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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

BC clinches top seed in Hockey East, share of regular-season title with win over Lowell

02.26.16 at 10:49 pm ET
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There will be plenty up for grabs on the final night of the regular season Saturday, but one thing is now set: Boston College will be the No. 1 seed in the Hockey East tournament.

The Eagles beat UMass-Lowell 3-1 at Conte Forum Friday night to clinch the top seed and at least a share of the regular-season title. Providence, who beat UMass 4-1 on Friday, could still tie BC in points and claim a share of the regular-season title with a win Saturday and a BC loss, but the Eagles hold the head-to-head tiebreaker that would give them the top seed. BC can win the title outright with a win or tie at Lowell.

The Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 9:28 of the game with goals from Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald and senior captain Teddy Doherty, who was honored along with his classmates during a Senior Night ceremony before the game.

Fitzgerald also scored an empty-netter late in the third and now has a team-high 20 goals and 40 points on the season. He had to do without usual linemate Colin White — who has 39 points on the season — on Friday, as White missed the game with a shoulder injury. BC coach Jerry York said after the game that White will probably miss Saturday’s game as well, but that he hopes to have him back for the playoffs.

Lowell’s Adam Chapie cut BC’s lead to 2-1 with 6:19 left in the first. Then the Eagles seemed intent on giving the River Hawks every opportunity to tie the game, as they gave Lowell seven power plays over the remainder of the game.

Penalties have been an issue for the Eagles pretty much all season (they average the most penalty minutes per game in Hockey East), but it hasn’t hurt them too much thanks to their league-best penalty kill, and that trend continued Friday night. They killed off all seven Lowell power plays and were at their best on back-to-back kills early in the third period.

Perhaps because of his team’s struggles on the man advantage (and this isn’t anything new — the River Hawks are now 4-for-40 on the power play in their last 10 conference games), Lowell coach Norm Bazin decided to pull his goalie to make it 6-on-4 when the River Hawks got their seventh power play with 3:31 left in the game. The risk in doing that, of course, is that it gives the penalty killers a free shot at the open net without having to worry about icing. And that’s exactly how Fitzgerald wound up scoring the goal that sealed BC’s win.

“You have to go with your gut sometimes,” Bazin said when asked about the decision to pull the goalie. “Getting a 6-on-4 is better than 5-on-4. We weren’t generating much 5-on-4. You try something. … I was hoping we could generate more with a two-man advantage.”

For his part, York didn’t sound too concerned about his team taking so many penalties, as he took a lighthearted approach when asked about it.

“We like to practice our PK,” York said. “It gives us a chance to practice PKs and clears and blocking some shots and goalies making saves. It is what it is. We have a penalty, we just have to kill it.”

With the loss, the River Hawks now trail Boston University (who beat Notre Dame 3-2 on Friday) by two points for the fourth and final first-round bye. They can still get that bye with a win over BC on Saturday coupled with a BU loss to Notre Dame, as Lowell wins the tiebreaker over BU, but any other outcome would result in the River Hawks having to play in the opening round and then, should they win that series, go on the road for the quarterfinals.

Providence is locked into the No. 2 seed and Notre Dame clinched a first-round bye thanks to Lowell’s loss. Northeastern is locked into the No. 6 seed, while Merrimack, Vermont, New Hampshire and UConn continue to battle for the final two home-ice spots for the first round. Maine is locked into the 11-seed and will head to Northeastern in the first round, while UMass is locked into the 12-seed and will head to either Lowell or BU in the first round.

Dylan Zink hat trick leads Lowell to big win over BU to force weekend split

02.13.16 at 10:22 pm ET
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LOWELL — Boston University entered Saturday having allowed just 10 goals over its last eight games. That stretch of strong defense and goaltending did not continue Saturday night at the Tsongas Center, as UMass-Lowell smoked the Terriers, 6-3, to earn a weekend split as both teams continue to battle for home ice and a first-round bye in the Hockey East playoffs.

Friday night’€™s series opener at BU’€™s Agganis Arena played out just about how this series was expected to — good defense, low-scoring, not a ton of great chances. BU wound up winning that game, 2-1, in overtime.

Saturday was nothing like that. The River Hawks consistently forced BU into mistakes, and the Terriers helped the cause with plenty of sloppy defense. Dylan Zink scored Lowell’€™s first three goals to record the first hat trick by a Lowell defenseman in 20 years, and Adam Chapie — who missed Friday’s game due to suspension — scored two goals in nine seconds midway through the second to blow the game open.

Zink’€™s first and third goals both came on plays where he walked in virtually uncovered from the left point and took a pass from down low before scoring. His second came on an offensive-zone faceoff win after no one from BU got out to defend him. Zink now has nine goals on the season, tying for second among Hockey East defensemen. He said after the game that he couldn’€™t even remember the last time he had a hat trick.

“I don’€™t think since like squirts or something,” Zink said. “€œIt’€™s definitely something you’€™ll remember. I have to give a lot of credit on those first two goals to net-front presence. The goalie couldn’€™t even see it.”

BU’€™s defensive struggles continued with Chapie’€™s two goals. The first came after a miscommunication between BU goalie Connor LaCouvee and his defensemen that led to a turnover and an easy finish for Chapie at the left post. Then Lowell won the ensuing faceoff and started a rush up ice, and Chapie easily got behind the BU defense and finished off a nice passing play.

“€œIt just seemed like every mistake we made ended up in our net,”€ said BU coach David Quinn. “We give up a faceoff goal, completely blown coverage, as simple a coverage as you can have in hockey. Third goal’€™s a horrible goalie-D exchange. Fourth goal’€™s a bad turnover. Fifth goal we blow coverage on a backcheck. Looked like we got rattled after they made it four. We just completely abandoned our responsibilities.”

With Saturday’€™s win, the River Hawks maintain their edge over BU for fourth place in Hockey East (and the first-round bye that comes with it). They now have 26 points to BU’€™s 23, although the Terriers have two games in hand. The win was also big for the Pairwise rankings used to determine the 16-team NCAA tournament field, as Lowell — currently 13th — could’€™ve dropped closer toward the bubble with a loss. BU slipped two spots to 10th as 10:15 p.m.

Quinn said he wasn’€™t too worried about his team after Saturday’€™s loss, noting how well BU had been playing defensively over the last few weeks.

“We hadn’€™t given up a lot of goals lately,”€ Quinn said. “We did a good job last night. If this happens again, then I’€™ll be concerned. We’€™ve done a pretty good job of moving past performances like this.”

Lowell, meanwhile, now has two out-of-conference games against a pair of bottom-feeders in American International and UMass before closing out the regular season with a big series against Boston College. Coach Norm Bazin said his team has plenty to work on before that showdown with the Eagles.

“We want to keep improving,” Bazin said. “We have lots of areas we can improve upon, and we hope to do just that.”

UNC coach Roy Williams collapses during close win over BC

02.09.16 at 10:25 pm ET
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Boston College played its best game of the season Tuesday night, pushing ninth-ranked North Carolina to the limit before dropping a 66-63 decision at Conte Forum. Eli Carter led the way for BC with a game-high 26 points, while Dennis Clifford had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

However, the bigger news from the game was longtime UNC coach Roy Williams collapsing during a second-half timeout. A team spokesman said Williams had a bout of vertigo, something the 65-year-old has dealt with in the past but had never affected him in a game.

The incident occurred early in the second half. After the media timeout was called, Williams complained to an official about a call, then fell to the floor just after he got to his team’s huddle. Williams, who was holding his forehead, received immediate attention from the team’s trainer.

After the timeout ended, he was escorted to the locker room, where he remained for the rest of the game. He returned to shake hands afterward, saying he wanted to pay respects to BC coach Jim Christian.

“I felt like it was really important for me to come out and shake Jimmy’s hand,” said Williams, who joked, “I’m alive. I’m kicking.”

“For him to come back out and congratulate our kids on their effort speaks volumes as to why he’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Christian said. “He really wanted to congratulate them. And deservedly so. Anybody who saw this game today saw a lot of heart, a lot of character.”

Assistant coach Steve Robinson took over coaching duties for the Tar Heels, who trailed by seven points with just over seven minutes remaining after a dunk by BC center Dennis Clifford.

UNC (20-4, 9-2) then scored the game’s next eight points, taking a 57-56 lead on the second of two Theo Pinson free throws with just under four minutes left.

Eli Carter hit a 3-pointer for BC (7-17, 0-11) with 2:22 left to give the Eagles their final lead at 60-59. Marcus Paige answered with a 3-pointer (while being fouled, although he missed the free throw) 30 seconds later.

A Matt Millon trey with eight seconds left drew BC within one at 66-65. After two free throws from Paige extended the UNC lead to three, Carter missed a running halfcourt heave at the buzzer.

Justin Jackson scored 20 points off the bench to lead UNC.

For more on the game, click here.

BC tops BU in overtime thriller to win Beanpot

02.08.16 at 10:55 pm ET
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BC won its sixth Beanpot in the last seven years. (WEEI.com)

BC won its sixth Beanpot in the last seven years. (WEEI.com)

The Beanpot may be lacking variety — it’€™s been 23 years since someone other than Boston College or Boston University won — but it’€™s certainly not lacking excitement. For the eighth time in the last 13 years, the Beanpot championship game was decided in overtime. And this one was a classic, as BC took down BU in a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory.

The third-ranked Eagles and seventh-ranked Terriers combined for 67 shots on goal in regulation, but BU’€™s Sean Maguire and BC’€™s Thatcher Demko made one great save after another to keep the game goalless. Maguire made 38 saves in regulation (and 41 in the game), including 23 in the first period alone, while Demko made 30 in the game and twice stayed in after getting banged up.

The game-winning goal came 1:57 into overtime when Alex Tuch cut to the middle on the rush and fired a shot across the grain and through a screen that finally beat Maguire.

Each team had a golden chance to score midway through the third. Right around the 10-minute mark, Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald appeared to have a breakaway for BC, but fellow Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk caught him from behind and made a great play to knock Fitzgerald off the puck without taking a penalty.

Seconds later, BU had a chance at the other end. Jordan Greenway got a step on defenseman Michael Kim and shielded him off enough to get away a shot, but Demko made a great shoulder save. Greenway went down as he took the shot and wound up crashing hard into Demko. Demko was slow to get up, but stayed in the game.

If you just looked at the scoreboard at the end of the first period and saw 0-0, you might conclude that not much happened. And you’€™d be very wrong. For starters, the TD Garden lights went out at the 11:07 mark and the game was delayed 28 minutes before they came back on.

Beyond that, there were lots of quality scoring chances, most of them by BC. The Eagles dominated much of the first period, especially pre-blackout, but Maguire made one great save after another. BC put 23 shots on goal in the first period and 11 of them were from the home plate area.

Maguire made two big saves during a dangerous early-game sequence, first on an Austin Cangelosi rebound bid from right in front and then a few seconds later on a Miles Wood chance from the slot. His biggest save came with 1:50 left in the period when he stoned Wood on a breakaway.

The Terriers put 12 shots on goal in the first period, which only looks like a small number because of BC’€™s 23. Similar to the back-to-back chances by Fitzgerald and Greenway in the third period, Demko’€™s two biggest saves in the first came on BU’€™s counter-rushes after Maguire’€™s biggest saves.

After those back-to-back saves early in the game, BU broke in 2-on-1 the other way, but Demko made a great sprawling save on Danny O’€™Regan. And after Wood’€™s breakaway, Demko made a big save on a hard Charlie McAvoy shot, one that caught Demko up high and temporarily stunned him.

The second period wasn’€™t nearly as exciting. The most notable development was probably BC’€™s struggles on the power play. The Eagles got a pair of man advantages in the first half of the period, but did absolutely nothing with them. BU’€™s penalty kill certainly deserves credit, but the Eagles were sloppy even when they weren’€™t under pressure.

BU also tightened up its five-on-five defense in the second. After allowing 11 shots on goal from the home plate area in the first, the Terriers surrendered just one from that space in the second, as they just did a much better job slowing down BC’€™s rush and keeping the Eagles to the outside. Unfortunately for the Terriers, they didn’€™t create any really great chances at the other end either.

This was the Eagles’€™ sixth Beanpot title in the last seven years, as they had won five in a row before BU ended that streak last year. It was BC’s 20th Beanpot title overall.

BC leading scorer Colin White injured in win over UNH; status for Beanpot final uncertain

02.05.16 at 10:16 pm ET
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Just as it seemed like Boston College was starting to get over all the injuries and illnesses that plagued it throughout much of December and January, the Eagles find their lineup in flux once again with Monday’s Beanpot final again Boston University approaching.

Forwards Miles Wood (26 points in 24 games this season) and Chris Calnan (9 points in 21 games) both missed Friday night’s 4-3 win over New Hampshire with what Jerry York termed “lower-body injuries.”

Then to make matters worse, first-line center and leading scorer Colin White (35 points in 25 games) left Friday’s game in the third period and did not return. York said after the game that White suffered “kind of a sprained wrist.”

York said the statuses of White, Wood and Calnan for Monday night are all uncertain and that he would have to see how the next couple days go.

One minor positive for BC is that Ian Milosz was back in the No. 2 goalie role behind Thatcher Demko Friday night. The Eagles had to add student manager Chuck Van Kula (who did play goalie in high school) to the team for Monday’s Beanpot opener against Harvard because all three of their other backups were out.

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