CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – It was a hard-fought two-game series and as a final result, the top-ranked Boston College Eagles are headed to the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden following a 3-2 victory over the eighth-seeded Massachusetts Minutemen on Saturday night at Kelley Rink.
With the victory, the Eagles advance to the Garden for the eighth season in a row and defeated the Mass Attack in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive season, all coming in two-game sweeps.
“Historically, we’ve made some long runs in the playoffs,” said BC head coach Jerry York, whose team has not failed to reach TD Garden since 2005. “But the quarterfinal series in your league to get you to the Garden is always extremely difficult.”
“We’ve always felt on Sunday morning how fortunate we are to advance. We know exactly what to expect from their team. They are going to skate well at a very top level and they always give us a real battle…From our perspective, we played much better tonight than we did last night and I am very happy about that.”
The Minutemen jumped ahead first in the contest at the 2:54 mark as sophomore Conor Sheary took a great centering pass from senior captain T.J. Syner in the slot for his third score in five games.
It did not take long for the Eagles to respond as they did so twice on a five-minute hitting from behind penalty on UMass sophomore Steven Guzzo just 3:39 into the contest. Guzzo, an Ontario native, was the Mass Attack’s lone goal scorer in Friday’s series-opening 2-1 loss.
At 4:25, freshman Johnny Gaudreau sprung junior Pat Mullane on the breakaway, changing from forehand to backhand before beating Minuteman freshman Kevin Boyle for his eighth goal of the season.
At 8:18, sophomore Bill Arnold played give-and-go with senior Paul Carey for the easy tap-in for his 14th goal of the season and fourth point in as many games.
In the opening stanza, the Minutemen out-shot the Eagles by a 9-7 margin despite just four more total chances.
Although it looked like things would remain status quo following the second period, the Minutemen were able to tie the score at 18:03 as sophomore Joel Hanley beat Eagles junior Parker Milner on a shot from the slot.
Just over a minute later at the 19:11 mark, junior Brian Dumoulin beat Boyle on a snapper from just outside the left wing circle to lift BC to a 3-2 edge. In the stanza, the Eagles were more dominant on the offensive with a 25-18 edge in total chances, despite a 13-9 shots on goal disadvantage.
Minuteman head coach Don Cahoon was disappointed with the call and felt that an icing or several penalties could have been called as the puck bounced back from beyond the end line before junior Chris Kreider dished the puck for the goal.
“I have never been more frustrated in all my life,” Cahoon said. “I have 28 kids in that locker room that are absolutely devastated and do not feel like they lost this series. We should still be playing out there right now and I do not think there is any question in the world.
“If you go back and look at that third goal, you won’t believe what you’ll see. It was disgraceful…There is no way around it. There is nobody in this league or any league that is going to tell me otherwise, because it just ended our season.”
UMass had some great chances on the power play and during 5-on-5 action, but Milner and the BC defense were equal to the task as they closed out the contest with no further offense in the third period.
In the end, the Eagles captured their 27th victory of the season and their 13th in a row. BC has not lost since being swept by Maine in two straight games to close January.
Milner made 33 stops, playing exceptionally well in goal for the Eagles to lift them back to the semifinals. Boyle made 19 stops in the contest as the Minutemen fell to 13-18-5 to end the season.
“Parker was very, very good both nights,” York said. “Last night, he was the reason we won the game. Tonight, we did a lot of really good things and we also got excellent goaltending. Last night, it was ‘The Milner Show’ and that was kind of all we had going for us.”
The Eagles will take on the lowest remaining seed when the semifinals begin for the 28th time next Friday night. No. 6 New Hampshire would be that team if it were to pull out a series win on Sunday against No. 3 Boston University over at Agganis Arena.