CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — There was plenty of talk that this weekend’s series between New Hampshire and Boston College didn’t mean anything. The Wildcats had wrapped up the Hockey East regular-season title last weekend and Boston College’s only motivation was to move up to the second spot in the league standings.
After Friday night’s 4-1 win for Boston College, the playoff positioning was set for both teams, rendering Saturday’s season finale a moot point, right?
Don’t tell that to either coach.
With a 4-2 win on Saturday, the Eagles extended their winning streak to six games but more importantly took a step toward solidifying their position in the national picture.
The Eagles, who began the weekend at No. 11 in the bonus-adjusted USCHO.com PairWise Rankings, moved up to the eighth position, virtually punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament heading into next weekend’s conference quarterfinal series against Northeastern.
New Hampshire, on the other hand, watched its national stock slip, moving from second overall in the PWR to a tie for third — actually fourth, after the Ratings Percentage Index tiebreaker is applied.
Though the Wildcats are a virtual lock for the national tournament, losing the final three games of the regular season doesn’t sit well with UNH head coach Dick Umile.
“It’s frustrating right now,” said Umile, whose Wildcats backed into the regular-season title thanks to a Boston University loss last Saturday and haven’t won a game since. “I told the guy that if we don’t work at it and get out of this funk, and there’s no question we’re in a funk right now.”
The tune was completely opposite from the Boston College locker room, having not lost since a tough overtime defeat to BU in the Beanpot final on February 12.
“We really feel pretty good about the way we’re playing for the last three or four weekends,” said York . “At one stage this winter we weren’t playing that well and we couldn’t quite figure it out as a club how to play.
“But I think our players just got a much better feel for how to play good team hockey. Now we’re defending as a team and attacking as a team. We’re more in sync as a club right from the goal on out.”
One positive factor for the Eagles has been their ability to balance the offense and, in particular to get scoring from their second line of Dan Bertram, Joe Rooney and Benn Ferriero. Saturday night, that line accounted for three of the four BC goals, two coming off the stick of Ferriero, who posted his fifth multi-goal game of the year.
“We’re starting to realize where we’re going to be [on the ice],” said Ferriero of his line trio. “We’re finally starting to click. We all like to us our speed a lot and now we’re getting a good feel for each other out there.”
If UNH wanted to use Saturday night to right its collective ship, the opening period wasn’t what the Wildcats had hoped for. Despite controlling the play territorially through the opening 12 minutes, the Wildcats couldn’t solve BC netminder Cory Schneider, who finished the night with 39 saves.
UNH held a 12-8 advantage in shots in the frame, many coming via three power plays. But it was the BC penalty kill that switched momentum late in the frame and eventually gave BC the lead.
With Ferriero off for charging at 17:23, the Eagles penalty-kill forecheck was tenacious. And as soon as Ferriero returned to the ice, BC struck.
Tim Filangieri carried a puck over the offensive blueline, found space and blasted a shot that UNH goaltender Brian Foster (24 saves) stopped. The rebound, though, bounced right to Ferriero, who had plenty of time and space to push the puck into the open net with 20 seconds remaining in the first, giving BC a 1-0 lead.
In the second, the Eagles extended their lead thanks to a Ferriero power-play goal at 3:56 that deflected off the leg of UNH’s Jamie Fritsche and a Joe Rooney backhander that trickled five-hole on Foster at 13:19.
UNH sandwiched a Craig Switzer power-play goal at 7:01 after BC was whistled for too many men on the ice at 5:14.
In the third, BC put the game away when Nathan Gerbe fired home his team-leading 21st goal of the season at 9:07.
Greg Collins’ goal with 23.5 seconds remaining accounted for the final score.
With the regular season now wrapped up, both BC and UNH can focus on next weekend’s Hockey East quarterfinals. Each team is faced with opponents that have given them trouble throughout the year, as BC will host Northeastern (the two clubs split the season series, 1-1-1) and UNH will face Providence at home (Providence beat UNH, 7-1, last Saturday night).
Both best-of-three series will begin on Thursday night.