BOSTON — The long and winding road of the Hockey East season has reached the final week. Late Saturday night, the conference’s tournament champion will be crowned for the 28th time at TD Garden.
Eight teams competed during an exciting quarterfinal round this past weekend, which included three overtime games and three of the four series going the distance to third games on Sunday night.
Top-seeded Boston College owns a Hockey East-record ten conference titles and is the two-time defending Lamoriello Trophy winner. For the first time ever, No. 3 Boston University, No. 4 Maine, and No. 7 Providence make the rest of the semifinal field.
Semifinals: Friday, March 16
5 p.m. – No. 1 Boston College vs. No. 7 Providence
8 p.m. – No. 3 Boston University vs. No. 4 Maine
Championship: Saturday, March 17
8 p.m. — PC/BC Winner vs. BU/Maine Winner
All three games will be televised live on NESN and nationally on the NBC Sports Network.
No. 1 Boston College Eagles (27-10-1) vs. No. 7 Providence Friars (14-19-4)
After capturing its second Hockey East regular season title in a row, BC invades TD Garden for the semifinals for the eighth year in a row, while Providence became the first No. 7 seed to advance past the opening round as it beat No. 2 UMass-Lowell in three games.
The Eagles swept UMass in straight games in the quarterfinals for their 12th and 13th straight victories, equaling the longest streak in head coach Jerry York’s tenure.
These two squads will meet for the tenth time in Hockey East Tournament play, which is also including just one previous meeting semifinal to close the inaugural 1985 season.
The Eagles swept the regular-season series by a 3-0 count, including a two-game home-and-home sweep three weeks ago by a combined 10-0 score. The season series finished with an astounding 7-0 shutout on Feb. 25 at Kelley Rink.
Providence is making its 11th appearance in the Hockey East Semifinals, but the Friars have not done so in the past 11 seasons. They were the first tournament champion in 1985 and have also captured the title in 1996.
PC freshman Ross Mauermann scored the lone goal in Sunday’s series-clinching 1-0 win at Tsongas Center, which earned the Janesville, Wisc. native his first-career Rookie of the Week honor.
Mauermann’s 25 points are most on the team this season, while sophomore New Hampshire native Tim Schaller holds the team lead with 14 goals.
During BC’s nation-best winning streak, freshman Johnny Gaudreau has a team-leading eight goals and 18 total points. The New Jersey native was one of three unanimous selections to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
No. 3 Boston University Terriers (23-13-1) vs. No. 4 Maine Black Bears (22-12-3)
The Terriers and Black Bears continue their great rivalry in Friday’s second semifinal, meeting for the 15th-ever time in the league tournament and for the sixth semifinal game.
Maine fell to 5-8 in championship appearances as it fell to BC in overtime to cap the 2010 tournament after beating the Terriers in the semifinal. The teams have each won the title when playing one another, while sporting seven wins each in 14 previous tournament games.
Junior Alex Chiasson scored the winning goal in double-overtime on Sunday night as the Terriers defeated No. 6 New Hampshire, 5-4, capturing a ticket to the Garden for the tenth time in 11 seasons.
The Terriers and Wildcats decided all three games by two goals or less, while the first and third games were decided in five periods.
Chiasson was named Hockey East Player of the Week as he scored two goals and five points in the weekend set, while posting a +3 rating. Senior Kieran Millan was named Defensive Player of the Week as he recorded a whopping 150 saves on the weekend, including a tournament-record 68 on Sunday night.
The Quebec native’s 43 points are tops on the team, while junior Wade Megan holds a team-best 19 goals and senior Chris Connolly sports 30 assists.
After suffering a brisk two-game defeat in 2011, the Black Bears earned revenge as they defeated No. 5 Merrimack in three games, advancing to their first semifinal since 2010 and eighth in the last 12 years.
Sophomore Brice O’Connor scored the game-winner in the second period of Sunday’s 2-1 win. The New Hampshire native also scored the lone goal of the season finale on Mar. 3 against UNH, which solidified home-ice advantage for Maine.
Maine’s top line of seniors Brian Flynn and Spencer Abbott and junior Joey Diamond are taking the nation by storm, leading the conference and the nation in several categories.
Abbott’s 39 assists and 59 points lead the nation, while Diamond’s 23 goals are best on a balanced attack which ranks a close third behind BU and BC in the conference.
Semifinal #1: The Friars’ Cinderella run through Hockey East comes to an end at the hands of the unstoppable Eagles.
Boston College 5, Providence 2
Semifinal #2: Jack Parker has not been happy with his team’s play of late, especially in the quarterfinal round at home. With that said, his team will not be able to pull it out as the Abbott-Flynn-Diamond line proves too much.
Maine 5, Boston University 4
Championship: It’s a battle of the offenses. The speed and skill of the Eagles will prove just too much as York’s Eagles successfully chase another trophy and march into the NCAA Tournament automatically.
Boston College 4, Maine 3