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College hockey roundup: Special teams lift Lowell to Game 1 win over BU

03.11.16 at 11:13 pm ET
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LOWELL — Boston University dominated 5-on-5 play Friday night, but UMass Lowell dominated special teams, and that’s what wound up deciding Game 1 of their Hockey East quarterfinal series. The River Hawks scored a pair of power-play goals, the second of which proved to be the game-winner, while shutting down BU’s two power plays en route to a 3-2 victory.

Lowell entered Friday’s game just 4-for-43 on the power play over its last 12 conference games, but converted on its second man advantage of the night and then again on its fourth and final one. That last power play, with under six minutes to go in the game, presented the River Hawks with a chance to add an insurance marker, as Michael Louria had given them a 2-1 lead three minutes earlier.

And they did just that. C.J. Smith, who had three assists on the night, made a great cross-slot pass to Adam Chapie in the left circle for a one-time goal that upped Lowell’s lead to 3-1 with 4:38 to go. BU made things interesting with a Matt Grzelcyk goal just 23 seconds later, but the River Hawks held on for the final few minutes. They’ll have a chance to close out the series Saturday night at the Tsongas Center.

“As is usually the case in playoff games, special teams was a huge factor in who wins and who loses,” said BU coach David Quinn. “At the end of the day, that was the difference. Our penalty kill let us down. It’s going to have to get better [Saturday night] if we’re going to have a chance to extend this series.”

The Terriers opened the scoring 6:22 into the second when Bruins second-round pick Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson cut to the front from the left circle and beat Kevin Boyle five-hole for his 10th goal of the season. It was Forsbacka Karlsson’s third goal in the last two games after going 12 games without a goal prior to that.

The River Hawks answered 2:36 later on the power play when Smith made a nice pass to find Joe Gambardella in front. Gambardella made a quick move to his backhand and slid the puck past Sean Maguire for his seventh goal of the season.

“You always like results. The puck movement for a couple of those power plays was pretty strong,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “When you get moving, obviously some lanes open up. Fortunately for us, we were able to execute a couple times.”

The best save of the game came from Lowell’s Boyle 4:57 into the third. He stopped a Bobo Carpenter wraparound, but the puck popped right to Matt Lane in the slot. Lane fired from point blank range, but Boyle made a huge glove save to keep the game tied 1-1. Boyle finished the game with 33 saves, including 17 in the third period alone.

The Terriers were the better team in the first period, opening up a 10-2 edge in shots at one point. Their best chance came with a little under seven minutes left in the frame. Boyle denied a Matt Lane shot from right in front, then turned away Charlie McAvoy’s rebound bid as well.

Elsewhere in Hockey East…

-Adam Gilmour and Austin Cangelosi each had a goal and two assists and Thatcher Demko stopped all 36 shots he faced as Boston College beat Vermont 3-0 to take a 1-0 series lead. Gilmour opened the scoring 4:14 into the first, Cangelosi scored later in the first, and Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald added his 21st goal of the season on a second-period power play. The shutout was Demko’s 10th of the season, three more than any other goalie.

-Northeastern beat Notre Dame 3-1 to take Game 1 and improve to 17-1-2 since Dec. 19. Goals from Lincoln Griffin and John Stevens gave the Huskies an early 2-0 lead, and Tanner Pond tacked on a late empty-netter. With the win, Northeastern jumped up to 15th in the Pairwise rankings (as of 11 p.m.), which are used to determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field.

-Erik Foley scored the go-ahead goal with 6:50 remaining and Trevor Mingoia added an empty-netter as Providence beat Merrimack 3-1 in Game 1. Nick Saracino also scored for the Friars, while Mark Jankowski had two assists.

And in the ECAC…

-Harvard beat Rensselaer 5-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-three quarterfinal series. Sean Malone (2 goals, 1 assist), Luke Esposito (3 assists), Seb Lloyd (2 goals), Colin Blackwell (goal, assist) and Bruins prospect Ryan Donato (2 assists) all had multi-point games. The Crimson outshot the Engineers 43-27 in the game.

-Connor Yau scored 17:14 into overtime to lift Dartmouth to a 4-3 Game 1 win over Yale, who is the No. 2 seed in the tournament and a top-10 team in the country. Nick Bligh scored twice for the Big Green and Charles Grant made 48 saves. Dartmouth led 1-0 entering the third, but the teams traded goals throughout the period, culminating with Yale’s John Hayden scoring with 2:46 left in regulation to force overtime.

Providence falls in Big East semis, awaits NCAA bid

03.11.16 at 10:18 pm ET
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Providence's Rodney Bullock (5) and Junior Lomomba (32) battle for a rebound during Friday's loss to Villanova. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports)

Providence’s Rodney Bullock (5) and Junior Lomomba (32) battle for a rebound during Friday’s loss to Villanova. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — Perhaps it was just a case of too much “wild” in Villanova’s Wildcats for the Providence Friars to handle Friday night.

Or it could have been the Wildcats’ defensive scheme, set up to slow down the Friars’ Ben Bentil after a 38-point performance in a win over Butler the day before. Whatever it was, it worked — maybe a little bit too well — in Villanova’s 76-68 Big East Tournament semifinal win at Madison Square Garden.

Bentil was a non-factor with Villanova’s double-teams in the post, and the Wildcats forced him into foul trouble. Bentil eventually fouled out of the game with 9:40 to play while managing only three points. Still, Providence managed a comeback that fell short at the end.

“We had opportunities,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “I think the difference between the two teams today was veteran composure, especially down the stretch. I thought we made a lot of critical mistakes that they capitalized on.”

Leading by five at halftime, the Wildcats started the second half quickly behind two Kris Jenkins 3-pointers in the opening minute. While Providence stayed within shouting distance of Villanova’s lead, Bentil’s fifth foul came with his team down 50-36 and less than 10 minutes to play.

And that’s precisely when the Friars started to play like themselves. After Junior Lomomba and Kris Dunn got things started with four straight free throws, Kyron Cartwright (14 second-half points) and Jalen Lindsey hit key jumpers from the outside. PC ripped off a 17-5 run in just over four minutes, pulling within 55-53 with just under seven minutes to play.

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Providence advances in Big East Tournament with win over Butler

03.10.16 at 9:52 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Perhaps Ben Bentil was a bit upset with his teammate being named Player of the Year?

There’s no denying Kris Dunn’s honor from the Big East coaches, of course. But Bentil, the sophomore from Wilmington, Delaware, made his presence felt early and often Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Often enough that Butler’s Bulldogs are glad they probably won’t see him anymore this year.

Bentil ripped through the Bulldogs defense for 38 points on 16 field goals — both PC records for a single-game performance in Big East Tournament play — as Providence defeated Butler, 74-60. The Friars advance to Friday’s semifinal round against top-seeded and nationally third-ranked Villanova.

“Normally, I’m not a fan,” PC coach Ed Cooley said afterward, “but today literally I was a fan to see the ball going in the net like that. He scored it every imaginable way — drives, shots, step-backs. I’m like, man, I’ve got to get him the ball any way I can.”

Bentil led the Big East in scoring during the regular season at nearly 22 points per game, but as Cooley mentioned, he had his game going every way imaginable Thursday against a solid Butler team. His 23 second-half points included three 3-pointers, drives to the hoop and step-back mid-range jump shots that the Bulldogs simply could not defend.

“We had no answer for Bentil,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We had zero answer. We threw the house at him a few times. We tried to play zone, we had no answer for him. He was outstanding.”

Said Bentil: “Coach told me I’m going to be a matchup nightmare, and I let that sink in. I did. I tried to take advantage of whoever was put on me, and tried to make the best out of it.”

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Holy Cross upsets Lehigh to win Patriot League, earn berth in NCAAs

03.09.16 at 10:43 pm ET
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Malachi Alexander hit 6-of-7 3-pointers and scored 26 points as ninth-seeded Holy Cross, which did not win a road game in the Patriot League during the regular season, won its fourth straight away from home in the conference tournament, a 59-56 victory over second-seeded Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The Crusaders, just 14-19, will make their first appearance in the NCAAs since 2007.

Lehigh (17-15) had won a school record-tying 11 straight games, but Holy Cross took control early, grabbing a 25-14 halftime lead and holding on from there. Lehigh missed four chances to tie the game from behind the arc in the final 20 seconds.

Historic day for Friars, Kris Dunn

03.09.16 at 10:33 pm ET
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NEW YORK — It’s fairly safe to say the Providence College basketball program has had some good days in the past, but nothing quite like what happened Wednesday.

In a mild surprise, PC junior guard Kris Dunn was named a repeat winner of the Big East’s Player of the Year award, repeating the honor he shared with Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono one year ago. Only this time, Dunn was a solo act on the Madison Square Garden stage.

Dunn finished fourth in the Big East in scoring (16.3 ppg), led the league in steals (2.7), finished second in assists (6.4) and pulled down 5.7 rebounds per game. In voting by the Big East coaches, Dunn claimed the Player of the Year award while also claiming a second straight Defensive Player of the Year honor — and first team all-Big East.

He becomes the first player in the history of the storied conference to win Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year twice. Dunn also is the sixth player in league history to win the conference’s version of an MVP multiple times in his career.

“What Kris has done is remarkable,” coach Ed Cooley said on his radio program Wednesday night in New York, in front of Friars fans and supporters at P.J. Clarke’s. “I’m proud to have coached him, and I’ll be even prouder to watch him play on in his career. Especially over the next few games.”

“There’s a lot of great players that could have easily won this award,” Dunn told the media gather at MSG prior to Wednesday night’s opening round of the Big East Tournament. “I feel like Ben Bentil, one of my brothers and one of my great teammates, he also could have won this award easily. He’s been a great leader on and off the court, and has put in a lot of hard work.”

To Dunn’s point, Bentil also was on the all-Big East first team, and led the conference in scoring (21.9 ppg) while finishing fifth in rebounding (7.8 per game). Villanova’s Josh Hart, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett, Marquette’s Henry Ellenson (who won Freshman of the Year honors and is an expected NBA lottery pick) and Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead were the other first team selections.

Dunn and Bentil will lead the fourth-seeded Friars into Thursday’s Big East quarterfinals against fifth-seeded Butler (2:30 p.m. tip, 103.7 WEEI-FM). A potential date with nationally third-ranked Villanova awaits in Friday’s semifinals.

The Big East Coach of the Year honor also was a bit surprising, as Villanova’s Jay Wright and Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard shared the award. Not that either was undeserving, but Xavier’s Chris Mack was a strong candidate — and remains a strong candidate for National Coach of the Year honors as well.

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Big East Tournament 2016: Anyone’s ball game?

03.09.16 at 11:43 am ET
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Wide open? Probably, but with a catch.

That’s the prevailing feeling among the 10 teams in the Big East Conference, as they make their way into New York’s Madison Square Garden for the 2016 Big East Tournament. Of the 10, at least eight may have a chance to call themselves champions by Saturday night — with a ticket punched to the Big Dance that begins next week.

The catch? Let’s be real. St. John’s finished the regular season 1-17, and DePaul didn’t fare much better with only three league wins. The Blue Demons, however, could spring a surprise along the journey, and that could make things interesting for the favorites.

To this point in time, prior to Wednesday night’s play, only one No. 1-seeded team in a conference tournament has managed to win out — as Chattanooga held on to win the Southern Conference crown. Elsewhere, it has been upset city. That doesn’t necessarily transcribe into early travel plans out of town for the Big East contenders, but it could make for a good show on Broadway this week.

Handicapping the Big East field — with an eye toward five teams reaching next week’s NCAA Tournament:

FAVORITES

Villanova (odds 2-1) – The Wildcats are three-time regular-season champions, after running through the Big East schedule with a 16-2 record. Jay Wright may or may not be Coach of the Year this season, but his nurturing of this program since the Big East’s rebirth three years ago has been outstanding. He also has outstanding players in Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson — so talent and depth are there to make a repeat performance of last year’s tournament title run.

Xavier (3-1) – The Musketeers may be the most top-to-bottom talented team in the Big East. They have size, strength, shooting ability, athleticism and enough defensive prowess to contend for the national championship. But the big stage in New York is a different place, and emotion always factors into a team’s success. The key here: Can XU find consistent options outside of Trevon Bluiett for scoring? Edmond Sumner is the Next Big Thing in the Big East, but can he be the Big Thing needed this week?

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BC basketball falls to Florida State in ACC tournament, records worst record in conference history

03.08.16 at 6:13 pm ET
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BC guard Eli Carter shoots during Tuesday's loss to Florida State. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

BC guard Eli Carter shoots during Tuesday’s loss to Florida State. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

The Boston College basketball team’s miserable season mercifully came to an end Tuesday with an 88-66 loss to Florida State in the ACC tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington, leaving the Eagles as the first team to go 0-19 in conference play.

“It’s been real difficult losing, obviously, setting history and all that stuff,” BC guard Eli Carter said after scoring 21 points. “But guys just kept playing. As much [talk] as is out there, we didn’t really pay too much attention to it. We just kept kind of playing.”

The Eagles (7-25 overall) are the sixth ACC team go through a season with a win — the first since Maryland went 0-14 in 1986-87 — but with conference expansion teams now play more games, so the record is theirs.

Second-year coach Jim Christian said it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

“These are kids, and they cared and played hard every single night,” he said.

With the football team going 0-8 in conference play in the fall, BC becomes the first team in ACC history to go winless in two sports in the season school year.

BC women’s hockey beats BU to win Hockey East title, improve to 38-0-0

03.06.16 at 4:29 pm ET
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The Boston College women’s hockey team will enter the NCAA tournament with a perfect record. The Eagles beat Boston University 5-0 Sunday to win their second Hockey East tournament title and improve to 38-0-0 on the season.

The Eagles struck twice in the game’s first six minutes with goals from Haley Skarupa and Alex Carpenter and outshot BU 17-2 in the first period. The game was never really in doubt from there. Carpenter scored again 16 seconds into the second, and Kenzie Kent and Kristyn Capizzano added goals early in the third to cap the scoring.

Skarupa added three assists to go along with her goal, while Carpenter also had an assist in addition to the two goals. Carpenter now has 82 points (41 goals, 41 assists) on the season, while Skarupa has 73 (32 goals, 41 assists). They rank second and third nationally in points, behind only Northeastern’s Kendall Coyne (49-34-83 in 36 games).

The Eagles will be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which begins next weekend. They’ll go in as the top-scoring team in the country, averaging more than five goals per game. They’ve scored three goals or more in all but two games this season. They’ve also allowed two or fewer in all but six.

If BC can finish off the perfect season, it would become the second women’s hockey team ever to do so, joining the 2012-13 Minnesota team.

The loss ends BU’s season and its reign of Hockey East tournament dominance, as the Terriers had won four straight conference tournaments before this year.

UMass fires hockey coach John Micheletto

03.06.16 at 10:16 am ET
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UMass has fired hockey coach John Micheletto, the school announced Sunday morning.

UMass’ season ended Saturday night with a 5-4 loss at Boston University, completing a sweep in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament. UMass lost 16 straight conference games to close out the season and finished the year with an 8-24-4 record overall. It went 2-21-0 from Thanksgiving on.

Micheletto was hired in the summer of 2012 after a chaotic coaching search that featured multiple candidates reportedly turning down the job. Micheletto was never able to get the program going in the right direction, as the Minutemen finished with a winning percentage under .400 in all four of his season. They finished last in Hockey East each of the last two seasons and second-to-last the two years before that.

“On behalf of UMass Athletics, we thank John for his four years in Amherst,” said UMass athletics director Ryan Bamford. “John worked hard to improve our hockey program and we wish him well with his future endeavors.”

Bamford, who became UMass’ AD last spring, said a national coaching search will begin immediately.

“Our expectation is to be a top contender every year in Hockey East, the premiere collegiate hockey conference,” Bamford added. “We will work aggressively to recruit a head coach to our hockey program that can realize those expectations.”

Providence wins share of first Hockey East regular-season title; Tournament field set

02.27.16 at 10:37 pm ET
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Providence needed a win and a Boston College loss in order to win a share of its first-ever Hockey East regular-season title. The Friars took care of business against UMass, cruising to a 6-0 win, and they got the help they needed from UMass-Lowell, who beat BC 3-1. The Eagles will still be the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East tournament, though, as they win the head-to-head tiebreaker over Providence.

Trevor Mingoia had two goals and three assists in the Friars’ blowout win, while Mark Jankowski had two goals and two assists. The win was the Friars’ eighth straight, and they haven’t allowed more than two goals in any of those games. The Minutemen, meanwhile, end the regular season with a 2-19-0 record over their final 21 games, including 14 straight losses in conference play.

Lowell secured the fourth and final first-round bye with its win over BC combined with Boston University’s 1-0 loss to Notre Dame. Lowell’s Tyler Mueller broke a 1-1 tie early in the third with a shorthanded snipe over Thatcher Demko’s glove. John Edwardh added an insurance marker to seal the win. The loss was BC’s first since Dec. 29, ending a 15-game unbeaten streak.

The Terriers put up 39 shots on goal at Notre Dame, but couldn’t get the goal — and point — they needed to claim the final first-round bye. They had several chances late, but Cal Petersen (who has a .945 save percentage since Jan. 1) robbed Danny O’Regan on a point-blank chance, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson had a redirect that went just wide, and Petersen gloved a Charlie McAvoy shot off a last-second faceoff win. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Fighting Irish.

Further down in the standings, Merrimack beat Vermont 2-0 to complete a weekend sweep and clinch home ice in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs. Freshman Drew Vogler made 26 saves to pick up his first career shutout.

UConn also claimed a home ice spot, beating New Hampshire 5-4 in overtime to complete a sweep of its own. The Huskies overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit, with Joey Ferriss scoring twice and Corey Ronan netting the game-winner 3:08 into overtime.

The Hockey East tournament begins next weekend with best-of-3 first-round series. Here are the seeds and matchups:

Byes: 1. Boston College, 2. Providence, 3. Notre Dame, 4. UMass-Lowell

12. UMass at 5. Boston University
11. Maine at 6. Northeastern
10. New Hampshire at 7. Merrimack
9. Vermont at 8. UConn

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