There's something about playing UMass-Lowell, at least the last few years, that results in great, great hockey. Tonight was no exception. After 60 heart-stopping minutes of back and forth hockey, the Eagles prevailed in a 4-3 decision over the Lowell Riverhawks to advance to Philadelphia and their 24th Frozen Four.
Lord in heaven, that was a stressful game, from start to finish. BC didn't get off to the blistering start they began the Denver game with, and Lowell game out strong. But the Eagles did finally cash in on a Lowell turnover to get the scoring started.
Goal #1 -- 12:57 of the 1st period: Kevin Hayes (John Gaudreau, Michael Matheson)
BC 1, UML 0
What patience from Gaudreau. This is really quite the play. He skates the puck in -- way in -- so far that Lowell's Zack Kamrass, #27, figures Gaudreau has taken himself out of the play and glides back a bit to work on the two trailing shooters. Then out of nowhere Johnny feeds the puck over and Hellebuyck has no chance to get to the opposite post.
But, the lead was short lived. Lowell answered five minutes later on the power play to knot the score up at 1 going into the locker room. It was a fair result for BC after not playing its best hockey, but it was still a bit frustrating as the referees handed the River Hawks a pair of really, really questionable power plays. It got even more frustrating as the game wore on when Lowell could have taken a chainsaw to a BC player and the refs wouldn't have called a penalty.
The second was a much better period for BC and they started to control the flow of play a bit more. They couldn't break through for almost the entire period, but the top line played too many minutes not to eventually break the tie.
Goal #2 -- 17:34 of the 2nd period: Bill Arnold (Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes)
BC 2, UML 1
We've had him three years, but man, Gaudreau is just so freaking good. He skates right around Lowell's Derek Arnold at the blue line and manages to work his way to the top of the faceoff dot before firing off a shot. That's not going to be enough to beat Hellebuyck, but it was enough to draw a rebound, and Arnold cashed in to put BC back on top.
Unfortunately, as we saw all night, leads were hard to hold on to. It took just 70 seconds for Lowell to get the goal back on a shot that took an unfortunate bounce off a BC defenseman and through Demko.
Lowell got its first lead of the night immediately in the third period, just 43 seconds in. But I already told you how that worked out for teams with a lead.
Goal #3 -- 1:04 of the 3rd period: Ryan Fitzgerald (Patrick Brown, Austin Cangelosi)
BC 3, UML 3
Ohhhh my, that's freshman Ryan Fitzgerald, not Johnny Gaudreau, burning two Lowell d-men to crash the net and slip the puck past Hellebuyck. Here's the overhead view which gives a great perspective on how nice of a finish this was:
Beauty. And the first goal for BC that didn't come from the top line in the entire tournament.
Ten heart-stopping minutes later, the game was still tied and seemed destined for about 7 overtimes. But, as was pretty fitting, it was secondary scoring that would win the game for the Eagles.
Goal #4 (GWG) -- 11:16 of the 3rd period: Ian McCoshen (Teddy Doherty, Kevin Hayes)
BC 4, UML 3 - FINAL
CELLLLLLLLLLLLEBRATE GOOD TIMES COME ON!
Okay all kidding aside, Hellebuyck left sooo much net open for McCoshen to shoot at. Doherty's pass over is just a bit wide, but McCoshen still has time to gather the puck in and shoot. Fortunately it just barely slipped underneath Hellebuyck and BC took the not-all-that-late lead.
But the Eagles would be able to hold on, doing a great job of keeping Hellebuyck in his net until there was less than a minute left. Lowell got their chance with the goalie pulled, but BC was able to clear the puck out to bleed the last few seconds off the clock.
What a win, and what a game. Lowell looked great (I will be eating all kinds of crow this week for my comments about how Lowell didn't scare me, because they sure did for all 60 minutes of this game) and BC did a really good job, especially in the last two periods, of controlling the game. They didn't dominate -- not at all; it was a very even game -- but they were able to dictate play, for the most part.
The most incredible thing about this game was how every single time one of the teams made a mistake, the other team made them pay. As the game went on, you knew your team was one little screw up from having the other team pounce and take the win. Fortunately, it was BC that ended up with the W.
Highlights can be found here. And now, the Frozen Four field is set, with the Minnesota Gophers, Union Dutchmen, North Dakota, and Boston College Eagles making up one of the most epic Frozen Four fight cards in recent memory. BC will take on Union in the early game on Thursday, April 10th at 5pm, with Minnesota/North Dakota in the made-for-TV rivalry matchup in the evening.
We've got two weeks to celebrate making the Frozen Four before the Eagles have to take care of business. Two more wins to go!