Age vs. Experience
The first semifinal featured two teams with two different strengths. New Hampshire relies on an experienced core of players, three of which — goaltender Mike Ayers, and forwards Colin Hemingway and Lanny Gare — landed on the Hockey East All-Star Team. Massachusetts’ strength lies in underclassmen, showcased by freshman Stephen Werner, a unanimous selection to the league’s All-Rookie Team. Werner had two goals and an assist tonight.
UMass had just one senior on the active roster for this game, forward Tim Turner. Conversely, UNH had just one freshman, defenseman Brian Yandle.
Ride On The See-Saw
The night’s second game between the Boston schools was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams having leads. Despite eleven goals in the game, neither team had more than a single goal lead; the schools were tied at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. BU led by scores of 1-0, 3-2, 4-3 and 6-5 while BC led 2-1 and 5-4.
This was in contrast to the earlier semifinal, where UNH never trailed. UMass was forced to overcome a two-goal deficit twice, being down 2-0 before tying it up, then falling behind 4-2 before knotting the score. New Hampshire went on to score the go-ahead goal in the final minutes of the game.
If the regular season Hockey East records were any indication, these games should have been easy. Entering the night, New Hampshire was 3-0 against UMass this season, and Boston College won all three league games against BU.
Numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. Two games of each series were decided by one goal, one of the UNH-UMass games in overtime. And in the only previous meeting at the FleetCenter this season, BU triumphed over BC in the Beanpot final, a non-conference game.
The first semifinal was a one-goal affair; the second went to overtime. It marked the first time a Hockey East semifinal has gone to overtime since 1991. The 20 goals scored between the two games is the second highest ever for a Hockey East semifinal since it has gone to a single-elimination format, trailing the 21 goals scored in 1987.
“This was one of the toughest games we played in all year,” said Dick Umile, New Hampshire head coach.
Pass Go, Collect $200
With the win over UMass, New Hampshire goes on to play in the Hockey East Championship game against Boston University. That makes four trips to the title game for the Wildcats, out of the last five times making the semifinals. Boston College had appeared in four straight title games when they advanced to the FleetCenter, before tonight’s loss.
This marks BU’s return to the championship game, a place the Terriers have not been since 1997. That year, the Terriers and Wildcats met up for the title bout as well, with BU winning 4-2.
A Night Of Firsts
Tonight marked many firsts for the Hockey East Tournament. UMass appeared in the Hockey East semifinals for the first time, although presumably not the last. With two goals and an assist, Stephen Werner became the first player on this season’s UMass team to average over a point a game.
It also marked the first time Boston University and Boston College have met in a Hockey East semifinal game. Even though the two teams squared off against each other four times during the regular season and 216 in the series history, this marks the first time since 1993 the two have matched up in the postseason, and just the fifth time in the history of the league.
The evening also ranked first in a one-day attendance for a Hockey East Tournament game, as the announced 17,565, a FleetCenter sellout, was the largest ever total. The previous record holder was 17,122, set in last year’s championship game. The previous two-day total of 32,805, also set last year, is almost certain to fall tomorrow.
10 Second Goals: A Bad Sign
In the third period of the UNH-UMass game, Massachusetts erased a 4-2 New Hampshire lead with two goals in a span of 10 seconds, the first by freshman Werner, with senior Tim Turner getting the equalizer.
The two strikes matched the Hockey East playoff record for the two fastest goals. It had happened once before, with New Hampshire scoring two goals 10 seconds apart against BC in the 1999 championship game. The Wildcats lost that game, 5-4 in overtime.
Since both teams that scored the two goals were on the losing end of a 5-4 decision, it is clearly a bad thing to score twice 10 seconds apart.
“Good answer.” — Umile, mumbled under his breath, after goaltender Michael Ayers said the referee must have seen something he didn’t when blowing a quick whistle that cost New Hampshire a goal.
“I don’t think we’ll give them a hard skate at noontime.” — BU Coach Jack Parker, asked if his team would be ready to play the championship game tomorrow after going well into double overtime tonight.