It somehow seems fitting that No. 2 Boston College’s quest for a regular-season Hockey East crown will go through New Hampshire. Again.
In what has become an almost annual ritual for league supremacy, BC (24-7-1, 18-6-1 Hockey East) will take on the No. 9 Wildcats for top honors next weekend after the Eagles dispatched UMass-Amherst 2-1 before sellout crowd 7,884 at the Conte Forum on Saturday. The win gave the Eagles a two-game sweep of the Minutemen (6-20-5, 5-15-5 HE) this weekend and allowed BC to stay just a point behind UNH (19-7-6, 17-4-4 HE) in the league standings.
“I thought UMass gave us 120 minutes of really competitive hockey; they never died,” said BC coach Jerry York. “The weekend series was very good for us, a real playoff atmosphere. The four points were very difficult to get.”
The Eagles' win spoiled a spectacular effort by UMass netminder Paul Dainton. The Minutemen’s senior captain stopped 36 shots on Saturday, many of which were labeled.
“He’s a terrific player, probably one of the most unheralded guys in the league,” said UMass coach Donald “Toot” Cahoon, noting that Dainton is playing behind a defensive corps featuring five freshmen. “He’s the backbone. He hides a lot of [our] mistakes.”
The Eagles took the play to UMass right from the opening faceoff, blistering a number of quality chances at Dainton. The Eagles finished the first stanza up 2-0, but it could have been twice the margin if not for the fine play of Dainton.
BC broke the ice at 7:35, with Barry Almeida finishing off a crisp odd-man rush, taking a soft feed from Steven Whitney and snapping a low shot from the off-wing underneath Dainton’s blocker. At 12:50, Dainton robbed BC’s Edwin Shea with a terrific glove save.
Only 13 seconds later, though, with UMass Doug Kublin in the box for slashing, the Eagles doubled their lead. Pat Mullane, playing a high-low passing game with Chris Kreider to perfection, drilled a one-timer from the right face-off dot that beat Dainton over the left shoulder.
“You’re either creating the pressure or feeling the pressure,” said Cahoon. “Against that team, you can feel the pressure in a hurry.”
Dainton continued his acrobatics in the second period, making a number of sparkling stops -- none better than a left leg pad stop of Patch Alber’s clean breakaway bid at 4:30 and then stuffing Brian Gibbons at the doorstep, sliding right to left across the crease at 15:15.
BC’s Jimmy Hayes had a glorious chance to bump the Eagles’ lead to 3-0, but fanned on the puck while looking at an open net. Seconds later, UMass crept to within one when T.J. Syner, parked to the right of BC’s John Muse, collected a dump-in from Anthony Raiola and roofed it over the diving Eagle netminder.
“UMass was relentless both Friday and Saturday night,” said Mullane. “We knew we couldn’t look past UMass.”
However, the Mintuemen couldn’t get another puck past Muse (24 saves), and had to return to Amherst empty handed. And the Eagles were already setting their sights squarely on the Wildcats for next weekend’s pivotal home-and-home series.
“We know UNH has a great team,” said Almeida. “That’s what we prepare for. Going into the weekend, we know if we get the sweep, we get the trophy. That’s our goal.”
York said last weekend’s wild series with Northeastern (a 7-7 tie and 2-1 loss) actually helped the team get its bearings. “We lost three of four points last weekend,” he said. “That didn’t go down well in our locker room.”
Starting next Friday at Conte Forum, the Eagles will compete for a trophy that they haven’t won since the 2004-05 season, a five-year dry spell that includes two national championship seasons at BC.
“All the teams like to be the champion from October through March,” said York. “It’s a grueling season, and to [get] that [the regular season crown] is quite a feather in your cap.
“It’s going to be a great weekend next weekend.”
In other local college hockey action on Friday and Saturday:
Boston University 3, Vermont 1
The No. 15 Terriers (17-9-8, 14-5-6 Hockey East) were inhospitable hosts this weekend, collecting three of four points from the visiting Vermont Catamounts (7-18-7, 5-14-6 HE) after a 3-1 win on Saturday at Agganis Arena. With the win, BU extended its Hockey East unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2). Junior goaltender Kieran Millan made 27 saves and freshman defenseman Adam Clendening picked up two assists to lead the Terriers. On Friday, despite holding a 3-0 third-period lead, the Terriers had to settle for a 3-3 draw with Vermont at Agganis. Freshman Sahir Gill paced the Terriers with a goal and an assist, while BU also got goals from Clendening and sophomore Ben Rosen. Millan turned aside 38 shots. BU took a 3-0 lead with a goal in each regulation frame, but the Catamounts recorded three markers in a 6:52 span in the third stanza to tie the game. Lance Harrington capped the three-goal spurt at 13:29 of the period with his first career tally. Vermont also got goals from Anders Franzon and Drew MacKenzie while goaltender Rob Madore turned in an impressive 43-save performance. The Terriers outshot Vermont by a 46-41 margin.
New Hampshire 6, Northeastern 3
The ninth-ranked Wildcats (19-7-6, 17-4-4 Hockey East) did their part to ensure a final weekend showdown with Boston College for the Hockey East regular-season crown, taking three of four points from visiting Northeastern (11-13-8, 9-9-7 HE), capped off with a 6-3 win on Saturday at the Whittemore Center. UNH extended its unbeaten streak to four games (2-0-2) to remain atop the Hockey East standings. UNH was led by junior forward Stevie Moses (two goals, assist), senior Paul Thompson (two goals) and freshman forward Kevin Goumas (three assists). On Friday, Goumas scored a third-period power-play goal to lift the Wildcats to a 2-2 tie against Northeastern. UNH’s Matt DiGirolamo finished with 26 saves, while NU counterpart Chris Rawlings stopped 33 shots. NU broke out on top, 2-0, on goals by Drew Daniels and Wade MacLeod. UNH trimmed the deficit to 2-1 at 15:53 on Connor Hardowa’s strike, setting the stage for the game-tying tally by Goumas.
UMass Lowell 7, Providence 2
UMass Lowell (5-24-3, 4-20-1 Hockey East) is making some late-season noise after taking three of four points from a Providence team (7-17-8, 3-15-7 HE) battling for the final Hockey East playoff spot. On Saturday, the River Hawks blitzed the Friars, 7-2, behind junior forward David Vallorani’s four-point night (two goals, two assists) at the Tsongas Arena. The River Hawks blew open a tight contest -- 1-1 after one period -- with a four-goal second period. On the night, Lowell outshot Providence, 38-29. On Friday, Providence and UMass Lowell played to a 3-3 overtime tie Schneider Arena. After a scoreless first period, the two teams netted three goals each in the second period as the game was tied going into the third. PC’s Matt Germain scored just 27 seconds into the period to give the Friars a 1-0 lead. However, the River Hawks scored three consecutive goals to take a 3-1 edge. David Vallorani evened the score at 1:08 and Joseph Pendenza added two goals in a span of 1:21, including a power-play goal at 9:02, to give the River Hawks a two-goal advantage. The Friars then scored two goals in 58 seconds to even the game. Junior Matt Bergland notched his third goal of the season at 13:35. Germain then netted the equalizer at 14:27. UML goalie Doug Carr finished with 39 stops, while PC netminder Alex Beaudry had 33 saves.
Maine 7, Merrimack 1
In a penalty-filled series in Orono, the Black Bears (16-10-6, 13-8-4 Hockey East), behind Dan Sullivan’s record-breaking goaltending, managed to sweep two games and four points from No. 4 Merrimack (21-7-4, 15-7-3 HE). The 7-1 Maine win on Saturday prevented the Warriors from locking up home ice for the Hockey East playoffs. The two teams combined for 301 minutes in penalties over the two games. Sullivan’s shutout streak of 202:49 minutes (which ended at 2:49 of the second period) topped the previous mark held by former Black Bear and current Detroit Red Wing Jimmy Howard. Maine senior Jeff Dimmen scored two goals and added an assist and senior Josh Van Dyk had a goal and two assists to lead Maine to Saturday’s win, which kept the Black Bears own hopes for home ice in the playoffs alive. On Friday, Sullivan recorded his third straight shutout as the Black Bears blanked Merrimack 4-0 on at Maine’s Alfond Arena. Spencer Abbott led the Black Bears offense with a goal and a pair of assists. Maine took an early 1-0 lead when Abbott’s shot deflected in off a Merrimack player just 4:27 into the game. Van Dyk’s power-play goal put the Black Bears ahead 2-0 at 17:24 of the first period. Tanner House gave Maine a 3-0 lead, and Brian Flynn finished the scoring with a power play marker at 17:47. Sullivan stopped all 15 shots he faced. Merrimack’s Joe Cannata made 13 saves in 40 minutes of action and suffers the loss. Sam Marotta played the third period, and made 13 saves. Maine finished the game with a 30-15 edge in shots on goal. The game had a total of 173 total penalty minutes.
Harvard 4, St. Lawrence 3
Harvard (9-19-1, 7-14-1 ECAC Hockey) completed an impressive two-game home sweep, highlighted by a 4-3 win over St. Lawrence on Saturday. The Crimson, falling behind 1-0, went on a four-goal tear to take a commanding 4-1 mid-way through the third period on strikes by Pier-Olivier Michaud, Michael Del Mauro, Marshall Everson and Michael Biega. The Saints rallied on two late third-period goals, but couldn’t get a fourth past Harvard’s Ryan Carroll. On Friday, Harvard’s Everson redirected Ryan Grimshaw’s point shot to break a third-period tie with less than six minutes remaining, lifting the Harvard men’s hockey team to a 3-1 win against visiting Clarkson at Bright Hockey Center. Everson’s goal was the second power-play tally of the game for Harvard, which won for the fourth time in five games and has scored 11 power-play goals in the past five league games. Everson and Grimshaw also assisted on Alex Fallstrom’s second-period goal, while Dan Ford had two assists, one on Alex Killorn’s final-minute empty-netter. Ryan Carroll made 23 saves and has won his past four starts. Paul Karpowich made 32 stops for the Golden Knights. Jake Morley scored Clarkson’s goal at even strength.
Boston College 4, Massachusetts 3
On Friday, four Eagle players scored one goal apiece and junior Cam Atkinson tallied a career-high three assists to lead BC to a 4-3 over Massachusetts before 6,274 fans at the Mullins Center. BC scored twice on the power play and took a 4-1 lead on Paul Carey’s strike at 7:46 of the second period. Massachusetts netted consecutive power-play goals -- one late in the second period and one early in the third period -- to trim its deficit to one goal at 4-3. BC senior goaltender John Muse recorded 17 saves, while Massachusetts goaltender Paul Dainton tallied 30 saves in the losing effort. Joel Hanley scored his third goal of the season with 2.4 seconds left in the second period and Danny Hobbs brought UMass within one goal at 5:06 of the final frame. BC led 1-0 on a Brian Gibbons’ power-play goal at 15:15 of the opening stanza and doubled its lead on a Barry Almeida man-advantage tally at 6:01 of the second period. Conor Allen scored Massachusetts’ first goal of the game 23 seconds after Almedia’s tally and junior Jimmy Hayes put the Eagles back up two goals 26 seconds later. Carey gave BC a three-goal advantage 56 seconds after the strike by Hayes. BC outshot UMass, 34-20.