Early in the second period, Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko closed off the left post as a UMass Lowell attacker poked away on the short side. Demko had no idea the puck was already behind him, idly straddling the goal line, but he noticed before Lowell could take advantage. The Riverhawks could have taken the lead there, and may have won if they did. Demko somehow turned around without touching the puck, though, and UMass Lowell’s season was over. The two best teams in the Hockey East left all they had at the DCU Center on Sunday night, but BC left more, barely, and won a trip to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.
“As excited I am with the championship of the region and going to the Frozen Four, I’ve gotta tell you how impressed I am with the Riverhawks,” said BC head coach Jerry York. “They battled and competed so hard, and pushed us to the very zenith of our effort.”
“I wouldn’t change too much,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin.
Two BC miscues on the first shift of the third period left the Eagles close to spending the next two weeks relaxing at home. Lowell forward Evan Campbell intercepted Bill Arnold’s egregious cross-ice pass at the Eagles’ blue line and turned the corner on BC defenseman Scott Savage. Campbell sent the puck back toward the slot, but it hit Savage’s blade in the midterm, just as Demko came off his post, and the puck skirted in on the short side 43 seconds into the frame to give Lowell the 3-2 lead.
The defensive Riverhawks finally had a lead to sit on, but BC freshman Ryan Fitzgerald came across the offensive blue line on the next shift, took a pass from Patrick Brown, and split defenseman Dylan Zink and Zack Kamrass before deking Connor Hellebuyck forehand to backhand. Hellebuyck flailed like the Hockey East’s first-team goaltender rarely does, and Fitzgerald went five-hole and tied the game before Demko had a chance to ruminate on the potential season-ending softie.
“That goal by Ryan Fitzgerald was unbelievable,” Arnold said.
The two teams went back and forth for the rest of the third, but just over halfway into the period, BC forward Kevin Hayes battled with and beat two Riverhawks for the puck in the right corner of the offensive zone, dished the puck back to pinching defenseman Teddy Doherty, who carved toward the net when he heard Ian McCoshen calling for the puck.
“He’s always talking, he’s always loud, he’s one of the louder guys on the team,” Doherty said of McCoshen. “When I was coming down I was thinking shoot all the way, but he was screaming, and thankfully I passed it over.”
Lowell didn’t hear McCoshen though, and Doherty fed him as he crept into the left circle. McCoshen fired before Hellebuyck’s right arm could cover the red line, and BC was 8:44 from a trip to Philly.
“He wasn’t gonna miss that one,” Arnold said. “He has one of the hardest shots I’ve ever seen.”
Earlier in the game, neither side granted the other much in a well-contested first period that finished tied at one apiece, and BC took the lead late in the second when Arnold scooped up a blocked shot in the slot and rang the puck inside of the right post before the puck snuck past Hellebuyck at 17:34.
A minute later, as BC regrouped in its own zone, McCoshen sent to puck to the right half-wall where Matheson was, but Matheson wasn’t looking and kept retreating. Lowell took possession and Holmstrom eventually hammered a rebound in front of the net past Demko to tie it at 18:43.
Following McCoshen’s goal, Lowell pushed until the end, but BC held strong on the game’s final shift. Matheson blocked a shot, McCoshen cleared a dangerous rebound, and Hayes’ dive as the clocked waned down to zero knocked the puck out of BC’s zone. Just like that, the Eagles were going to the Frozen Four.
“Are we are fortunate to come out with a trip to Philadelphia?” York said. “Absolutely. It easily could have gone the other way tonight.”
“When you get an opportunity against a good team, you better finish it,” Bazin said. “Because it’s going to come back to haunt you. And it certainly did.”