WORCESTER, Mass. — The Boston College Eagles are heading to the Frozen Four — again.
For the fourth straight year, Boston College advanced for the chance to fight for college hockey’s biggest prize thanks to a 3-1 victory over the fifth seed, Hockey East rival Maine, on Saturday.
Chuck Kobasew, the Hockey East Rookie of the Year, scored with 13:45 remaining in the third period to break a 1-1 deadlock, and senior Rob Scuderi added a power-play insurance marker at 17:31 to give the Eagles the victory.
“The puck was just laying there and I took it to the left circle,” said Kobasew. “[Maine's] defenseman was kind of screening the goalie and I just tried to throw it to the top of the net.”
“I didn’t see the shot at all,” admitted Maine goaltender Matt Yeats, who finished the game with 23 saves. “[Kobasew] picked up the puck out near the blue line and I didn’t see him take the shot, I just heard it. My natural instinct was to just drop and take as much net as I could and it just grazed my shoulder and went top-shelf.”
Scuderi’s goal came just after a 5-on-3 advantage had ended. Afterward, Maine head coach Shawn Walsh’s protest was immediate, resulting in referee Steve Piotrowski assessing Walsh a bench minor. Further protest led to the longtime Black Bear coach’s ejection.
“All I said was, ‘Let the players decide the game,’” said Walsh, who admitted that he was embarrassed by the incident but called it inconsequential to the game’s outcome. “I was extremely disappointed because that should not be a bench penalty.
“I know I’ve got a loud voice, but if you can’t handle my voice, maybe this isn’t the arena for you. He’s a great official, though, or he wouldn’t be here.”
With an 8:30 start time, the Black Bears were playing just 18 and a half hours after finishing their first-round game against Minnesota. The Black Bears took the Gophers to overtime before winning, 5-4, to advance. A double-overtime opener on Friday started the night late for Maine.
“For a team that didn’t get back to its hotel until two in the morning, it didn’t matter. We refused to be tired and we did everything we could but score the second goal,” said Walsh. “I thought we played a whale of a game and lost to just a great team that has been there all year.”
Playing in the regionals for the fourth time, BC goaltender Scott Clemmensen (29 saves) extended his regional win streak to six games, allowing the senior class to become the first Eagles class to advance to the Frozen Four all four years. BC, though, hasn’t won the national title since 1949.
BC clearly showed that its game in the first period was to be playing the body. With Maine fatigued from its 1 a.m. finish this morning, the Eagles wanted to wear down the Black Bears early. BC’s Ales Dolinar and Bobby Allen set that tone early, delivering multiple bone-crushing hits.
That physical play, along with two Maine penalties, allowed the Eagles to control the flow of the game early. But Yeats stood tall, first on Brian Gionta at 2:27 and then again on Jeff Giuliano at 10:05.
Surviving the early penalties gave Maine a bit of spark and allowed the Bears to draw two penalties themselves. As the first resulting power play came to a close at 16:38, Maine’s Martin Kariya broke 2-on-1 with Michael Schutte, one of Friday heroes after tying that game with 2.7 seconds remaining. Clemmensen, though, came out to challenge Schutte and made the save.
The second period gave the crowd plenty more to cheer about, but still goals couldn’t be bought. The clubs traded golden chances around the five-minute mark, when Ben Eaves was stopped by a diving Yeats on a two-on-one at 5:05, before Clemmensen got a little help from the right post on a Doug Janik.
A minute later, at 6:53, Schutte continued to try his luck with Clemmensen, putting back-to-back grade-A chances on net, but Clemmensen stood tall on the first and stacked his pads to stop the second.
At 11:18, it was BC’s chance as Eaves picked up the rebound of Bill Cass’ shot on a 3-on-2 break. Eaves fired a blast that was headed for Yeats’ five-hole, but the junior netminder closed it just in time.
Just when it seemed chances couldn’t get better and saves couldn’t be bigger, enter Todd Jackson for Maine and Clemmensen at 18:19. Set up perfectly in front, Jackson picked the top corner, but Clemmensen flashed just enough glove to deflect the shot into the seats.
A penalty to Maine’s Dan Kerluke with 8.7 seconds to play in the second put BC on the power play to start the third, and finally the wall was broken. Giuliano banged home the rebound of Allen’s shot from the right point 35 seconds into the third, giving BC a 1-0 lead and sending the sellout crowd of 11,977, many wearing Eagle maroon and gold, into hysterics.
Incredibly, Maine answered immediately, scoring on its next shot. Schutte, with what seemed like his one-millionth scoring chance in front of, showed great patience when he received a pass from Kariya. Moving the puck around Clemmensen, Schutte tied the game at 1:41.
Sixty-seven seconds after that, the Black Bears appeared to gain the lead when a rebound ended up in back of Clemmensen in the net. But referee Piotrowski waved the goal off immediately, saying the puck was directed by a high stick, something that video replay confirmed.
It was then Kobasew’s time to shine. Entering the zone three-on-three, Kobasew took a drop pass from Krys Kolanos and then allowed Kolanos to set a perfect screen. Kobasew feathered a wrister that Yeats seemed not to see, beating him over the right shoulder.
Just over a minute later, Robert Liscak, who scored the overtime game-winner for Maine on Friday, nearly equaled the score again. But Clemmensen, moving right to left, came across with another glove save.
That seemed to take the legs out of the Black Bears, as back-to-back penalties gave Scuderi the chance for insurance. Taking a feed from all-tournament selection Allen, he one-timed it through the legs of Yeats for the 3-1 final.
“We feel very fortunate to be moving on to Albany,” said Eagles coach Jerry York. “It was a solid checking game by both teams and we rode the play of Scott Clemmensen.”