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Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald helps BC survive another night

03.18.17 at 12:36 am ET
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Boston College hadn’t been able to beat Boston University all season, never having a single lead on the Terriers in their previous three contests. It’s a far cry from what the Eagles usually are able to do against their rival, as they hadn’t been swept in a season series in 15 years.

The Eagles made up for the previous three losses with a victory in the game that mattered most, and kept their season alive with a 3-2 win on Friday night in the Hockey East semifinals. The victory means BC still has a chance to play in the national tournament.

Without winning Hockey East, the Eagles have slim odds of getting to the NCAA tournament. They’ll face the River Hawks of UMass Lowell for the conference crown Saturday night.

The star for BC Friday night against BU was senior forward and Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald. The North Reading native scored twice, including a shorthanded goal in the second period and what proved to be the game-winner early in the third. It was a welcome offensive outburst considering Fitzgerald’s goal production had dropped from 24 last season to nine entering Friday’s game.

“He’s had a good year for us,” BC coach Jerry York said. “Goal production down, but mostly because of crossbars, pipes, not lack of effort. His game’s never suffered because of the goals not coming easy. He’s forechecking well, good coverage defensively, I’m really proud of how he played on the big stage tonight.”

The center found himself involved in a postgame scrum following the final faceoff when he fell on the puck, running the clock down, and a brawl followed, leading to punches between his brother Casey Fitzgerald and BU’s Brandon Hickey.

“A little bit of a broken play and just so happened I ended up on the ice,” said Fitzgerlad. “I just hovered over it and tried to protect it for as long as possible.”

Fitzgerald extended the lead twice following BU chances, burying the Terriers before they had a chance to cut into the deficit. Fitzgerald’s first goal was shorthanded, ending any chance for BU to gain momentum by tying the game on the power play.

Scott Savage, who assisted on the first tally of the game from Julius Mattila, is another senior who got on the board to keep the season alive. Fellow seniors Austin Cangelosi and Chris Calnan also extend their careers for at least one day.

Fitzgerald, who played high school hockey at Malden Catholic, will have another opportunity to keep his collegiate campaign going Saturday night before joining the pro ranks in the Bruins organization. Despite his struggles at times this season, Fitzgerald bounced back when the Eagles needed it most.

“Anytime you can produce for your team it’s good,” said the senior. “Reflecting on the year, for me it’s one of those things where you notice the puck not going in as frequently as it has been, you need to do something else. Playing center now I’ve taken a bigger role in the D zone. If you’re not scoring, you need to do something else.”

BC hangs on to beat BU, advance to Hockey East championship game, keep NCAA hopes alive

03.17.17 at 10:59 pm ET
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Boston College survived Boston University's late comeback push Friday night. (WEEI.com)

Boston College survived Boston University’s late comeback push Friday night. (WEEI.com)

Boston University made things interesting in the end, but ultimately Boston College’s dominance for most of the game was enough to lift the Eagles over their rivals and send them to the Hockey East championship game for the first time since 2012.

Propelled by a dominant second period, the Eagles escaped with a 3-2 victory to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. They’ll take on UMass Lowell, who stormed past Notre Dame in Friday’s first semifinal, Saturday night at 7 p.m. at TD Garden.

BC and BU were tied 0-0 after one, but the Eagles took a 1-0 lead 1:58 into the second on a seemingly benign play. Freshman forward Julius Mattila led a rush down the right wing and snapped off a shot from just inside the blue line that managed to beat Jake Oettinger glove-side. The shot may have deflected off BU defenseman Brandon Hickey’s stick, which could explain the usually-stellar Oettinger getting beat by it.

After that goal, BC took complete control of the game as BU seemingly fell asleep. The Eagles had a 12-2 shots on goal advantage through the first 12 minutes of the period and eventually built that up to a 17-5 edge as they pinned the Terriers in their own end pretty much all period. BU ran into all kinds of problems trying to break the puck out, as BC took away every opening and forced the Terriers to attempt desperate, low-percentage passes.

The Terriers got what could’ve been the break they needed when they went to the power play with 7:21 left in the period, but that turned out to be a disaster too. Christopher Brown beat Chad Krys to a loose puck and sent Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald in 1-on-1 against fellow Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy. Fitzgerald used McAvoy as a screen and beat Oettinger to make it 2-0.

The Eagles made it 3-0 in the first minute of the third when they took advantage of a BU defensive-zone turnover, with Brown once against setting up Fitzgerald. It looked like they’d be able to cruise to the finish line, but the Terriers, it turned out, did have some fight in them.

Jordan Greenway scored with 2:24 to go when he snuck a puck past Joseph Woll on a jam attempt, then Clayton Keller found the back of the net 1:02 later to cut BC’s lead to 3-2 with 1:22 to go. BU continued to pressure in the final minute and got off a couple shots on goal, but Woll stood tall and the Eagles survived.

There was a pretty good brawl at the final buzzer, with BU’s Hickey getting his helmet ripped off followed by him throwing a punch or two, so it will be worth keeping an eye on any potential discipline.

The game got off to a frantic start, with the two teams combining for 11 shots on goal in just over five minutes and each side ringing the post once on top of that. Keller went first, racing in shorthanded after a nice steal before pulling up and hitting pipe. Less than a minute later, Matthew Gaudreau set up Brown for a nice chance in the slot, but Brown likewise found nothing but iron.

Things slowed down a little after the early back-and-forth chances, but a key stretch came late in the period when BU got back-to-back power plays, including a 23-second 5-on-3 advantage. The Terriers got a few shots on goal, but they came from the outside and BC did a good job clearing rebounds and getting the kill.

It sounds weird to even suggest that Boston College getting to the Hockey East championship game was improbable, especially considering that the Eagles earned a share of the league’s regular-season title. But just a couple weeks ago, few people would’ve predicted that BC would be here.

The Eagles limped to an 0-5-2 record to close out the regular season, watching sole possession of first place and an at-large NCAA tournament bid slip away in the process. It looked like they’d be fortunate just to get by Vermont in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

The Eagles not only got by Vermont; they demolished the Catamounts. They won 7-0 in Game 1 and 7-4 in Game 2. Still, they remained the clear underdogs against archrival Boston University in the semifinals. The Terriers had already beaten BC three times this season and had surrendered just two goals in those contests. And yet, the Eagles triumphed again. Perhaps they’ve figured things out just in time.

The Terriers are still a lock to make the NCAA tournament despite Friday’s loss, while BC will need to beat Lowell Saturday night to make it. The Eagles are looking for their first Hockey East championship since 2012 and trying to avoid missing NCAAs for the first time since 2009.

Read More: Hockey East,

Young River Hawks lead Lowell back to Hockey East title game

03.17.17 at 8:14 pm ET
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The River Hawks had a tough task ahead with the loss of a large senior class, including goalie Kevin Boyle, heading into the 2016-17 season. After falling in the Hockey East championship game to Northeastern last season, it seemed it would be difficult to return to a similar spot while having to rely on freshmen.

Yet, that’s exactly where the River Hawks are, heading back to the conference title game with a 5-1 dismantling of Notre Dame in the semifinals on Friday night, led by that freshman group that also helped them top New Hampshire the week before.

One full line of freshmen — listed on the line chart as the fourth line, but in reality closer to the second or third line — has emerged over the last few weeks, especially against UNH and Notre Dame. Norm Bazin, fresh off Hockey East Coach of the Year honors, kept that group of Ryan Lohin, Colin O’Neill and Kenny Hausinger together on Friday night, and it paid dividends in the victory.

“I laugh when you say fourth line, because he’s quite a player,” Bazin said when asked about Lohin. “I’m not sure who is our fourth line, it depends on the night. He’s good away from the puck, he’s good at faceoffs, he’s excellent as far as scrums and he’s got a good stick. So it’s a good combination, he’s also on the first unit penalty kill, which is a big statement for a freshman.”

With two goals in the first period, the all-freshman line not only gave the River Hawks the advantage, but they helped Lowell rebound from what could have been a deflating first tally for the Irish. Jack Jenkins, a sophomore forward, scored from center ice, slipping the puck past freshman goalie Tyler Wall to open the scoring early in the first.

Wall went on to make 19 saves in the game, facing 14 shots in the second period and turning them all aside.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said senior Joe Gambardella of how Wall responded. “He’s been a great goaltender for us all year long. That’s the way the game of hockey works, sometimes you get some unfortunate bounces. He did a really good job of being calm and collected in the net.”

It took 25 seconds for the River Hawks, and Wall’s classmate O’Neill, to respond. Later on in the period, Lohin was able to push the puck past Cal Petersen to take the first Lowell lead of the night.

“I think the leadership, Joe [Gambardella] and the others, they’ve done a good job with us,” said Lohin. “Keeping us calm, helping us know what to expect day in and day out.”

Lohin was able to cycle down low the entire game and create traffic around Petersen, which directly led to two of the River Hawks’ goals.

“I think any time you play with a good goaltender on the other side you want to get traffic,” said Lohin. “It’s going to be tough to beat on a straight shot. I wanted to get in front and create chaos out front. I think we did a good job of that, we’ll have to do that again tomorrow night regardless of who we face.”

Hausinger, the third member of that all-freshman line, assisted on the River Hawks’ fourth goal of the night, with 1:08 left in the second period as he connected with senior defender Michael Kapla to extend a 4-1 lead.

It’s not the first stellar performance from the first-year group, as they combined for four goals in an 8-2 Game 3 victory over New Hampshire to advance to the Hockey East semifinals last Sunday.

Nick Marin, another freshman, scored the fifth River Hawk goal of the night early in the third period. It was the second goal of the season for the Shrewsbury native.

Lohin, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, had 23 points in the regular season. Hausinger had 16 and O’Neill had seven, including just two goals.

“It’s awesome anytime anyone contributes,” said Gambardella. “At this point in the season, we don’t consider any freshmen to be freshmen. They’ve done a good job leading their class, basically being sophomores at this point. They’ve done really well all season, we couldn’t be any happier.”

Read More: Hockey East,

UMass Lowell crushes Notre Dame to advance to fifth straight Hockey East championship game

03.17.17 at 7:22 pm ET
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UMass Lowell is heading to the Hockey East championship game for the fifth year in a row. (WEEI.com)

UMass Lowell is heading to the Hockey East championship game for the fifth year in a row. (WEEI.com)

The middle of March is a time for traditions, like filling out your bracket, drinking green beer and watching UMass Lowell win at TD Garden. For the fifth straight year, Norm Bazin got his River Hawks to the Garden. And for the fifth straight year, they dispensed of their Friday night semifinal opponent to advance to the championship game, this time knocking off Notre Dame, 5-1.

The River Hawks fell behind on an early fluke goal from center ice, but that was pretty much the only time the result was in question. Lowell scored twice over the next couple minutes to take the lead and twice more in the second period to put the game well out of reach with a full period to go.

The River Hawks now await the winner of Friday night’s second semifinal between Boston University and Boston College. With the win, Lowell became the first team to reach five straight Hockey East championship games since Maine went to seven straight from 1987-1993.

To help put that in perspective, note that Lowell had reached the Hockey East title game just twice before Bazin took over in 2011. The River Hawks captured back-to-back titles with wins over BU and New Hampshire in 2013 and 2014, respectively, then lost to BU in 2015 and Northeastern last year.

“The guys like playing here, there’s no question,” Bazin said after the game. “It’s an exciting time of year to be playing hockey. It shows the stability, it shows the consistency within the program, the culture of accountability. The guys were itching to come back this year.

“This year was probably the most brutal in terms of regular season, so it was very difficult to get here. So we’re thrilled we’re here, but we’ve been on both sides of this. We’ve lost two championship games, we’ve won two. We’d like to be on the side of that 2013-14.”

Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead seven minutes into the game on a classic St. Patrick’s Day luck o’ the Irish play. Dennis Gilbert fired a pass toward Jack Jenkins at center ice and Jenkins redirected it toward the Lowell goal. It was a completely unremarkable play you see a dozen times a game, right up until the moment it took a tough bounce in front of River Hawks goalie Tyler Wall and skipped past him into the net.

The River Hawks had their goalie’s back, though, and answered immediately. Just 25 seconds after falling behind, freshman Kenny Hausinger set up classmate and linemate Colin O’Neill in the high slot for a one-timer that beat Cal Petersen.

Then the River Hawks took over for the remainder of the period. They grabbed the lead two minutes later when Ryan Lohin, the third member of Lowell’s all-freshman line with Hausinger and O’Neill, dug out a rebound off Mattias Goransson’s point shot and flipped it in. The Irish mustered just nine shot attempts and three shots on goal the whole period, with one of those shots on goal coming on the center-ice goal and two others coming from the blue line (final shots on goal in the game were 40-20 in Lowell’s favor).

Lowell isn’t exactly known for landing blue-chip freshmen, but that all-rookie line has gotten hot at the perfect time. In addition to its big first period Friday night, that trio combined for four goals and three assists in last Sunday’s Game 3 win over New Hampshire that sent the River Hawks to the Garden, with O’Neill and Hausinger each scoring twice. And oh by the way, Goransson, who has emerged as a solid top-four defenseman, is also a freshman.

In the second period, it was time for Lowell’s top line to chip in. Early in the period, C.J. Smith led a rush into the offensive zone and dished over to Joe Gambardella, who then took the puck behind the net before getting it back to Smith in front for the finish. It was Smith’s team-leading 21st goal of the season and Gambardella’s team-leading 49th point.

The nail in the coffin came with 1:08 left in the second when Hausinger set up a pinching Michael Kapla to make it 4-1. Nick Marin, another freshman, scored early in the third as the River Hawks piled on. Regardless of what happens in Saturday night’s championship game, Lowell will also be heading to the NCAA tournament in a week.

Friday’s loss marked the final Hockey East tournament game for the Irish, who are leaving for the Big Ten after four seasons here. Notre Dame’s season probably isn’t over, though, as it will almost certainly get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. CollegeHockeyRanked.com has the Irish with a 94 percent chance of getting in despite losing Friday.

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USC overcomes 17-point deficit to beat Providence in First Four

03.16.17 at 7:40 am ET
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Providence fell in the First Four Wednesday night. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

Providence fell in the First Four Wednesday night. (Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports)

To spin a phrase once written so capably by Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

And that literally is what Providence is left with after losing a 17-point second half lead to Southern Cal in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio Wednesday night. The Friars, in as sharp a half as they played all season, led the Trojans by 15 points at halftime, and by 17 early in the second period.

They ended up losing, 75-71, to end the season at 20-13. USC (25-9) advances to Tulsa, Oklahoma to face 6th seeded SMU Friday afternoon.

“It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

Dickens’ chosen word of foolishness might not describe the second half of play for the Friars, but whatever it was, it wasn’t pretty. After torching the Trojans’ defense for 44 points and 55% field goal shooting in the first half, PC suddenly lost its aggressiveness on the offensive end as USC switched from a zone to man-to-man.

Additionally, the bigger Trojans pounded the Friars on the backboards, with a 21-9 rebound margin in the final 20 minutes. Included in that total were nine huge offensive rebounds, and the extra chances – not to mention the extra time off the clock – proved the Friars’ undoing.

“I think the second half we just didn’t play,” said Ed Cooley afterward, understating what was painfully obvious to the Friar Faithful. “I thought they played harder than us in the second half. I thought they were tougher. I think some of our early miscues (in the second half) gave them some energy and I just didn’t think we were tough.”

“We weren’t playing with the same passion we were in the first half, and it showed,” Jalen Lindsey added, after scoring 17 points for the Friars. “And they executed their game plan and we kind of faltered back.”

“We got into the paint a lot,” said USC guard Jordan McLaughlin, whose penetration into the Friar zone was a key to the comeback. “Once we got into the paint, everybody’s playing on two feet and making the right passes and right decisions. We were making the layups and knocking down jump shots.”

“We started switching one through four,” was coach Andy Enfield’s explanation for the turnaround. “Then we went big. And we played big for at least 10, 12 minutes of the game. We haven’t done that all season. For our players to adjust to that, that was impressive.”

Indeed, it was. Trailing 44-29 at the half, Enfield sent in his larger unit (three players 6-10 or taller) after PC extended the lead to 17 in the opening minute of the second period. The play of 6-11 freshman forward Nick
Rakocevic was a big part of the comeback, scoring seven of his nine points in the paint, and his physical play helped spark a huge 25-10 Trojan run over an 8:27 span.

The Friars never recovered, and never led again after giving the lead away. The comeback from 17 points down is the 7th greatest comeback in NCAA tournament history. That USC led the nation this season in making up double-digit deficits (with 12 wins after trailing by 10 points or more) wasn’t lost on Ed Cooley or his team.

“I just didn’t think as a group we were fundamentally sound the last 20 minutes in order to advance in this tournament,” Cooley reasoned. “Those kids are hurting in there (in the locker room). I’m proud of our group this season. I think we had a year no one expected.”

Certainly, no one expected the way the game ended. Not after a stunning first half by Providence, and an equally stunning fall in the second half.

Perhaps the best way to describe it – it was a tale of two halves? It wasn’t exactly the best of times for the Friars, to be sure.

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Providence, USC pick up where they left off

03.14.17 at 6:24 pm ET
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The Friars are ready to go in Dayton. (John Rooke photo)

The Friars are ready to go in Dayton. (John Rooke photo)

It isn’t a long and storied history between the two programs, but their most recent meeting on the hardwood has had lingering effects for both sides.

As Providence and USC prepare for their Wednesday night First Four meeting in Dayton, Ohio, March Madness fans might recall the two teams tipped-off the “madness” part of it all in last year’s tournament. As the 9-seed against USC’s 8th seeded Trojans, the Friars got a layup from Rodney Bullock with 1.5 seconds remaining off an inbounds pass from Drew Edwards, advancing PC to the 2nd round.

USC gave the Friars the opportunity to win, however, thanks to missing the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw on the other end of the floor. And while the key players on both teams have largely changed over the past year, for those that were in Raleigh, North Carolina last March they remember it well.

“We remember it,” said Jordan McLaughlin, an honorable mention all-Pac-12 guard this season for the Trojans, who scored 15 points with 5 assists and 4 steals in the one point loss. “It’s something that’s in the back of our minds.”

“Last year, that was a great experience,” was Rodney Bullock’s recollection, a 2nd team all-Big East forward this year who put up a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double against the Trojans and scored the decisive basket. “I felt like that helped us (this year), and just hopefully we need to make shots and just carry out our game plan, and I think we’ll be fine.”

USC’s team has had the greater turnover of the two teams from a year ago, with only three players returning this season who had a significant impact on that 70-69 final in Raleigh. But those three appear to be the Trojans’ main threat to gaining at least a measure of revenge against Providence this year. McLaughlin, 6-10 sophomore forward Bennie Boatwright, 6-5 junior Elijah Stewart and 6-11 sophomore center Chimezie Metu, who was a role player a year ago (and Pac-12 Most Improved this year) will have the Friars busy trying to defend them.

“This kid McLaughlin, I think, is their glue guy,” Ed Cooley explained. “He’s very talented. He’s the maestro for them, one of the best guards in the country. We’ve got our hands full with him.

“I think both teams are totally different,” Cooley added. “We have five of our nine-man rotation that are first-year guys. I know USC has a very young team, but they have a core group of guys that played in the game much like ours, but same systems, different personalities.”

One thing seems certain, however, as the Friars and Trojans meet on the basketball court for just the 3rd time in their storied pasts. Both teams, using last year as the stepping stone, believe this season’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament is validation for what they’re trying to build.

“We’re 328 out of 351 (teams) in experience in the country,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “We replaced our upperclassmen (on that team) with four freshmen and we had two transfers. This is the NCAA Tournament. And this is what you work hard for all season, we’re excited to be here.”

“There’s a different excitement in me,” Cooley explained. “This is the fourth excitement I’ve had. I’m happy. I can’t tell you how happy and how blessed I am to be sitting here in front of you. I’m still pinching myself. I can’t believe we’re here. Don’t forget, we were picked ninth in the Big East.”

Seems like the happy feeling on both sides could last a while longer – at least until the final buzzer Wednesday night, that is.

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Friars arrive in Dayton, prep for USC

03.14.17 at 9:16 am ET
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There’s something to be said for getting out of town, at just the right time.

With a snowstorm barreling down on the northeast, travel plans involving east coast teams in this week’s NCAA tournament have been adjusted and in some cases, moved up so the weather won’t keep anyone from arriving for their appointed dates on the dance card.

In Providence’s case, the 11th seeded Friars are scheduled to face fellow-11th seed Southern Cal in the First Four at Dayton, Ohio Wednesday night. But because of the snow, it took most of the day Monday for the NCAA to work out the team charter flight sending the players, coaches, band, cheerleaders, media and some supporters out of Rhode Island.

Once arrangements had been set, the charter flight left T.F. Green at 5:30 p.m. Monday evening and arrived two-and-a-half hours later in Dayton, Ohio, to bagpipes playing the school fight song (“When the Saints go Marching In”) and local organizers greeting the team and personnel.

The First Four games in Dayton tip-off Tuesday night, with 16-seeds Mount St. Mary’s (the Northeast Conference champ) and New Orleans (winner of the Southland Conference) squaring off at 6:40 p.m. ET, followed by 11-seeds Wake Forest (ACC at-large) and Kansas State (Big 12 at large).

Those four teams arrived earlier Tuesday, in time for open workouts and interview sessions at the University of Dayton Arena which were previously scheduled. In places like Buffalo, for instance, where games begin Thursday there was an effort to move those eight schools into the area 24-hours earlier than previously scheduled because of the storm bearing down on the northeast.

Top-seeded Villanova was expected to depart Philadelphia Monday evening, ahead of a predicted 8-to-12 inches of snow there, while other schools affected by the east coast snow include Maryland, Seton Hall, VCU, Vermont, Virginia and Rhode Island – as well as Providence.

In Rhode Island’s case, as of early Monday they were prepared to wait out the storm and depart for Sacramento, CA and their 1st round game with Creighton on Wednesday.

The Friars will have an open workout at UD Arena Tuesday afternoon at 2:20 p.m., with media interviews taking place just prior. Wednesday, North Carolina Central faces Cal-Davis in a match-up of 16-seeds at 6:40 p.m., followed by the Friars and Trojans at approximately 9:10.

All post-season broadcasts for the Friars will air on 103.7 WEEI-FM and friars.com.

Friars reach NCAA’s, but Rams bump them down the dance card

03.12.17 at 9:01 pm ET
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They’ve met 127 times previously on the basketball floor and Rhode Island has certainly won its’ share over the past 97 years. But without playing a game this time, Rhody’s Rams may have dealt Providence’s Friars a loss they weren’t expecting.

As expected, Providence reached the NCAA Tournament as at large pick and one of seven Big East teams selected. But NCAA Tournament Committee chairman Mark Hollis confirmed to Westwood One Radio that Rhode Island’s Atlantic-10 title win over VCU Sunday knocked the Friars down a peg when it came to seeding.

“Rhode Island won (their conference), so they couldn’t qualify as one of the 36 at-large teams,” Hollis told Westwood One. “They pushed Providence down the board by winning, so perhaps that’ll be a big story in Rhode Island?”

Instead of a 9, 10 or even an 11 seed, the Friars did receive an 11 seed for the tournament, but they will face USC in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio Wednesday night in a “play in” contest, with the winner moving on in the East Regional to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a Friday game against 6th seeded (and American Athletic Conference winner) SMU.

Bottom line – Providence was one of the Last Four teams into the tournament per the selection committee chair, despite finishing in a tie for third in the Big East Conference and finishing 3-1 against Marquette and Xavier. Both the Golden Eagles (10 seed in the East against South Carolina) and the Musketeers (11 seed in the West, playing Maryland) received higher seeds and avoided the First Four “play in.”

“We’re excited to be back,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said as the brackets were revealed, as the Friars reach the NCAA’s for a school-record fourth straight year. “We’ve earned our way into the tournament. As long as you’re there, you have a chance to advance. We have a quick turnaround, they (USC’s Trojans) have a quick turnaround, and we’ve got to do a great job as a staff to get our team familiar with the way they play.”

That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as the Friars faced USC last year in an NCAA first-round game at Raleigh, North Carolina. Ninth-seeded PC beat the No.8  Trojans 70-69 last March 17th, as Rodney Bullock converted an in-bounds play for a layup at the end. Still, it’s highly unusual to see a rematch occur from a 1st round contest from the previous season.

“Our key guys were in that game,” Cooley said. “Jalen (Lindsey), Kyron (Cartwright), Rodney (Bullock), we have an older person in Emmitt (Holt) and Isaiah Jackson. We’ve got to make sure our younger guys are emotionally prepared for that stage, and hopefully we will be.

“We’ve always played with a chip on our shoulder,” Cooley added. “Remember, we were picked 9th in the league and we ended up in 3rd. That’s the way I coach. I want our kids to be edgy, but I want them to be respectful of the game.”

Even if the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee wasn’t terribly respectful of the Friars, in return.

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Lowell destroys UNH in decisive Game 3; Hockey East semifinals set

03.12.17 at 6:50 pm ET
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It was surprising that top-seeded UMass Lowell didn’t sweep 10th-seeded New Hampshire in the Hockey East quarterfinals. It wasn’t surprising at all that Lowell blew the doors off UNH in Sunday’s decisive Game 3 at the Tsongas Center, winning by a rather convincing 8-2 margin.

The River Hawks had, as expected, been the better team all weekend. Even in the Game 1 loss on Friday, they outshot UNH 35-12. Then after falling behind 1-0 in Game 2, they took control and wound up cruising to a 3-1 win, once again holding UNH under 20 shots on goal.

But they took dominance to another level Sunday, especially in the first period. The River Hawks struck first with a power-play goal from John Edwardh 3:36 into the game. The only glimmer of hope all night for UNH came two minutes later when Marcus Vela tied things up.

Lowell had no interest in letting the Wildcats hang around and quickly slammed the door on any chance the underdogs had of pulling off the upset. Kenny Hausinger scored two goals four minutes apart, and then C.J. Smith scored 29 seconds after Hausinger’s second goal to put UNH in a 4-1 hole.

In case that wasn’t enough, Connor Wilson set up Colin O’Neill for a shorthanded goal two and a half minutes later and then Smith added his second goal of the period at the 18:32 mark. The first period wasn’t even over and it was 6-1. Good night, folks. Drive safe.

With the win, the River Hawks advanced to the Hockey East semifinals for the fifth straight year. They’ll take on fourth-seeded Notre Dame in the first semifinal Friday at 5 p.m. at TD Garden. Second-seeded Boston University takes on third-seeded Boston College in the second game at 8 p.m.

Lowell and BU are already 100 percent locks to make the NCAA tournament according to College Hockey News’ “Pairwise Probability Matrix,” while Notre Dame and Providence (whom Notre Dame swept this weekend) are pretty much locked in as well. BC, meanwhile, will most likely not get an at-large bid and therefore needs to win the Hockey East championship to make it.

For UNH, it was another early end to a disappointing season. The Wildcats will miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year, something that would’ve seemed crazy not too long ago given that they made NCAAs 10 straight years from 2002-2011 and 18 times in 22 years from 1992-2013.

There are already questions about whether this is the end for head coach Dick Umile, who took over the program in 1990. He signed a three-year extension in 2015 and said at the time that he would retire when that deal was up in 2018, with the plan being for associate head coach Mike Souza to take over. But with the poor seasons now piling up, there have been whispers that the handoff could be accelerated by a year.

When asked after the game if he would be returning next season, Umile offered a simple, “No comment.”

College hockey: BU, BC, Harvard complete quarterfinal sweeps; Lowell forces Game 3

03.11.17 at 11:14 pm ET
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It was déjà vu all over again in the Hockey East quarterfinals at Agganis Arena Saturday night. For the second night in a row, Boston University fell behind Northeastern 2-0 by the middle of the first period. For the second night in a row, BU cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period and then tied the game in the third. And for the second night in a row, the Terriers won on a late (or overtime) power-play goal, sending them to TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals and ending Northeastern’s season.

In Friday night’s Game 1, BU killed off two late Northeastern power plays to force overtime, then won on a man advantage of their own 3:11 into the extra session when Clayton Keller set up Jordan Greenway.

In Saturday’s Game 2, Bruins prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson drew a hooking call against Garret Cockerill with 1:34 left in regulation, and BU made Northeastern pay. Forsbacka Karlsson threw a shot on goal from the left side of the net, creating a juicy rebound that freshman defenseman Chad Krys buried into a yawning net.

Forsbacka Karlsson was the man of the night. He also scored BU’s first goal of the game on a nice redirect of a Keller saucer pass and assisted on the tying tally when he set up Nick Roberto. On top of all that, he matched up against Northeastern’s top line — which features the nation’s leading scorer in Zach Aston-Reese — for most of the weekend and helped limit their damage about as much as could be reasonably expected, especially Saturday.

“He was huge,” BU coach David Quinn said of Forsbacka Karlsson. “He’s been a little snakebitten in the point department, but when we needed him most, he stood tall. … Jakob not only had three points, but he played well for 200 feet.”

The series wasn’t without controversy, as Northeastern coach Jim Madigan seemed to indicate he had a problem with the penalty call in overtime Friday night, then confirmed that Saturday night when he limited his press conference to a 40-second statement that was mostly focused on “two calls” with which he had a problem.

“My mom told me if you can’t say anything nice about people, don’t say anything at all,” Madigan said. “I can’t talk about this series without two calls that didn’t go our way. For me, that was the difference in the game and in the series. I just don’t want to go there, because I don’t want to risk a future suspension.”

It’s unclear if the second call he had a problem with was the late penalty Saturday or Roberto’s goal, which was upheld after a lengthy offsides review. From this reporter’s perspective, the late penalty call Saturday looked like a clear penalty, the overtime penalty Friday looked like a penalty but one that was maybe a little on the soft side, and the offsides review looked to be about as close as you can possibly get (and it’s worth mentioning that the call on the ice was onsides).

The Huskies had a miniscule shot at an at-large NCAA bid entering Saturday night, but the season-ending loss ends that dream. The most interesting thing to watch now as it relates to Northeastern will be which NHL team signs Aston-Reese. The senior was never drafted and is thus a free agent, and reports have indicated that at least 15 teams have shown interest in him.

The Terriers will now wait for Sunday’s UMass Lowell-New Hampshire Game 3 to find out their opponent in the semifinals. If Lowell wins, they’ll face Boston College. If UNH wins, they’ll face UNH.

-Speaking of UMass Lowell vs. New Hampshire, the top-seeded River Hawks forced a decisive Game 3 by winning 3-1 Saturday night after suffering a surprise 3-1 loss Friday. The series will be decided at the Tsongas Center Sunday at 4 p.m.

Lowell held UNH to one shot in the first period after also allowing just one shot in the third period Friday night, but the game was tied 1-1 after one. John Edwardh gave the River Hawks the lead 3:07 into the second and Ryan Dmowski made it 3-1 later in the period.

The River Hawks are looking to reach the Garden for the fifth straight year.

– Third-seeded Boston College rolled to a two-game sweep over sixth-seeded Vermont, winning 7-4 Saturday night after cruising to a 7-0 smackdown Friday.

The Eagles stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first nine minutes of Game 2, with JD Dudek scoring twice and Connor Moore notching his first goal of the season. Vermont scored a pair of power-play goals later in the period to make things interesting, but then Austin Cangelosi scored two power-play goals of his own in the second as BC regained the three-goal advantage.

The Catamounts cut it to 5-3, but then BC scored two more in the third. Cangelosi had three goals and an assist on the weekend, while Colin White had a goal and four assists. The Eagles will face either BU or Notre Dame in the semifinals next Friday.

For BC, the convincing sweep was a welcome sign after a dreadful finish to the regular season. The Eagles went 0-5-2 from the Beanpot on and weren’t able to clinch an outright Hockey East regular-season title, although they did still grab a share of it (along with BU and Lowell). They also pretty much played themselves out of contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament — they’ll most likely need to win the Hockey East championship next weekend in order to make NCAAs.

– Rounding out the Hockey East series, Notre Dame completed a sweep of Providence, winning 5-2 Saturday after cruising to a 5-o victory Friday. The Fighting Irish advance to the Garden in their final season in Hockey East.

The silver lining for the Friars is that they will still most likely get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament, although they’re not a 100 percent lock.

– In the ECAC, top-seeded Harvard completed a sweep of Yale with a 4-3 win Saturday after taking Friday’s opener 6-4. Yale led 3-2 after two periods, but Tyler Moy tied the game 5:46 into the third and Lewis Zerter-Gossage scored what proved to be the winner with a power-play tally 50 seconds later.

Luke Esposito had three goals and an assist on the weekend, Tyler Moy had two goals and three assists, and Sean Malone had a goal and five assists. The Crimson will face either St. Lawrence, Quinnipiac or Clarkson in the semifinals, depending on what happens in Sunday’s Game 3s.

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