Black Bears put Terriers in their place
It’s New England’s party, too.
Capitalizing on a less-than-dominant year for perennial powerhouse Boston University, Maine reserved its spot in the Hockey East championship game after defeating the Terriers, 5-2, last night at TD Garden.
The victory ensured a shot for the Black Bears to end a Beantown monopoly on the conference’s top prize tonight against Boston College at 7. Since Maine’s 2004 title, BC has won three league championships, and the Terriers have grabbed two.
Maine’s win also comes a month after it was swept at Agganis Arena. The Black Bears surrendered 12 goals in back-to-back losses Feb. 12-13.
The Black Bears carried a roster of Hockey East semifinal novices (no one on the team had previously played in the Garden). Despite that, Maine made the most of its first appearance in the league’s final four since 2006.
After an extensive review, BU pulled within 3-2 with 3:47 remaining after a rush to the net resulted in a scrum and Vinny Saponari’s shorthanded goal. A minute later, BU was poised to tie it on a Ross Gaudet breakaway, but Maine goalie Dave Wilson stayed with the puck even while sprawled on the ice.
“I saw him coming down on me,’’ said Wilson, who finished with 22 saves. “I just tried to challenge him as much as I could and cut off his angle. I’m pretty comfortable out there -- just trying to have fun.’’
David deKastrozza cut off the BU momentum, however, firing a shot past BU goalie Kieran Millan from the left side in the final seconds of a power play at 2:04. Tanner House’s empty-netter iced the victory with 1:52 to go.
“They had just scored that second goal and they were getting the momentum back on their side,’’ deKastrozza said. “I just shot the puck — it was nothing fancy. It went over [Millan’s] shoulder.’’
Terrier captain Kevin Shattenkirk cut his team’s deficit to 3-1 just 1:56 into the final frame, scoring on a rebound near the crease after a Saponari shot.
Robby Dee put Maine in charge at 3-0 seven minutes into the second period. Skating swiftly into the slot, he found open room to get a direct look at Millan. Timing his shot perfectly, Dee flicked it past Millan’s left, and ignited the Black Bear faithful to a deafening level in the process.
“It seemed like we were back on our heels from the beginning,’’ Shattenkirk said. “We didn’t match their intensity and lost all our battles. They just really came at us.’’
The Terriers squandered a grand scoring opportunity with 9:48 left in the second. After a deflected Maine pass, Nick Bonino had the puck all alone in the Maine slot. Taking his time as he approached Wilson, Bonino’s deke on Wilson didn’t work as the netminder extended his pad and blocked the shot.
Maine had its hands full four minutes into the second when BU earned a five-on-three power play. BU was relentless, but the Black Bears stayed composed and killed the penalties.
BU had no answers for Maine in the opening frame. The Black Bears, who outshot the Terriers, 18-5, controlled the flow throughout the first 20 minutes.
“We had a team out there playing at the top of their game, and another team not nearly at theirs,’’ BU coach Jack Parker said. “I’m very impressed at how hard, quick, and smart Maine played.’’
The Black Bears got on the scoreboard with 5:46 left in the first on a great individual effort by freshman Joey Diamond.
With three Terriers on him in the left circle, Diamond escaped free, and moved toward Millan. Baffling Millan on a deke, Diamond got behind the netminder and then, nearly parallel to the net, snuck the puck into the left corner.
Brian Flynn doubled the lead three minutes later. On Maine’s third and final power play of the period, he fired one in from the blue line. The puck snuck through a host of BU defenders and past Millan.
Flynn had a great opportunity eight minutes into the period. Collecting the puck at the boards near the BU blue line, he raced in an open lane toward the net but was denied by Millan.
“We’re really pleased to extend our season at least one more day and take on BC,’’ Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “It’s a great challenge but we’re excited about it.’’