BOSTON — It may not have been the most conventional win, but with a 5-2 victory over No. 3 seed Boston University, the No. 4 seed Maine Black Bears are headed to the Hockey East championship game for the first time since 2004.
Maine will face Boston College, a 3-0 winner over Vermont on Friday, in the finals. The Black Bears must win on Saturday to earn an NCAA berth.
Friday’s victory was probably the strangest of the season for the Black Bears. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, Maine surrendered an early goal in the third period when Kevin Shattenkirk netted his seventh goal of the season at 1:54 to give the Terriers hope.
But Maine looked to be in control. After keeping BU off the scoreboard, the Black Bears headed on the power play for the eighth time in the game with 4:01 remaining.
Fourteen seconds into the power play, though, BU got a shorthanded bid off the stick of Vinny Saponari. It appeared that Maine netminder David Wilson (22 saves) had stopped the shot, barely pulling the puck off the goal line. But after a nine-minute video review, it was determined that the puck had briefly crossed the line.
With new life, BU (18-17-3) still had 1 minute, 46 second of penalty time to kill, but the momentum instead led to a shorthanded breakaway for BU’s Russ Gaudet. Wilson stoned Gaudet with a right pad save and, in turn, Maine turned the puck up ice and created a three-on-two rush where David deKastrozza scored on a one time shot that beat Kieran Millan (32 saves).
Suddenly, all of the momentum that had come from a crazy 15 minutes of waiting, skating and scoring had shifted Maine’s way. Tanner House added an empty-net goal just 12 seconds later to account for the 5-2 final.
“That turn of events was certainly the game changer,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “David coming up big on a breakaway and then coming back and David [deKastrozza] throws in that goal.
“It was a long break [for the review]. We assumed it was a goal. When [referee John Gravallese] came over to talk to me to explain, I just said, ‘No point of explaining, we’ve had a long enough delay. Let’s just get going.’ We just decided to move on and it worked out.”
Work out it certainly did thanks to Maine’s second power-play goal of the game. The team boasting the No. 1 power play in the nation finished 2-for-8 on the evening.
The fact that Maine got eight power plays was the frustration not only of the evening but of the season for BU coach Jack Parker.
“We’ve been talking about [penalties] all year,” said Parker. “We couldn’t get that out of our game. The best power play in the nation and we take a third of the game off killing penalties. It’s insanity.”
The Black Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. Freshman Joey Diamond opened the scoring at 14:14, scoring a highlight-reel goal. Diamond did a great job of keeping the puck in at the blue line then, after falling to his knees, spun around, made a move around a defenseman and then pulled Millan out of position to bury the puck in the empty net.
“Honestly, [Diamond's goal] gave us a lot of momentum,” said Gustav Nyquist. “He showed unbelievable poise with the puck, faking the goalie down and going around him.
At 18:46, Brian Flynn scored his 31st goal of the season on the power play. Flynn feathered a wrister that deflected off a Terriers player’s stick and through the legs of Millan.
Maine absolutely dominated the opening frame, outshooting BU, 18-5.
In the second, BU had its chance to get back in the game on an extended five-on-three. But not only did Maine kill the penalty, shortly after returning to full strength, it extended the lead on a Robby Dee goal. Dee parted the seas in the Terriers defensive zone and walked in alone, roofing a shot under the crossbar at 7:00 for a 3-0 lead.
It looked as if things could be getting worse when Nyquist redirected a shot past Millan. But referee Gravallese immediately disallowed the goal as Nyquist’s stick was ruled above the crossbar.
That simply set up the game’s crazy ending, which ultimately propelled Maine to the title game.
It’s the 13th time that Maine (19-16-3) has reached the finals, having won five titles, the last one in 2004. It will be the sixth time that Maine and BC will meet in a title game, with Maine holding a 3-2 lead in previous meetings.
This one, though, is for Maine’s season. A win and the Black Bears get an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. A loss, their season ends.
“[The NCAAs] was one of our goals this season,” said Whitehead. “It’s been a longer, tougher road than we imagined but it would certainly be satisfying to get another chance to compete in the tournament.”