CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Leave it to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to spoil the St. Patty's Day revelry of the Boston College faithful. On Sunday, the late-arriving crowd of 3,246 at the Conte Forum saw the eighth-seeded Irish play party crashers, employing a suffocating third-period defense to take the Hockey East quarterfinal rubber match from the top-seeded Eagles, 4-2.
It was the seventh straight time the Irish won the deciding game of a three-game series, dating back to their affiliation with the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Sunday's win propels Notre Dame (23-13-2) to its first visit to TD Garden on Friday, when it will take on second-seeded UMass Lowell.
Meanwhile, the Eagles (26-7-4), ranked no. 2 in the country, will fail to make the trip across town for the league semifinals for the first time since 2004, when they were ousted by Boston University. It will be the first Hockey East semifinal without either BC or BU since 1988.
"Certainly, a very difficult loss for us," BC coach Jerry York said. "The locker room is just crushed. We're very disappointed in the outcome."
The teams played to a 1-1 stalemate after one period, but the Eagles had the early hop. A poorly timed Irish shift change sprang BC's Quinn Smith down the left side just after the 2-minute mark, and the junior blew his shot past ND senior netminder Steven Summerhays but hit the right post squarely. At 4:43, the Eagles got the game's first goal, gift-wrapped by the Irish.
Vince Hinostroza's ill-advised clearing pass was intercepted by BC's Adam Gilmour. The Eagles freshman cruised into the low slot, and when Summerhays challenged him, dished a perfect pass to Kevin Hayes at the doorstep. Hayes slammed the puck into the vacated net for a 1-0 BC lead, and his 24th tally of the season. The goal, however, should have been as much cause for concern as celebration, as the team to score first in the opening two games of the series had lost.
Sure enough, Stephen Johns drew the Irish even, 1-1, after finishing off a rink-long rush with a backhander that broke between BC's freshman goalie Thatcher Demko and the left post at 11:31. Ruled no goal on the ice, the referee's decision was overturned by video review, and the Irish were on the board. It was a critical moment in the game, said ND coach Jeff Jackson.
"You don't want to go down 2-0 to a team of that caliber," he said.
The second period began much like the first, with BC's Austin Cangelosi ringing a shot off iron at the 20-second mark. The Irish took a 2-1 lead at 4:10. ND's T.J. Tynan snapped a shot into a crowd in front of the BC net. Linemate Bryan Rust settled the rebound, and while Demko searched for the puck, the Irish senior calmly potted it for his 16th goal of the season.
But the Irish again insisted on helping out the Eagles. With Notre Dame already shorthanded due to a bench minor, Tynan carelessly tripped up Demko at 7:53 and was sent off for goaltender interference. The Eagles needed only 13 seconds to capitalize, when captain Patrick Brown tapped in the rebound of a Bill Arnold shot to tie the game, 2-2, at 8:05.
The Eagles appeared to take a 3-2 lead at 9:41, when the rebound of a wide-angle shot by Johnny Gaudreau ricocheted off Brown, just as he was being nudged by Johns, and bounced into the net. However, after video review, the goal was disallowed and Brown was given a two-minute penalty for goalie interference. It was as close as Gaudreau would come to scoring, as he saw his 31-game scoring streak come to an end.
Summerhays came up big with a shoulder save on Arnold at 13:11, after ND defender Shayne Taker blew an edge and fell down. Then, with less than five seconds left in the middle frame, the Irish struck again. Rust, steaming down the right side with a step on BC's Danny Linell, converted a tape-to-tape pass from Tynan for his second of the game and a 3-2 Irish lead.
In the final period, the Irish put an end to their charitable gaffes, closing out the game and the series. Summerhays kept the Eagles at bay, stuffing Hayes' attempt down low at 2:15, then shutting the door on a number of high-quality, in-tight bids by Gaudreau, Quinn Smith, Linell, Gilmour and Brendan Silk, and a nice glove stop on a long-range bomb by Mike Matheson.
"You have to give Summerhays a tremendous amount of credit," York said. "He was the difference, from my perspective."
ND's Mike Voran may have saved the game for the Irish at 12:33 when he hooked BC's Chris Calnan at the top of the crease, preventing the Eagle from getting a shot off with Summerhays out of position. Notre Dame killed off Voran's penalty, then got an insurance marker.
Irish captain Jeff Costello put the game out of reach at 18:08 when he was sent in alone on Demko by Steven Fogarty. Costello corralled the pass, shifted to his backhand and tapped it five-hole past Demko to send the Irish to the Hockey East semifinals.
Now the Eagles will need to regroup. York didn't like having a 13-day layoff between the Eagles' final regular-season game and the Hockey East playoffs. Now he and his squad are looking at a minimum of 12 days before the start of the NCAA tournament, where the Eagles are assured an at-large bid.