BOSTON -- Three power play goals and another strong postseason effort from goalie John Muse lifted top-seeded Boston College to a 5-4 win over sixth-seeded Northeastern in the first semifinal of the 2011 Hockey East Championship at TD Garden Friday evening. The defending champion Eagles (29-7-1) advance to Saturday's title game and will face the winner of the second semifinal between second-seeded New Hampshire and fourth-seeded Merrimack. It will be Boston College's 13th appearance in the title game and its sixth in the last seven years.
A senior who was named to the 2011 Hockey East All-Star first team and was the league's Bauer Goaltending Champion, Muse stopped 33 shots, 26 in the final two periods, to record his 20th victory in 21 postseason games. He heads into Saturday's final with a 12-1 record in Hockey East playoff games and a perfect 8-0 in two NCAA tournaments.
Freshman Kevin Hayes led five different goal scorers with a goal and two assists as the Eagles built a 5-2 third period lead before Muse and the Boston College defense weathered a late Northeastern comeback bid. Senior Wade MacLeod scored twice and assisted on another goal as the pesky Huskies, who upset third-seeded Boston University in the quarterfinals, close out their season at 14-16-8.
BC's Tommy Cross and Pat Mullane also chipped in with a goal and an assist as the Eagles scored three times in six power play opportunities in the clean but hard-fought contest. Northeastern went two-for-eight with the extra skater and out-shot Boston College, 37-33, with a 15-6 advantage in the final period.
BC threatened early in the first period as Mullane broke in alone on NU goalie Chris Rawlings but shot high and wide of the mark. At 9:36, Jimmy Hayes also had a partial breakaway and his shorthanded bid was turned aside by Rawlings.
It was the Huskies who drew first blood as Tyler McNeely rapped home a rebound of his own shot at 13:38 with Steve Silva and McLeod assisting on McNeely's 13th goal of the season. It also was the fourth time in all four tournament contests that Northeastern opened the scoring.
First-team Hockey East All-Star forward Brian Gibbons answered for the Eagles just 2:17 later when his wrist shot from the right circle beat Rawlings to the far side to make it 1-1. It was Gibbons' 17th goal of his senior season and linemates Joe Whitney and Cam Atkinson added assists.
The Eagles continued to pressure Rawlings early in the middle period and he made three solid saves during a BC man-advantage. The Hayes brothers gave Boston College a 2-1 lead with a power play tally at 6:56 as Kevin Hayes ripped a one-timer past Rawlings, converting a feed from his brother Jimmy. The 2-1 edge lasted only 25 seconds as MacLeod created a turnover and buried a wrist shot from the right side for an unassisted tally
Steven Whitney made it 3-2 at 13:14 with a great individual effort for his sixth goal of his year. Taking a breakout pass from defenseman Brian Dumoulin, he skated into the Northeastern zone, cut between two defenders and while being knocked to the ice, he roofed a high backhand over Rawlings. The Eagles went into the second intermission with two-goal edge with another power play goal with 18 seconds left. Mullane drew a face off back to Dumoulin in the NU end, Dumoulin slid the puck over to Cross who snapped home a high wrist shot from the right circle.
Muse kept the margin at 4-2 stopping three point-blank shots during a 4-on-3 Husky power play early in third. Mullane made it 5-2 at 8:22 on another extra-man advantage punching home a rebound from the right post after NU backup goaltender Clay Witt stopped bids by Jimmy and Kevin Hayes.
The Huskies cut the deficit to 5-3 with 3:16 to go on Garrett Vermeersch's blast from the point on the power play with helpers going to Justin Daniels and Cody Ferriero. After Muse made several brilliant saves before Northeastern made it a one-goal game with another power play goal on MacLeod's second of the game with 1:03 left.
Muse made the score stand up shutting down the Huskies the rest of the way including an excellent save on a Silva drive from the slot with 19 seconds to go.
Rawlings stopped 23 of 27 shots over the first period. Witt relieved Rawlings to open the third period and made five saves while allowing the final BC goal. In addition to MacLeod's three-point effort in his final college game, McNeely added a goal and an assist. Dumoulin and Jimmy Hayes each had two assists for BC.
The two neighborhood rivals were meeting for the seventh time in the Hockey East tournament and the first time in the semifinals. Boston College now holds a 6-1 edge over Northeastern in the postseason series and the Eagles won their seventh straight game on the Garden ice since 2009.
|Photo Gallery provided by Steve Babineau|