CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The curse of the seventh seed lives on.
No. 2 seed Boston College broke open a 2-2 tie with three goals in the third period to defeat No. 7 seed Massachusetts, 5-2, and sweep the best-of-three series quarterfinal series. The series victory for BC continues the futility for seventh-seeded team in the Hockey East tournament; no unlucky seventh seed has ever won a quarterfinal series in tournament history.
The hero of the evening was an unlikely one. Senior Matt Lombardi, playing in his 139th career game at BC, scored his first career game-winning goal. With the game knotted with 2 early in the third, Lombardi made a perfect read on the forecheck and picked off a pass from UMass defenseman Justin Braun. With literally a few feet to operate, Lombardi deked to his forehand before moving to the backhand to slide a shot between the five hole of UMass goaltender Paul Dainton (22 saves) to give BC the lead at the 2:11 mark of the third period.
From there, Paul Carey added a tally at 9:34 and Barry Almeida sealed the victory with an empty-net goal, his second goal of the game, with 23 seconds remaining.
“You never know where the goals are going to come from,” BC coach Jerry York said. “You’re always looking for a power-play goal or [BC's leading scorer] Cam [Atkinson] to get one. But probably the most important goal of our year comes from Matty [Lombardi]. It was a great effort and he was well rewarded for his effort there.”
“I was able to read where [Braun] was going with it,” said Lombardi. “I jumped the play a little bit and was lucky enough that he just threw it there and I just tried to make a quick move on the goalie.”
While Lombardi was the unlikely hero, UMass’ Braun, a strong candidate for all-league honors, was also as unlikely a goat.
“He’s one of the best defensemen in college hockey,” UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon said of Braun’s mishap. “Sometimes that stuff happens. There are guys [in baseball] that win fielding Gold Gloves and they make errors sometimes. That was his error. It just came untimely.”
Cahoon’s team, which had a response to many of BC’s punches throughout the two-game series, simply didn’t have a response to that. While the Eagles popped in three goals in the closing period, UMass mustered just three shots on goal in the frame.
“We’ve got to respond [to BC's third goal] and we didn’t,” said Cahoon. “That was the difference in the game, our inability to respond to their third goal. At the end of the game we didn’t have enough form.”
For the second straight night, the Eagles (23-10-3) struck first. Just seconds after Friday’s hero Cam Atkinson was stopped by a stellar toe save by Dainton, Almeida fired a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that beat the junior netminder over the left shoulder at 5:37 for the 1-0 BC lead.
UMass (18-18-0), though, answered midway through the frame. After BC goaltender John Muse (16 saves), who played in place of Game 1 starter Parker Milner, slid across to stop a wide open James Marcou at the right post, Casey Wellman had a wide-open net in which to bury the rebound. Marcou’s assist on the play was his 95th career helper, catapulting him past Rob Bonneau for the all-time UMass record.
BC jumped back ahead in a physical second period as Carl Sneep scored shorthanded, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Jimmy Hayes at 12:42.
But before the BC faithful could finish celebrating, UMass responded with a power-play tally. Thirty-three seconds after BC grabbed the lead, Wellman buried his second of the night, teeing up a loose puck from the high slot while Muse was down and out from a collision of BC and UMass players in the crease.
That, though, set up third difference-making third period in which BC outshot the Minutemen, 9-3 and outscored them, 3-0, to seal the game and the series.
The Eagles will be making their 18th appearance in the league semifinals in the 26-year history of Hockey East. Boston University, which will play a third and deciding game on Sunday night in hopes of advancing to the semifinals, is the only other team with 18 appearances.
“I’m extremely proud and happy to bring my team to the [TD] Garden next weekend,” said York. “It’s an objective we’ve had and it’s a difficult objective. I thought we responded very well to a real good challenge by the Minutemen.”