BOSTON, Mass. - The University of Maine Black Bears used a 4-for-6 power play showing and a 44-31 shot advantage to overcome two early deficits and record a 5-3 triumph over the Boston Univeristy Terrriers in Friday night's Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
Maine senior defenseman Will O'Neill (Salem, Mass.) led the charge with two goals at the end of a wild second period and added an assist on the final goal, an empty netter by Joey Diamond (Long Beach, N.Y.) who finished with two scores of his own on the night.
From the first drop of the puck, the game took on the pace of a middleweight title bout, with a flurry of nonstop action as both teams generated quality scoring chances time and time again.
Despite that, only one goal was scored in the first frame, when BU junior Alex Chiasson (St. Augustin, Que.) collected a clearing pass from linemate Chris Connolly (Duluth, Minn.) high off the right boards and behind the Maine defenders. In alone, Chiasson went way wide to his backhand in the left slot to bait a pokecheck attempt by Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan (York, Pa.), before pulling the puck back to the middle and barely poking it five hole between Sullivan's open leg pads. That put BU ahead 1-0 2:46 into the contest.
Maine evened it up just 46 seconds into the second period with the first of its four power play goals on the night. Diamond took a pass in the low slot from Matt Mangene (Miller Place, N.Y.), kicked it to his backhand and shot five hole. BU goaltender Kieran Millan (Edmonton, Alta.) had only a 50/50 shot of stopping it, odds that were erased when one of the BU penalty killers came crashing in late in attempt to disrupt Diamond, only to instead force the puck to the back of the net.
BU quickly reclaimed the lead on a power play of its own, when rookie Evan Rodrigues (Etobicoke, Ont.) made a quick pass from the left point to Sahir Gill (Terrace, B.C.) Instead of shooting it, Gill sent a fast cross-crease pass to Matt Nieto (Long Beach, Calif.) at the opposite dot, and Nieto one timed it with authority into a nearly open net.
The back-and-forth bout continued as Maine equalized again, thanks to a booming O'Neill shot through heavy traffic and into the high right corner over Millan's glove. Seven minutes later, O'Neill gave Maine its first lead when he accepted a back pass as the late man on a rush, took a few strides in, picked his spot just below Millan's blocker, and wristed it through.
Four minutes into the final frame, Nieto notched his second goal of the game on a textbook three-on-two cross-ice passing play with Gill and defenseman Adam Clendening (Wheatfield, N.Y.), but Maine sophomore Mark Anthoine (Lewiston, Maine) quickly reclaimed the lead for Maine when he intercepted a BU short-handed clearing attempt at the top of the left circle, turned, and fired it over the glove of a surprised Millan.
That proved the game-winner as BU's offense could not score again, despite putting 16 shots on goal in the final frame. Sullivan stopped 15 of those to finish with 28 saves on the game, while Millan fell one save short of 40 at the other end, many of the highlight variety.
The University of Maine Black Bears advance to Saturday night's championship game against top seed Boston College, who defeated Providence College 4-2 earlier in the evening. It will be the 14th time that the Black Bears have advanced to the championship game, half of those yielding a title match against Boston College.
Hockey East Semifinal #2
#4 Maine 5, #3 Boston University 3
Semifinal Postgame Notes
This will be Maine's 14th trip to the Hockey East championship game and second in three seasons following a one-year hiatus. The Black Bears are 5-8 all-time in the championship game, with their last title coming in 2004, a 2-1 triple OT win over UMass. The Black Bears rank second in the league in championship game appearances, trailing only BC with 16.
This will be the seventh time the Black Bears have met the Eagles for the Hockey East championship, and the Eagles hold a 4-2 advantage in those meetings, the last a 7-6 BC overtime win over Maine in 2010. BC holds a 7-5 advantage all-time vs. Maine in overall Hockey East tournament play.
This is the third consecutive year the No. 4 seed has advanced to the final, and the fourth time in the last five seasons. In the 23 years prior to that, the No. 4 seed reached the final just twice, first in 1996 and then again in 2000, winning both times. The No. 4 seed won again in 2008, but has fallen short in the title game in each of the last two years.
Last year was the first time a No. 1 seed faced a No. 4 seed in the final, with No. 1 BC defeating No. 4 Merrimack, 5-3.
Boston goaltender Kieran Millan set a single-tournament record for saves, stopping a total of 189 shots over four games. The previous record was 157 by Kevin Regan in the 2007 tournament.
Semifinal #2 Maine Postgame Quotes (PDF Format)
Semifinal #2 Boston University Postgame Quotes (PDF Format)
Video: Postgame Interviews (YouTube)