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NCAA Northeast Regional Notebook: BC, UMD power way to final

Matt Dewkett

Worcester, Mass. -- Boston College and Minnesota Duluth will meet Saturday night (9 ET, ESPNU) in the Northeast Regional Final with a trip to the 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa on the line.

The Bulldogs upset the region's No. 1 seed, Providence, 2-1 in double overtime. Karson Kuhlman's redirection of a Willie Raskob centering feed 57 seconds into the second extra session sent the defending national champions home early.

There was far less surprise and intrigue in the Eagles' relatively easy victory over crosstown rival Harvard in the second semifinal. Despite being outshot, 33-25, the outcome was never really in doubt. Alex Tuch scored twice and Austin Cangelosi notched a power play tally to give BC a 3-0 lead before the second period was even two minutes long.

The last time the Eagles and Bulldogs met was in the 2012 NCAA Northeast Regional Final, won by BC, 4-0, en route to the program's fifth national championship.

Dogged Defense

UMD did a good job of controlling the neutral zone and limiting the time Providence spent below the dots in the Bulldogs' defensive zone. From the outset of the game, Scott Sandelin's team won a lot of battles to loose pucks and did kept Providence from utilizing its transition game.

"We were really fighting ourselves...with the the turnovers we had through the neutral zone," said Providence coach Nate Leaman.

The entire UMD defensive corps was good, but the top pairing of senior Andy Welinski and freshman Neal Pionk were nothing short of terrific. Welinski, an Anaheim draft pick, was a man among boys Friday night. Known for being a shutdown defender, he was solid and reliable in his own zone. He made countless nice plays, riding Friar forwards to the boards and having a good stick. He had an impact in puck possession and added seven shots on goal. Welinski was clearly the best player on the ice.

The second defensive pairing provided the offensive punch and showed off their skating ability. Cason Soucy and Raskob were both +2, had eight shots on net between the two and were very good in transition.

Goaltending Duel

It's tough to go any further without mentioning the play of goaltenders Nick Ellis and Kasimir Kaskisuo, who made several highlight reel saves to keep the game going. To steal a baseball phrase, it was a goaltending duel for the ages.

"It's really exciting. It's a lot of fun to play in those games and I just wish the outcome would have been better, but it is what it is," said Ellis of his battle with Kaskisuo.

"It brings the best out of you. You know the other goalie is not going to give up any easy ones. You kind of have to raise your own level to match that. The big thing in overtime is to just stick to your own game, try not to think about it too much and stay calm—just stay confident," added Kaskisuo.

Ellis set a NCAA Northeast Regional record with 54 saves. The junior was just superb down the stretch, and all season in his first year as the starter after taking over from the departed Jon Gillies. Many pundits questioned whether Ellis could be a formidable replacement for the 2015 Frozen Four MOP, and he answered those questions again Friday night.

Kaskisuo, the sophomore from Espoo, Finland, saw less rubber, but made several heart-stopping saves in the third and overtime, including a big pokecheck and turning away a shorthanded breakaway bid.

"I felt confident all through the game, and it was just another chance in the game—it was a pretty good scoring chance. I kind of sold myself before he made that move. I was just lucky enough to poke it with my stick," explained Kaskisuo.

Other observations from PC-UMD game

The 'KFC' line, as they are referred to, was very good. Left wing Austin Farley, center Tony Cameranesi and right wing Karson Kuhlman were good. Their speed and puck pursuit allowed them to create offense by defense and keep the possession in UMD's favor.

Left wing Alex Iafallo was arguably UMD's best forward Friday night. He's got good size, was flying all over the ice, had five shots on goal and was heavy on pucks. Keep an eye on him Saturday night as the Bulldogs will need to keep some of BC's big forwards at bay.

Overall, PC's transition game was poor Friday, which is certainly a surprise. However, senior John Gilmour did a nice job breaking the puck out of his own zone and impacting zone entries. He's a great skater with good vision. He made several nice end-to-end rushes in his last collegiate game. He's far less dynamic than Jake Walman, but his ability to step up for the injured St. Louis Blues prospect was beneficial.

Providence's bottom six forwards played well for the most part. Freshman Bryan Lemos was very good in the first period, one of the few Friars to have a good opening 20 minutes. Steven McParland's goal, assisted by Ryan Tait on a play started by Kevin Rooney, was fitting. It was a reward for the play of PC's grinders.

Dominant Eagles

Freshman Miles Wood and sophomore Alex Tuch looked to be in a whole different class than any other player on the ice in the night's second game. The two big power forwards asserted their presence from the get-go.

Tuch, the 2014 first round pick of the Minnesota Wild, pushed home a loose puck in the crease to give BC a 1-0 lead 7:59 into the game. He gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead with an absolute snipe 1:59 into the second period. Charging towards the net from the left side he unleashed a bomb without breaking stride that went perfectly into the top far corner of the net.

Tuch combines his size, power and strength to take over the game. His stride looks effortless, but it's a strong, powerful glide. He's pro-ready and it shows, no matter who his linemates are.

As he has many times this season Wood used his size and elite speed to create offense and set up line mate Austin Cangelosi. Wood is so good bursting down the left side, throwing it into a second gear and blowing by helpless defenders. He did just that before patiently waiting it out before turning back into the slot and sending a hard shot on net that Cangelosi batted into the net.

"He's like a horse out there, you get him the puck and he starts skating really fast and he uses his big body and there he took one of his hard shots to the net," explained Cangelosi.