BOSTON - Freshman defenseman Lane Hutson scored twice, including the game-winner 1:57 into overtime to give top-seeded Boston University a comeback 3-2 win over second-seeded Merrimack in the title game of the 38th annual Hockey East Championship Saturday night in front of 14,306 fans at TD Garden. The crown was the 10th for the Terriers, their first since 2018.
Six of this year's 10 Hockey East playoff games needed extra time, including all three this weekend in Boston, so it was fitting that the championship match went past 60 minutes. Hutson, named the 2023 William Flynn Tournament MVP Award presented by Market Basket, ended it quick with a blast from the blue line less than two minutes into overtime. Matt Brown and Sam Stevens picked up assists.
The Terriers (27-10-0) had an early first period power play opportunity but Merrimack broke through on a shorthanded goal by Felton 6:45 into the contest. Ben Brar while killing the penalty, carried the puck out of the BU zone and Felton redirected his centering pass from the right side past Commesso. It was just the second goal of the year for Felton, and the first championship game shorthanded tally since 2001.
Two penalties late in the first gave the Terriers a two-man advantage and they cashed in 38 seconds into the second. Hutson rapped home a one-timer off a feed from Domenick Fensone tied it at 1-1 with Kaplan also picking up an assist.
The Warriors regained the lead at 15:09 of the middle period with Mac Welcher, off a faceoff, ripping one past Commesso to make it 2-1. Tristan Crozier won the draw right to Welcher for his seventh of the year.
Kaplan tied it at 2-2 for the Terriers midway through the third, beating Merrimack goalie Hugo Ollas low from the right wing for his 10th goal. Assists went to Jamie Armstrong and Ryan Greene, who in the semifinals last night had helpers on BU's tying and winning goals.
Ollas kept the game tied with four minutes left in regulation with stops on point blank bids by Luke Tuch and Jay O'Brien. Alex Jefferies nearly gave the Warriors the lead with two minutes to go in the third, grabbing a loose puck in front before whistling it over the cage.
Teammates joining Hutson on the 2023 Steve Nazro All-Tournament Team were Commesso in goal, and forwards Dylan Peterson and Kaplan. Merrimack was represented by blueliner Felton and forward Matt Copponi.
With 27 saves, Ollas backboned the strong Merrimack defensive effort holding the Terriers at bay for most of the game. Boston U came in with the Hockey East's best offense, third in the nation, and the Warriors came into the game tops in the league and ninth in the NCAA in defense.
Commesso finished with 23 stops for the Terriers who went 1-for-5 on the power play and killed both Merrimack opportunities.
In earning its 10th title, first year BU head coach Jay Pandolfo became the first coach to lead his school to the championship in his initial season.
With the league's automatic bid, Boston University moves on to the NCAA Tournament for the 38th time. Merrimack (23-13-1), with its second most victories in D-I, looks for an at large selection to reach the NCAA Division I tourney for its second time, its first since 2011. The pairings will be announced Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU and NCAA.com.
- Saturday night's HEA Final appearance marked Boston University's 13th appearance in the HEA Final action while it marked Merrimack College's 2nd appearance in the HEA Finals.
- With tonight's victory, BU will claim their 10th Hockey East Championship title game and their first since 2018. BU is 10-3 all-time in Hockey East Championship games.
- Christian Felton (MC) scored a shorthanded goal which last happened in 2001 with BC.
- BU is now 1-7 this season when trailing after two periods while MC is now 15-1 when leading after two periods this season.
- BU came in with the Hockey East's top offense averaging 3.94 goals per game, third in the NCAA.
- Merrimack has the top defense in Hockey East with 2.25 goals against average, ninth in the NCAA.
- Merrimack has reached the semifinals three times, in 1998 and in 2011. They topped UNH, 4-1, in 2011 to reach their only final, losing to top-seeded BC, 5-3.
- Merrimack's 23 wins are its second-most as a D-I program after winning 25 games in 2011.
- Tonight's winner gets an automatic bid to the 2023 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship. The bracket will be announced at 6:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Sunday, March 19, live on ESPNU and ESPN+. It will also be available on NCAA.com
- Merrimack has been to the DI NCAAs just once, 2011.
- Boston University will be making its 38th trip to the NCAAs, returning after missing last season.
- Following tonight's game, BU is 5-3-0 in overtime games this season while MC is now 4-5-1 in overtime games during the 2022-23 season.
- 12 of the last 17 Boston University Hockey East Tournament games have been decided by one goal. When BU & MC have played each other in overtime games all-time, MC leads the matchup, 2-1-8.
- 6 of the 10 2023 Hockey East Playoffs have gone into overtime.
- The William Flynn Tournament MVP Award presented by Market Basket: BU Freshman Defenseman Lane Hutson
- The 2023 Steve Nazro Hockey East All-Tournament Team:
BU Goalie Drew Commesso
BU Defenseman Lane Hutson
MC Defenseman Christian Felton
MC Forward Matt Copponi
BU Forward Devin Kaplan
BU Forward Dylan Peterson