BOSTON -- For the first time in Hockey East history, Boston College and UMass Lowell will play for the league title.
Friday at TD Garden, the Eagles survived Boston University’s two-goal spurt late in the second period to earn a 3-2 win, while top-seeded UMass Lowell posted all the offense it needed in the opening frame en route to a 5-1 win over Notre Dame.
Generally speaking, this marked the first Hockey East semifinal doubleheader without a power-play goal since 2007. The nightcap win lifted BC to its league-record 17th all-time championship game, while Lowell is playing in its fifth consecutive.
Boston College 3, Boston University 2
As far as NCAA Tournament life, this night was do or die for the Eagles.
After senior Ryan Fitzgerald scored in each of the last two periods, BC fended off the Terriers’ two extra-attacker goals and held on for a 3-2 victory, advancing to its first Hockey East title game since 2012, avenging three regular-season losses to its archrival, and temporarily keeping its marginal NCAA at-large bid hopes alive.
“We feel very excited about the chance to move on and play Lowell for the Lamoriello Trophy,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose team is 21-14-4. “We mark our seasons by how many trophies you win, so this is a chance for us to get our second trophy of the year. That’s a driving force for us.”
After a scoreless first period, the Eagles scored twice in a 17-shot second to take a 2-0 lead. Freshman Julius Mattila got the scoring going 1:58 in, working through a check at center ice and beating BU freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger with a shot from above the right wing circle.
It was his eighth goal of the season, and gave BC its first lead in three-plus games against its archrival.
“It’s really difficult to beat a team four times,” said BU captain and defenseman Doyle Somerby. “We tried to throw out everything that happened in the past, we knew they were coming with vengeance and were going to come out firing with their season on the line. We tried to not look at past games and just keep moving forward.”
Fitzgerald doubled the Eagles’ lead at 13:21, picking up a pass from sophomore Christopher Brown for a shorthanded wrister from the high slot.
Just 58 seconds into the third, Fitzgerald added his 11th goal of the season, directing Brown’s pass to the top of the crease past Oettinger.
It has not been the most consistent of scoring seasons for the Bruins prospect from North Reading, Mass., but Fitzgerald has scored four times since the regular season’s second-to-last weekend.
“Anytime you can produce for your team it’s good,” Fitzgerald said. “Reflecting on the year, for me, it’s one of those things where you notice the puck not going in as frequently as it has been, you need to do something else. Playing center now, I’ve taken a bigger role in the D zone. If you’re not scoring, you need to do something else.”
The Terriers were the dominant team in the final frame, doubling their shot total for the game with a 22-8 advantage. BC freshman Joseph Woll stood tall, making 20 of his 42 saves, which match a career high, in the frame.
Sophomore Jordan Greenway got BU on the board at 17:36, tipping home Keller’s pass from the corner to the net front.
Keller became the first Terrier to 20 goals just 1:02 later as he picked up a rebound in front of Woll after Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson’s initial try was stopped. Woll also robbed Keller of a potential game-tying opportunity in the final seconds.
“Obviously, we did some crazy things with the goalie pulled and had some chances to tie it,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “I’ve mentioned this before over the past few weeks, playing with fire, but we played with an inferno tonight.”
“Right from the get-go, he was outstanding,” York said of Woll. “We know we have a very good goaltender. We put up some runs for him tonight. We talk about those pitchers that go eight or innings and lose a 1-0 game; he’s had some of those games this year. Recently, we started putting goals up. He was very good tonight. Some of his saves were spectacular.”
UMass Lowell 5, Notre Dame 1
The River Hawks were pretty much dominant from the outset in advancing to their fifth consecutive Hockey East title game, holding a 41-20 shooting advantage, including 13-3 and 11-3 marks in the first and third periods, respectively.
Freshman Ryan Lohin scored the game-winning goal 9:31 into the first period, while adding two assists for his first three-point game as a River Hawk.
The luck of the Irish struck for Notre Dame just seven minutes in as sophomore Dennis Gilbert’s dump from the opposite zone tipped off Jack Jenkins’ stick in the neutral zone, bouncing past Tyler Wall. The goal came on Notre Dame’s first shot of the game and just one of three in the first period.
However, that was as close as the Irish would come. Lowell scored twice in the second period, proving to be all the offense it would need.
“The goal we scored was a gift, just a bad bounce on the goaltender, (but we did) a lot of uncharacteristic things,” Irish head coach Jeff Jackson said. “Give Lowell their due because they create a lot of those situations. We turned pucks over in our own end, and the offensive end too, that led to goals.”
Lowell freshman Colin O’Neill shot home Kenny Hausinger’s pass from the high slot just 25 seconds later, and their classmate Ryan Lohin pounced on a rebound for the eventual game-winning goal at 9:31.
The River Hawks scored twice more in the second and once in the third to put the game away, while freshman goaltender Tyler Wall made 17 of his 19 saves in the final two periods, including 14 in the second.
“I was very pleased with the way the guys responded to the fluky first goal,” Lowell head coach Norm Bazin said after his team improved to 25-10-3 on the season. “I thought we kept the traffic up for most of the game and we were very fortunate to get ahead. … The guys really supported each other in the third period, and I was very proud of the way we managed to game.”
Junior C.J. Smith gave Lowell a two-goal lead 6:34 into the second, beating Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen after Joe Gambardella worked around the net and fed the puck back to the net front.
Lowell added to its lead with just 1:08 left before the second intermission as senior defenseman Michael Kapla took Hausinger’s pass for a short-side shot from the left circle, while a pair of Massachusetts natives connected to close the scoring as freshman Nick Marin corralled a rebound from sophomore Ryan Collins’ shot outside the left circle 2:58 into the third.