Cory Schneider found a unique way to celebrate his 19th birthday last night.
The Boston College goaltender fended off 39 shots on the way to a 2-1 double-overtime victory over Maine in the Hockey East semifinals at the FleetCenter.
Defenseman Andrew Alberts's goal 9:09 into the second extra session ended the longest Hockey East semifinal contest in history -- surpassing an 85-minute game between Boston University and BC in 2003 (the Terriers won, 6-5).
Maine netminder Jimmy Howard was almost as sensational, making 36 stops.
The deciding goal was started by right wing Dan Bertram winning a battle deep below the goal line to Howard's right. Bertram fired a pass to defenseman Brian O'Hanley in the left circle and he relayed it to Alberts, who was atop the right circle. His wrister tipped off a Maine defender and beat Howard to the glove side.
"It's kind of a blur right now," said Alberts. "[Bertram] made a great pass to O'Hanley. I believe Maine's defense sent two guys out to [O'Hanley] and so I just gave him the yell, he threw it over, and I collected it and took a shot and, luckily, it went off one of their players' sticks and in the net."
It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Black Bears.
"Bad ending," said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. "A bad ending to a real good game. Unfortunately, the ending wasn't what we wanted."
Whitehead was impressed by the netminders' performances.
"I'm running out of compliments for [Howard]," he said. "He's great. He just gives us a lift every time. I thought both goalies were just fabulous. [Schneider] actually does remind me a little bit of Jimmy. They're both just so calm under pressure."
If the ending was a happy one for BC, the start was the opposite. Aside from Schneider, the Eagles were dreadful in the first period. The Eagles had four shots, their worst period of the season. Their first shot came with 10:30 gone, a wrister from the right circle. At the time, Maine had eight shots on the board and wound up with 14 through 20 minutes.
Schneider had to be sharp, as many of Maine's chances were decent, several in the late going. Center Jon Jankus tested the netminder when he drove down the left circle with 40.6 ticks left. With 1.6 seconds remaining, left wing Mike Hamilton backhanded a shot from deep in the left circle that glanced off Schneider's pads and fell in the crease. Schneider covered it with his glove.
The Eagles had quality chances when defenseman Greg Lauze teed up a slapper from the right point and got the puck back after a failed clearing attempt. He fired again from the middle of the point but Howard was there.
The middle period was even as each team potted a goal, just 12 seconds apart.
The Eagles struck first, converting on the power play at 6:39. Center Brian Boyle took a pass from right wing Pat Gannon and wristed it past Howard.
The Black Bears answered right back at even strength. Left wing Josh Soares dished a pass to center Michel Leveille in the slot. Leveille's shot was kicked out by Schneider with his right pad but Soares swooped in for the rebound and scored on a backhander inside the left post at 6:51.
BC had a chance to go ahead at 10:19 of the third when right wing Dave Spina hit left wing Chris Collins for a breakaway. But Collins's backhand bid was blocked by Howard.
Maine had a last-second opportunity to win it in regulation when the Eagles iced the puck with 7.9 seconds remaining. The Black Bears won the draw and Soares had backhand bids but Schneider denied them both.
In the first extra session, the Eagles could've closed it out on the power play when center Ryan Shannon fired the puck from the right point but it rang off the right post. The Eagles also had a breakaway with 35 seconds remaining when Shannon lobbed a long pass to Collins, whose shot was blocked.
Eagles coach Jerry York had his work cut out without two important players in junior forward Patrick Eaves (bruised lung) and junior blue liner Peter Harrold (mononucleosis). The Eagles lost center Stephen Gionta in the first period.
"It was a terrific win for our club," said York. "I really feel excited about how we weathered the storm with some injuries. As the game went on, we lost Steve Gionta and all of a sudden, we were really reshuffling, so I thought it showed a lot of character for our team."