|BC goalie John Muse and defenseman Patrick Wey celebrate their new title. (Josh Gibney/Associated Press)|
Eagles crown Wildcats, take Hockey East
DURHAM, N.H. — One of the special things about Hockey East is that there is always something on the line on the final weekend. Home ice for the playoff quarterfinals was determined Friday, but last night, the regular-season title was on the line between second-ranked Boston College and seventh-ranked New Hampshire.
Sophomore Pat Mullane decided it when he scored on a rebound with 4:53 remaining in the third period to lift the Eagles over the Wildcats, 4-3, in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,501 at the Whittemore Center. Defenseman Tommy Cross took a shot from the right circle that Matt Di Girolamo stopped, but the puck bounced to Mullane, who tapped it in from just outside the left post.
That gave BC (26-7-1, 20-6-1) a sweep of the weekend and the No. 1 seed against No. 8 UMass in the Hockey East tournament. No. 2 seed UNH (19-9-6, 17-6-4) will face No. 7 Vermont.
Last night’s victory marked the Eagles’ 11th regular-season title and first since 2004-05.
“I thought the play of both teams fit very well with the championship game,’’ said BC coach Jerry York. “I thought [there] was outstanding ebb and flow to the game. We were strong, they were strong. The compete level on both teams was terrific to watch. It had all the intensity of a championship game that you anticipate on the bus ride up. It was just an enjoyable game for me to coach.’’
York credited the extra jump BC had the last two games to a visit from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke to the team Tuesday night.
“He hit on some issues that are so important,’’ said York, who reached out to Belichick. “The biggest impression he made on me was when you take the keys to your car, when I grew up there was one car in the family, and you had responsibility. You’d better bring that car back. Mom was expecting it the next morning to do errands. And when you go over the boards on Friday night and Saturday night, each of you hold the key to Boston College’s success in hockey. It was kind of a theme we used during the week.’’
The Wildcats came out far differently in this one than they had the night before at Conte Forum. Their play was much crisper, their energy level much higher, and their intensity much more palpable. Although the first period was fairly even in terms of puck possession, it was the hosts who came out of it with a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Dalton Speelman put his squad ahead at 18:05 when he fired a shot from deep in the left circle that pinballed in front and caromed off the glove of goaltender John Muse (27 saves). It was Speelman’s 10th tally of the season. UNH doubled their lead just 38 seconds into the second during a power play. Captain Mike Sislo beat Muse on a shot from the top of the left circle for his 12th of the year.
Then BC roared back to tie it. The Eagles scored at 11:05 during the man advantage. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin dished a pass to Brian Gibbons in the right circle. Gibbons threw it at the net and Di Girolamo (25 saves) made the stop, but the rebound bounced out and Cam Atkinson made a touch pass in front for Barry Almeida in the slot and he rapped it in to make it 2-1.
Atkinson pulled his team even with 13 seconds remaining. Dumoulin, who was in his own zone, fired a lead pass for a sprinting Atkinson, who collected the puck at the UNH blue line, charged down the slot, and beat Di Girolamo on a forehand shot just inside the right post.
BC took its first lead at 3:52 of the third when Cross beat Di Girolamo on a wrister from the right circle to the glove side.
But UNH rallied exactly six minutes later when senior pivot Phil DeSimone potted a rebound on a backhander from the slot, making it a 3-3 game with 10:08 remaining, setting the stage for the heroics of Mullane, who hit the post both Friday and last night before finding the back of the net.
“It was a great hockey game but it was a difficult one to lose,’’ said UNH coach Dick Umile. “I was pleased with our effort, I was pleased with the way they played tonight, I don’t say that too many times when we lose but I’m proud of the way they played especially after [Friday]. We went head to head and had an opportunity to win against a very, very good team. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the best that we’ve seen.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.