BOSTON, Mass. - The top-ranked Boston University ice hockey team captured the Hockey East regular-season crown on the final day of the season with a 3-0 shutout of Providence on Sunday afternoon at Agganis Arena. Freshman Grant Rollheiser made 16 saves to record his first collegiate shutout. The Terriers will now face Maine in the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinals starting on Friday (March 13) at Agganis Arena.
This is the eighth regular-season conference championship for the Terriers, who last entered the league tournament as the top seed in the 2005-06 season. BU is now unbeaten in its last 16 games (13-0-3) and will enter the postseason with a record of 27-5-4. The Terriers tallied 40 points in the Hockey East standings with an 18-5-4 mark in league play to edge Northeastern, which totaled 39 points (18-6-3) and had been in first place ever since the beginning of the season. The 18 conference wins were the most by BU since also recording 18 in the 1997-98 campaign.
BU scored once each period, beginning with junior Luke Popko's fourth goal of the season at the 7:18 mark of the first. Freshman Vinny Saponari found the back of the net at 6:04 of the second and senior Chris Higgins capped the scoring with 20 seconds left in regulation.
Freshman goaltender Alex Beaudry made 33 saves for the Friars, who finish the season with a record of 7-22-5 overall and 4-18-5 in league play.
Popko's tally proved to be the game-winner, as the junior picked up a puck off the left boards and fired a deep wrister that beat Beaudry just over seven minutes into the contest. Junior Zach Cohen and senior Steve Smolinsky assisted on the play.
The Terriers doubled their lead in the second with a goal from their all-freshman forward line. Saponari sent the puck around the right corner, where Corey Trivino touched it before it reached Chris Connolly, who was positioned behind the goal. Saponari streaked to the slot and took a feed from Connolly before sending the puck home for his seventh goal of the season.
While the BU defense was putting the finishes touches on its third shutout of the season, Higgins created the 3-0 final when he scored from above the left post on a pass from fellow senior Jason Lawrence off a play in transition at 19:40 of the third. Sophomore Kevin Shattenkirk also assisted on the play.
BU came up empty on all three of its power-play chances, but did not have to kill off any penalties on the afternoon.
The Terriers will host eighth-seeded Maine in a best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series, beginning Friday (March 13) at 7 p.m. Saturday's contest will start at 7:30 p.m. If a third game is needed on Sunday, that game will begin at 7 p.m. The Terriers went 2-0-1 against the Black Bears this season.