March 30, 2014

BC 4, UMass-Lowell 3: Eagles headed to Frozen Four

By Joshua Kummins

Boston College's Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) celebrates his first-period goal in Sunday's NCAA Northeast Regional final against UMass-Lowell at Worcester's DCU Center. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Final: Boston College 4, UMass Lowell 3

Recap: Freshman defenseman Ian McCoshen scored the game-winning goal at 11:16 of the third period, lifting the No. 2 overall-seeded Eagles to a victory over Hockey East rival (and league champion) UMass-Lowell in an exciting NCAA Northeast Regional final on Sunday at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass.

The Eagles drew first blood at 12:57 of the first period, taking advantage of a rare mistake by the River Hawk defense. BC's top unit came in 3-on-1 off a neutral zone turnover. Johnny Gaudreau slid the back backhand to senior Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass.) on the doorstep for his fifth goal in the last four games.

UML got a big goal back at 18:08 as senior Derek Arnold (Foxboro, Mass.) fed rookie Michael Kapla at the center point for a power-play snapper through traffic.

After a scoreless struggle for much of the middle period, the teams traded goals late to enter the second intermission in a 2-2 tie. First, Gaudreau's initial shot on goal was blocked down in front but senior Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) pounced on the rebound to put BC up 2-1 at the 17:34 mark.

The River Hawks answered almost immediately as captain Josh Holmstrom was on the spot in front of the net, following up Christian Folin's shot from the point for his seventh goal of the year.

The third period started as quickly as the second ended with the sides trading goals in the first 64 seconds. UML scored its second straight goal just 43 seconds into the third as freshman Evan Campbell threw a backhander off the skates of a BC defender for his ninth goal of the season.

Ryan Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass.) leveled the score once again, driving into open space and tossing a backhander between the legs of UML sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck at the 1:04 mark.

On the winner, sophomore Teddy Doherty (Hopkinton, Mass.) freed the puck from the side wall to McCoshen for his fifth goal of the season on a wrist shot.

Records: Boston College 28-7-4, UMass Lowell 26-11-4

Key Play of the Game: The Eagles capitalized when it mattered most and a pair of newcomers scored the tying and winning goals. Doherty made an excellent play on the side wall to feed McCoshen on the final goal.

Kummins’ Commendations: The Gaudreau-Arnold-Hayes line certainly left its mark for the Eagles, but secondary scoring had a major impact in the end. After the top unit accounted for the first two goals, Fitzgerald and McCoshen scored goals that saved the season and sent BC to the Frozen Four.

Kummins’ Critiques: Hellebuyck, the backbone in UMass Lowell's Hockey East title runs of the past two years, had an off night when it mattered most. In fact, the second-year River Hawk stopper had allowed more than four goals just twice previously in his collegiate career.

The defense in front of him was not at its strongest at certain key points in the game, particularly on BC's goal late in the second period on which they allowed Arnold to take over a loose puck and pounce for a goal.

Notes: The victory sends the Eagles to the NCAA semifinals for the 24th time overall and the sixth time since 2006. It marked their 47th all-time victory in national tournament play. ... First goal statistics are key for both teams, but it turned out to mean little as the game went on with each side trading scores in quick succession. However, both teams entered the night 4-2-1 when tied after two periods this year. ... With the win, BC can continue its streak of starting national championship runs in Worcester. The road to each of BC's four national titles (2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012) began in Worcester.

Final Thoughts: The final clash of Hockey East teams this season was a wild one and the well-rested Eagles got it done. After two long breaks before and after the league quarterfinals, BC came out firing in Saturday's win over Denver and grinded it out to victory in this one.

Next: The Eagles are the last New England-based team standing this season and will travel to Philadelphia, Pa. for the 2014 NCAA Men's Frozen Four. In the semifinals on Thursday, April 10, BC will tangle with three-time defending ECAC champion Union College and attempt to pay back to the team that knocked it out of the national tournament in last year's East Regional semifinal in Providence, R.I.

Twitter: @JoshuaKummins