Final, Merrimack 4-1: Boston College has won nine Hockey East championships, more than any school in the league. Merrimack will play in its first ever title game. What a story this has been for the Warriors, who finished dead last in the standings every year from 2004-05 to 2008-09.
Third period, 1:27, Merrimack 3-1: This Merrimack team is legit, not that it's anything its followers don't already know, but the Warriors have some skill and they play good situational hockey. If Joe Cannata and the defense play like this Saturday, they'll hang with BC.
Third period, 1:56, Merrimack 3-1: UNH pulled Matt DiGirolamo with about 2:10 remaining, and after Merrimack iced the puck, UNH called timeout to talk about that two-goal play it needs. Merrimack has really packed it in since building its 3-1 lead, and UNH hasn't had any real chances to cut the lead in the last few minutes.
Third period, 5:49, Merrimack 3-1: Merrimack has doubled its lead after a wild pileup in front of UNH's net. Freshman Mike Collins had a look at an open net, but three skaters jumped into the crease to keep the puck out. But Collins got it back below the goal line, and with four Wildcats in the crease — goalie Matt DiGirolamo joined his skaters — Collins flung it into traffic and took his chances. It paid off, as the puck found a way into the net, and the Warriors are minutes away from making history.
Third period, 12:25, Merrimack 2-1: Elliott Sheen just missed a redirection in front of the net that could have extended Merrimack's lead. In other news, one of the UNH fans just screamed out for their team to "play hockey." So that's what Dick Umile's squad has been missing.
Third period, 16:06, Merrimack 2-1: The teams will play four on four after Stephane Da Costa and Mike Sislo were bagged for hitting after the whistle. UNH wins that trade-off.
Third period, 17:00, Merrimack 2-1: The Warriors dodged a bullet on UNH's last rush. Stevie Moses found a puck that took a weird bounce in the neutral zone, but he missed the net on a breakaway. But he found Dalton Speelman in the slot, and Joe Cannata made a heck of a save to preserve the lead.
Third period, 19:50, Merrimack 2-1: This is the most important period of Merrimack's Hockey East existence.
Second intermission, Merrimack 2-1: This has been a really even game, and the Warriors will take their one-goal lead into the third after the two teams played a scoreless second period. UNH might be getting a few more better looks, but Joe Cannata has been solid in the cage. Merrimack is 20 minutes away from advancing to its first Hockey East championship game in program history.
Second period, 4:16, Merrimack 2-1: Kevin Goumas couldn't finish off a nice two-on-one break for UNH, but the refs determined that was because Merrimack cheated. Carter Madsen will serve two minutes for hooking.
Second period, 7:21, Merrimack 2-1: Great job by Merrimack defenseman Kyle Bigos to knock away Phil DeSimone's pont-blank wrister in front of the crease. The two teams are tied in the shot department, 19-19.
Second period, 11:15, Merrimack 2-1: Stevie Moses will have two minutes to remind himself that he can't bury people into the net, and Merrimack will have its first power play as a result of Moses' interference penalty.
Second period, 19:30, Merrimack 2-1: UNH and Merrimack are back in action here at the Garden.
First intermission, Merrimack 2-1: There's been a scoring correction on Merrimack's second goal, which has been awarded to Elliott Sheen. The scoring crew determined that Sheen also tipped Brendan Ellis' shot.
First intermission, Merrimack 2-1: It took Merrimack a little while to get into a rhythm, but there's no doubt that the Warriors have as much talent as the Wildcats. While UNH is the more experienced team, don't forget that UNH hasn't had a whole lot of success in this tournament. It's last title came in 2003.
First period, 3:45, Merrimack 2-1: The upstart Warriors have grabbed their first lead of the game. Freshman defenseman Brendan Ellis fired a slap shot from the left point that deflected off UNH forward John Henrion and into the net. There was a lot of traffic in front of the UNH net, and it worked to Ellis' advantage. It was the third goal of his career.
First period, 4:27, 1-1: It's hard to tell how many Merrimack fans are in the building, but I've been told they sent a few buses from campus. Not debatable, though, is the building's neutral fans are backing the Warriors.
First period, 9:13, 1-1: And Merrimack has struck back. Stephane Da Costa led a two-on-two break into the UNH zone, and he split two UNH defenders with a pass to Ryan Flanigan, who scored his first short-handed goal of the season with a sweet wrister that beat Matt DiGirolamo's blocker.
First period, 9:43, UNH 1-0: Merrimack defenseman Karl Stollery was whistled for hitting from behind, and the Wildcats will have their second power play of the game. Merrimack killed the first one, but the extended possession led to UNH's only goal.
First period, 9:56, UNH 1-0: The Garden just got Rick Roll'd by the PA system. Mutiny will ensue.
First period, 12:40, UNH 1-0: UNH sustained its possession in the Merrimack zone after its power play expired, and Stevie Moses capitalized with a one-timer from the right circle that beat Joe Cannata's 5-hole. It wasn't that hard of a shot, but Cannata couldn't close the wickets in time.
First period, 14:54, 0-0: Elliott Sheen was whislted for hooking, giving UNH the game's first power play. The play has been pretty even to this point.
First period, 19:35, 0-0: Merrimack avoided a nightmarish start. Blake Kessel dumped the puck toward the Merrimack zone, and it took a few crazy hops and went through Joe Cannata, but after a review, the officials determined UNH was offside. Big break for the Warriors there.
First period, 19:59, 0-0: Matt DiGirolamo is in net for UNH, and Joe Cannata is starting for Merrimack.
8:29 p.m.: Merrimack and New Hampshire have taken the ice for the starting lineups. UNH is wearing its white sweaters, and the Warriors are in navy blue with gold print. This is the seventh Hockey East championship weekend that I've covered, and it's the first time I've ever seen Merrimack in the building.
Final, Boston College 5-4: Northeastern's spirited comeback fell short, and BC will move on to the Hockey East championship. New Hampshire and Merrimack will start up a little after 8 p.m.
Third period, 1:03, Boston College 5-4: This has gotten a lot tighter now. About 30 seconds after John Muse's spectacular diving glove save on a point-blank chance from Tyler McNeely, NU's senior forward set up Wade MacLeod in front of the net for the goal that sliced the deficit in half. NU is rolling.
Third period, 3:16, Boston College 5-3: There it is. Garrett Vermeersch scored 18 seconds into NU's 5-on-3, and the Huskies have a power play for another 1:42. Maybe this can get a little more interesting.
Third period, 3:34, Boston College 5-2: Pat Wey has gone to the box to give NU a two-man advantage for 36 seconds. If the Huskies can score quickly, they can give Greg Cronin a reason to pull the goalie.
Third period, 4:59, Boston College 5-2: The BC and NU student sections have been going back and forth for the last few minutes with the typical "Safety school" chants, but it got good when the BC section chanted, "Where's your Beanpot?" and Northeastern responded by proudly chanting "1988."
Third period, 11:38, Boston College 5-2: Make that three power-play goals. NU goalie Clay Witt left the crease and was out of position when Jimmy Hayes shuffled the puck to Pat Mullane, who found the open net. Northeastern's season is 11 minutes from its expiration.
Third period, 13:21, Boston College 4-2: Rob Dongara was whistled for interference, putting BC back on the power play. That's not really how you erase a two-goal deficit. BC already has a pair of power-play goals in this game.
Third period, 14:09, Boston College 4-2: Northeastern couldn't capitalize on the power play, and it's really tough to get behind that tripping call on Steve Silva. Did an Eagle get tangled up in his stick? Yes, but things get messy in the faceoff circle, and I really don't think that was the call to make. NU still had some chances on its 4-on-3, but that was a deflating turn of events, especially in the immediate aftermath of a timeout.
Third period, 16:28, Boston College 4-2: Wow, Steve Silva was called for tripping on the faceoff, and NU's two-man advantage was washed away after three seconds. Tough call. Looked like incidental contact that comes with every faceoff.
Third period, 16:31, Boston College 4-2: Northeastern will have a five-on-three for 1:17 after BC was called for too many men on the ice. NU has called a timeout, knowing this is a major moment for them. Pat Mullane is serving the bench minor.
Third period, 17:15, Boston College 4-2: BC killed Tommy Cross' penalty, but Barry Almeida was called for tripping shortly thereafter. This is a massive mountain for the Huskies to climb, but I know they won't go quietly.
Third period, 19:41, Boston College 4-2: BC defenseman Tommy Cross was whistled for holding, giving the Huskies an early opportunity to cut the deficit in half.
Third period, 19:59, Boston College 4-2: Chris Rawlings has been pulled from the NU net in favor of freshman Clay Witt, who has a 2-2-0 record in six career games. Rawlings did not have a good game, and Greg Cronin is trying to shake up his team.
Second intermission, Boston College 4-2: BC is 19-0 this season when leading through two periods, and NU is 1-5-3 when trailing after two.
Second intermission, Boston College 4-2: BC really outplayed Northeastern in the second period, and it will take a two-goal advantage into the third period as a result. Tommy Cross sent a wrister from the right circle that handcuffed Chris Rawlings and beat him on the near side over his left shoulder. It was tough to tell if Kevin Hayes tipped the puck or not, but Cross has been credited with the power-play goal. Northeastern has to play with a ton of spirit to erase this deficit in the third period because BC looked way too comfortable in the second.
Second period, 0:49, Boston College 3-2: Braden Pimm was whistled for interference, and the Huskies are going to have to gut it out on the penalty kill to stay down 3-2 heading into the second intermission.
Second period, 1:25, Boston College 3-2: The officials stuck with their initial ruling of no goal on a puck that went into Northeastern's net after the whistle was blown. Good to take the extra couple minutes to get it right. And I definitely smell something burning here, so that's not too awesome.
Second period, 2:49, Boston College 3-2: NU defenseman Luke Ebler has returned after taking a hard slap shot off the knee.
Second period, 6:46, Boston College 3-2: Steven Whitney made amends for his back-to-back penalties with a goal that should be played on every highlight show in the country Friday night. Whitney crossed from right to left in the NU zone and backhanded the puck while getting tripped up in the slot, and it banked off the crossbar and into the net. That was some Alex Ovechkin stuff right there.
Second period, 9:05, 2-2: Steve Silva and Anthony Bitetto missed consecutive opportunities to give Northeastern the lead after they each had a chance on the doorstep of John Muse's net. Tough break for the Huskies with a chance to retake the lead.
Second period, 10:15, 2-2: Steven Whitney was a free man for seven seconds. After BC killed off his charging penalty, Whitney came out of the box and got whistled for an easy interference penalty. NU is 0-for-2 on the power play in this game.
Second period, 12:39, 2-2: Northeastern ripped BC's momentum away with a goal just 25 seconds after BC took the lead. Wade MacLeod took the puck off the boards in the BC zone, skated to the right circle and sent a low wrister that beat John Muse's blocker. That was huge for Northeastern because BC really established control through the first seven minutes of the second period.
Second period, 13:04, Boston College 2-1: BC has taken its first lead after some beautiful puck movement on the power play. Pat Mullane had the puck at the left circle and sent a pass to Jimmy Hayes below the goal line. Hayes quickly redirected the puck to his brother, Kevin Hayes, who fired a one-timer that beat Chris Rawlings' glove up high.
Second period, 13:31, 1-1: Northeastern defenseman Anthony Bitetto got two minutes for high sticking, and the Eagles will have their second man advantage of the period. BC has really taken control here in the second.
Second period, 14:28, 1-1: Brian Gibbons returned to the ice this period after getting decked by Luke Ebler at the end of the first. Let's see if Ebler will be as lucky after taking that puck off the knee.
Second period, 17:03, 1-1: Joe Whitney fired a shot off Luke Ebler, who dropped straight to the ground after it appeared that he took the puck off the inside of his right knee. I can't even begin to imagine that felt good at all. Ebler got helped into the locker room by NU's medical staff.
Second period, 18:50, 1-1: Northeastern got bagged for too many men on the ice, which is never a good thing. Freshman Brodie Reid will take this opportunity to get two minutes of rest. This is BC's first power play of the game.
Second period, 19:59, 1-1: And they're back in action on the Garden ice.
First intermission, 1-1: I liked the way Northeastern played, but the Huskies need to be more aggressive in the BC zone. They've had the puck in that end a lot, but they only managed eight shots on net. They need to take more chances if they're going to pull off a big upset.
First period, 0:24, 1-1: Brian Gibbons' eventful first period came to a painful end after he was laid out by Luke Ebler. Gibbons was flying at Ebler in the neutral zone in front of the NU bench, but Ebler, who was standing still, sent away a pass and then decked Gibbons up high. Gibbons hit the deck for a few seconds and then went straight to the bench and down the tunnel to the locker room. Gibbons is third on the team in goals, so any serious injury would be a huge blow for BC.
First period, 3:55, 1-1: And on cue, BC ties it with a really bad goal. Brian Gibbons circled around the net and sent a very soft wrister from low in the right circle that squirted through Chris Rawlings' stick and right pad. That's not what you're looking for in tournament play.
First period, 4:18, Northeastern 1-0: Neither of these teams lack any confidence, but it's important for the Huskies to take this lead into intermission because they've been the better team so far.
First period, 6:12, Northeastern 1-0: The Huskies struck first. Steve Silva led an odd-man rush and sent a nice pass through the slot to Tyler McNeely, who quickly batted the puck at the net, but John Muse made an excellent save. But the puck knocked off BC senior Joe Whitney, who was charging to break up the chance, and trickled past Muse. Northeastern caught a break with a lucky bounce, but it did well to generate that chance. McNeely was credited with his 13th goal of the season.
First period, 7:46, 0-0: Northeastern couldn't convert on the power play, and it was emblematic of its first period on the whole. NU possessed the puck for stretches in the BC zone but never got a good look on John Muse. BC's Jimmy Hayes, the Beanpot hero, had the best look during NU's man advantage after jumping on a pass at the blue line and racing down for a breakaway that was denied by Chris Rawlings. BC has two breakaways to this point, and with its mass of skilled forwards, that's not a trend the Huskies can allow to continue.
First period, 10:44, 0-0: BC forward Brian Gibbons got two minutes for tripping while Northeastern was trying to clear the zone, and the Huskies will have the game's first power play.
First period, 12:57, 0-0: BC sophomore Pat Mullane couldn't score his seventh goal of the season after bursting through the middle of Northeastern's defense in the neutral zone on a breakaway. Seconds later, Northeastern got its first shot of the game, but the play has been pretty even despite BC's 4-1 shot advantage,
First period, 15:08, 0-0: BC has a 4-0 shot advantage in the first five minutes, but the NU student section has a 2-1 size advantage on BC's students. The rest of the Garden is still pretty empty.
First period, 19:59, 0-0: John Muse is in net for BC, and Chris Rawlings is starting for the Huskies. Rawlings will have to be outstanding for NU to pull off the upset.
4:58 p.m.: BC and Northeastern have taken the ice for the starting lineup introductions. BC is wearing its white sweaters, and the Huskies are in all black.
4:50 p.m.: With just a few moments remaining before the start of the semifinals, it's important to note that Boston College and Merrimack are certain to earn NCAA tournament berths, and UNH is a near certainty. Northeastern needs to win the Hockey East title to get in. BC is going to be a No. 1 seed, likely in Manchester's Northeast Regional, and UNH will be slotted there, too, because it's the regional host.
4:04 p.m.: There are a few players from BC and Northeastern hanging out on their respective benches about an hour before faceoff. The Garden is quiet now, but I believe the gates are about to open, if they didn't a few minutes ago, so there should be a little more buzz in the building shortly.
The first game should be a fun one because both student sections should turn out in full form, and the NU kids are usually really into it. And after the Huskies' three meetings with BC in the last month, the NU faithful knows they've got a legitimate shot to pull off an upset, which should make them even louder.
12 p.m.: It's time to crown the 27th Hockey East champion, and Friday's events will spark the memories of last month's spectacular Beanpot final.
Boston College, the league's regular-season champion, will host Northeastern at 5 p.m., and it's a rematch of that Valentine's Day classic, in which BC held off the Huskies 7-6 in overtime. The Eagles are huge favorites this weekend, posting a 13-1-1 record since Jan. 21. Coincidentally, BC's only loss and tie during that span came against Northeastern the weekend after the Beanpot. Boston College swept eighth-seeded UMass in the first round of the playoffs.
The sixth-seeded Huskies have faced some adversity since their Beanpot loss, as head coach Greg Cronin served a six-game suspension for recruiting violations. But the Huskies used that tourney loss to spark their hard-nosed play, and they took it to BC twice at Conte Forum. Last week, the Huskies were BC's friends — having knocked off third-seeded Boston University — but Friday, the two sides are enemies again.
Friday's 8 p.m. matchup features the league's feel-good story of the season, as fourth-seeded Merrimack takes on perennial contender New Hampshire. It looks like Merrimack will make the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history (1988), but it's got other business first, including an attempt to win its first ever Hockey East semifinal game.
The second-seeded Wildcats, who lost their regular-season lead to BC during the final weekend, have been tremendously consistent before March. They haven't won a Hockey East postseason title since 2003.
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