinn said. "We've been very fortunate this year, we've won games a lot of different ways, we won one tonight in a way we hadn't had to win one all year. It's a great sign."

The win lifts BU to Saturday's 7:30 p.m. national championship game against Providence, which will mark the first between two Hockey East teams since Maine and New Hampshire met in Anaheim, Calif. in 1999.

It didn't take long for the Terriers' top scorer to find the back of the net as freshman Jack Eichel scored his 25th goal of the season just 4:59 into the proceedings, putting home a backhander on the power play.

Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey doubled the BU lead with just 48 seconds remaining in the opening frame as he took a one-time shot from the point that found the back of UND senior Zane McIntyre's net.

"I thought overall I liked 50 minutes of our game," UND head coach Dave Hakstol said. "I didn't think we managed the puck very well in the first eight to ten minutes of the game. Believe me, they played a good game. They made plays. I want to make sure I give them a lot of credit."

The tide turned from there as UND took eight of the second period's first ten shots. Just 44 seconds in, sophomore center Luke Johnson cut the deficit to 2-1 on an off-angle shot from between the goal line and the right circle that eluded BU junior Matt O'Connor.

"I thought it was a step forward for us, obviously, with a slow start we had, it was a step in the right direction," Johnson said of scoring his 11th goal of the season and third on the power play. "I thought we played to our strengths in that period, and even going into the third we weren't feeling down on ourselves or anything."

The change in momentum was short lived as BU scored the final two goals of the frame to take a commanding three-goal cushion. Freshman A.J. Greer cracked the scoreboard for his third goal of the season at 11:20, taking a feed from Eichel for a beautiful one-timer.

McIntyre would definitely like to have BU's fourth goal back as sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby's first of the year at the 13:10 mark on another off-angle shot from a similar position to Johnson's goal at the other end of the ice.

A bad O'Connor misplay allowed UND back into the game as it scored shorthanded for a national-best 12th time this season at 12:10.

Sophomore Troy Stecher made a strong play to attack the net and force O'Connor to fumble the puck at his right post. The puck slid from his stick and right to Stecher who jammed home his third goal of the season.

Senior Connor Gaarder cut the BU lead to 4-3 at 16:17 with his third goal of the season, taking a cross-ice feed from classmate and defenseman Nick Mattson.

UND scratched and clawed in the final stages of the game, but Eichel finished the job with an empty-net goal from the beyond center ice at 19:41. Senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann freed the puck from the side boards and found Eichel for the long shot that sent BU to its first national title game since 2009.

"I think (junior defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was) battling three guys, and he's able to make a great play," Eichel said. "I don't think he even had a stick in his hand and the puck squirted out to me. I happened to be over there and I just tried to put it on net."