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Bruins prospect Ryan Donato scores twice as Harvard captures 2nd ECAC title in 3 years 03.18.17 at 11:18 pm ET
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Harvard will enter the NCAA tournament as the hottest team in the country. The last time the Crimson lost, Barack Obama was still president.

On Saturday night, the Crimson crushed Cornell, 4-1, to capture their second ECAC tournament title in the last three years and improve to 15-0-1 over their last 16 games. Harvard will be a one-seed in the NCAA tournament and head to either Manchester or Providence next weekend. The selection show is Sunday at noon.

Bruins prospect Ryan Donato, the team’s leading goal-scorer this season, led the way Saturday night. He opened the scoring on a power-play goal with 5:19 left in the first, then scored on the man advantage again midway through the third to make it 4-0.

Between those two goals, Luke Esposito and Michael Floodstrand also scored. Cornell’s lone goal came with 1:17 left in the game, long after the game had been decided.

Lowell hangs on to beat BC and capture 3rd Hockey East championship in 5 years 03.18.17 at 9:41 pm ET
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UMass Lowell captured its third Hockey East title in the last five years Saturday night. (WEEI.com)

UMass Lowell captured its third Hockey East title in the last five years Saturday night. (WEEI.com)

UMass Lowell is back on top of Hockey East. After coming up short in the conference title game each of the previous two seasons, the River Hawks captured their third Hockey East championship in the last five years Saturday night at TD Garden with a 4-3 win over Boston College.

The victory serves as the exclamation point on a remarkable run for a program that was nearly cut just 10 years ago. Since Lowell alum Norm Bazin took over behind the bench in 2011, the River Hawks have made five Hockey East championship games after only reaching two prior to that, they’ve won two regular-season titles after never having won that before, and they reached their first-ever Frozen Four in 2013. Now they’ve won three Hockey East tournaments after never having won it before, and they’re heading to their fifth NCAA tournament in six years after making it just three times pre-Bazin.

Saturday’s championship game looked like it had a chance to be a barn-burner at the first intermission, as Lowell and BC were tied 2-2 after an exciting opening frame. But the River Hawks had other ideas. They took control starting around the middle of the second period, got a two-goal lead before the intermission, and held on to the finish line despite BC’s desperate comeback bid in the third.

After failing to convert on their first two power plays, while also allowing a shorthanded goal, the River Hawks capitalized on their third man advantage at the 10:05 mark of the middle period when John Edwardh followed up a Joe Gambardella shot and flipped the rebound past BC goalie Joseph Woll.

Then Lowell struck again just a minute and a half later when Gambardella settled a puck in the left circle and beat Woll short-side over the shoulder. The Eagles played desperate in the third, as they obviously needed to, and registered 12 of the period’s first 14 shots on goal.

Freshman goalie Tyler Wall made some big saves to maintain the lead (and finished with 38 saves in the game), but BC finally broke through with 2:45 to go when Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald whacked a puck through his legs from the right side of the net that banked off Wall and in.

The Eagles nearly tied the game with 40 seconds to go when Fitzgerald ripped a shot from the point that hit the crossbar and stayed out. That close. But instead of forcing overtime, the Eagles saw their season come to an end, as they are not high enough in the Pairwise rankings to make the NCAA tournament.

Lowell opened the scoring just 1:06 into the game when C.J. Smith collected a bouncing puck in the neutral zone, skated in and sniped the top corner. The River Hawks got a chance to extend the lead a minute later when they went to the power play. They got some good looks and just missed on a couple cross-slot passes that wouldn’t settle, but they couldn’t find a goal.

A minute after Lowell’s man advantage ended, the Eagles went to the power play, and they took advantage just 10 seconds into it when Austin Cangelosi tipped in JD Dudek’s shot from the left point.

The River Hawks started to take a little bit of control through the middle part of the period and nearly made it 2-1 when Michael Kapla rang a shot off the post. They continue to pressure and then did retake the lead at the 12:06 mark when Smith set up Chris Forney for a shot from the point that beat Woll through heavy traffic.

The Eagles had a great chance to tie the game a few minutes later when they ended up with a 5-on-3 for 1:39. They got a couple decent looks, but Lowell managed to get the kill. Then the River Hawks got a power play almost immediately after, and it felt like a major momentum swing was right around the corner.

Instead, things swung in the other direction. BC freshman forward Graham McPhee made a terrific play to poke the puck away from Smith on a breakout, then raced in on a breakaway and beat Tyler Wall on the backhand. It was just the second goal of the season for McPhee, and it was the Eagles’ 11th shorthanded tally of the season, tying them with Harvard for first in the country.

The River Hawks didn’t let the game get away, though. They regrouped at the first intermission and stifled BC in the second while scoring twice themselves. Lowell now waits to find out if it will be a one- or two-seed in the NCAA tournament. That will be decided by other results around the country Saturday night.

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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.

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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.

Read More: Hockey East,
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.

BU, BC, Lowell split Hockey East regular-season title; Harvard wins share of ECAC crown 02.25.17 at 10:43 pm ET
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BU won a share of the Hockey East regular-season title Saturday night. (WEEI.com)

BU won a share of the Hockey East regular-season title Saturday night. (WEEI.com)

For the first time in Hockey East history, three teams will split the regular-season championship. Boston University beat Notre Dame 4-1 at Agganis Arena Saturday night to finish the campaign tied with Boston College and UMass Lowell at the top of the standings.

BC had the clearest path to the title entering the season’s final weekend, but the Eagles got swept by Lowell in a home-and-home series, losing 4-1 in Chestnut Hill Thursday and 3-1 in Lowell Friday. That moved the River Hawks into a tie with BC at 29 points apiece and opened the door for both BU and Notre Dame to get in on the action.

Notre Dame beat BU 3-1 Friday night to move to 28 points, putting the Fighting Irish in position to win the title outright — in their final season in the league — if they could complete the sweep Saturday. BU, sitting at 27 points entering Saturday’s finale, had other ideas.

After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Terriers got a pair of goals from Kieffer Bellows and John MacLeod in the second to take a 2-1 lead. Then they made it 3-1 early in the third when Clayton Keller tipped in Dante Fabbro’s shot from the point. Keller scored again with 3:30 to go on a nice snipe over Cal Petersen’s glove for his team-leading 19th goal of the season.

While BU, BC and Lowell will share the regular-season title and all get to call themselves champions, Lowell will be the top seed for the Hockey East tournament due to tiebreakers, with BU the second seed and BC third. BC also split the regular-season title last year (with Providence), while BU last won the regular-season crown in 2015 and Lowell in 2013.

Those three, along with fourth-seeded Notre Dame, will get first-round byes and host best-of-three quarterfinal series in two weeks. The conference tournament opens next weekend with best-of-three series between seeds five through 12, with the matchups as follows:

(12) UMass at (5) Providence
(11) Maine at (6) Vermont
(10) New Hampshire at (7) Merrimack
(9) UConn at (8) Northeastern

Regardless of what happens in the Hockey East tourney, Lowell and BU are both in good shape when it comes to making NCAAs, as they are currently sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Pairwise rankings used to determine the 16-team field.

Providence is also in a pretty good spot at 11, while Notre Dame is sitting right on the bubble at 15. Vermont, BC and Northeastern are on the outside looking in at 18, 20 and 23, respectively, and each of them probably needs to win the Hockey East tournament to make it. BC, sunk by a poor out-of-conference record and brutal 0-5-2 stretch to close out the regular season, could become the first team to win the Hockey East regular-season title and miss NCAAs.

************************

In the ECAC, Harvard beat St. Lawrence 6-3 Saturday to win a share of the ECAC regular-season championship, its first since 1994. Bruins prospect Ryan Donato scored his team-leading 17th and 18th goals of the season and also had two assists.

Harvard entered the night one point behind Union, but Union tied Cornell Saturday to give the Crimson an opening. Harvard wins the seeding tiebreaker and will be the top seed in the ECAC tournament. It will host a best-of-three quarterfinal series in two weeks.

The Crimson, who have the best winning percentage in the country, are already a lock to make NCAAs and have a great shot at getting one of the four one-seeds, as they are currently third in the Pairwise.

Union, Cornell and St. Lawrence get the other three opening-round byes in the ECAC. The best-of-three first-round matchups are as follows:

(12) Brown at (5) Quinnipiac
(11) Rensselaer at (6) Clarkson
(10) Colgate at (7) Princeton
(9) Dartmouth at (8) Yale

Harvard dominates BU, wins first Beanpot title in 24 years 02.13.17 at 10:09 pm ET
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Harvard celebrates its first Beanpot since 1993. (WEEI.com)

Harvard celebrates its first Beanpot since 1993. (WEEI.com)

Finally. For the first time in 24 years, someone other than Boston University or Boston College has won the Beanpot. Harvard beat BU 6-3 Monday night to capture its first Beanpot title since 1993 and end a drought that was older than all but one player on its current roster.

It was supposed to be a heavyweight bout between two top-five teams, but instead the Crimson dominated all night, minus a brief hiccup early in the second period. The Crimson outshot BU 18-2 in the first period and went on to finish with a 46-17 advantage, as they continuously generated possession, pressure and chances, drawing five power plays, including two extended 5-on-3s, along the way.

The one point in the game when the Terriers showed some life was early in the second period, when they turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals three minutes apart. But the Crimson weren’t deterred. They went right back to work and found themselves in control once again by the second intermission.

Harvard began to reset itself with some good shifts after BU’s second goal, then tied the game with 9:14 left in the second on a beautiful through-the-legs tip by Luke Esposito on a slap pass from Clay Anderson.

The Crimson once again assumed the driver’s seat and regained the lead with 1:06 left in the frame after some sloppy play by BU. Following a bad Terrier turnover in the neutral zone, defenseman John Marino led a rush into the BU zone and dropped a pass for Nathan Krusko. That shot was blocked, but the puck went right to Marino, who then centered a pass that deflected to Krusko for the easy finish and his second goal of the game.

BU’s Dante Fabbro took a penalty on the same play Krusko scored, then Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy took a bad penalty late in the period when he stuck his foot out and tripped Alexander Kerfoot as Kerfoot cut inside him. The Crimson made BU pay, scoring their second 5-on-3 goal of the game 31 seconds into the third. Tyler Moy hit Kerfoot with a cross-crease pass and while Jake Oettinger made a great save on Kerfoot’s first try, Kerfoot was able to jam in the loose puck.

Bruins prospect Ryan Donato made it 5-2 Harvard with 7:13 to go when he made a great play cutting past two BU defenders before beating Oettinger for his 16th goal of the season. Clayton Keller scored his second goal of the game 33 seconds later to cut the lead to 5-3, but that was as close as BU would get. Adam Fox added an empty-netter with 1:50 to go.

The first period set the tone for the game, as it was all Crimson. Harvard outshot the Terriers 18-2 in the frame and out-attempted them 33-4. A big part of that was the fact that the Crimson got three power plays in the period, but they were dominating even before that. Their early pressure forced BU to burn its timeout just 9:05 into the game after back-to-back icings.

Harvard’s power plays all came in a six-minute stretch beginning at the 10:53 mark, including an extended 5-on-3 on which it scored. The Crimson moved the puck well on their first two power plays, but couldn’t score.

Then they caught a break when McAvoy got called for boarding on a clean hit on Donato that only looked bad because Donato was already off balance before the hit. Harvard took advantage when a Sean Malone shot squeaked behind Oettinger just enough for Krusko to scrape the puck off Oettinger and knock it in.

The second period got off to a much more promising start for BU, as Jordan Greenway drew a penalty 52 seconds into the period on a hard drive to the net. The Terriers took advantage of their first power play of the game, as Brandon Hickey found Bobo Carpenter for a redirect in the slot that led to a juicy rebound for Kieffer Bellows to bury.

The Terriers, while still getting nearly quadrupled in shots on goal, then took the lead three minutes later when Keller scored on a pretty deflection of John MacLeod’s shot from the point. But the Crimson weren’t going to let BU hold onto the momentum. What could’ve been a turning point in the Terriers’ favor wound up being just a blip on the radar as Harvard cruised to its 11th Beanpot title and denied BU its 31st.

Hockey East 2016-17 Season Preview: Excellent freshman class could lift BU to title 10.03.16 at 12:17 pm ET
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Clayton Keller was one of four BU players selected in the first round of this year's NHL draft. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Clayton Keller was one of four BU players selected in the first round of this year’s NHL draft. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

The Red Sox are back in the playoffs and Tom Brady is back on the field, but I think I speak for all Boston sports fans when I say that the return we’re most excited about is that of college hockey. No? Whatever. Here’s a Hockey East season preview, power rankings style.

1. Boston University
Before we get into the reasons to be excited about this BU team, it’s worth pointing out that the Terriers actually do lose a lot from last season, including three of their top four forwards and top defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. They lost 53.1 percent of their points, which is the second-highest mark in the league behind only Providence. Now, onto the excitement. The biggest reason so many people, including myself, are picking them to win Hockey East is that they have what is easily the best freshman class in the country. Forwards Clayton Keller (7th overall, Coyotes) and Kieffer Bellows (19th overall, Islanders) and defenseman Dante Fabbro (17th overall, Predators) were all first-round picks this past summer, defenseman Chad Krys (2nd round, Blackhawks) and forward Patrick Harper (5th round, Predators) were also drafted, and goaltender Jake Oettinger is projected to be a first- or second-round pick next summer. (By the way, those freshmen scored nine of BU’s 10 goals in a blowout exhibition win over the University of Prince Edward Island on Saturday.) Fabbro and Krys join four other drafted defensemen on a loaded blue line, with sophomore Charlie McAvoy (1st round, Bruins) and junior Brandon Hickey (3rd round, Flames) leading the way. Up front, look for sophomores Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (2nd round, Bruins) and Jordan Greenway (2nd round, Wild) to set the pace along with Keller and Bellows. The Terriers are clearly the most talented team on paper and they are rightly being considered the favorite to win the league and one of the favorites to win the national championship.

2. UMass Lowell
The River Hawks certainly don’t have the star power of BU, but Norm Bazin’s teams are never loaded with stars and yet they’ve finished in the top four in each of his four seasons behind the bench. With a strong core of returning players, there’s little reason to think anything will change this year. They bring back all six starting defensemen from a unit that was already very good last year, with seniors Dylan Zink and Michael Kapla leading the way and chipping in on offense as well. Up front, the losses of Adam Chapie and A.J. White could hurt, but their top two scorers — junior C.J. Smith and senior Joe Gambardella — are both back. The biggest question will be in goal, where the River Hawks lose Kevin Boyle and his excellent .934 save percentage. But assistant coach Cam Ellsworth is part-wizard when it comes to working with goalies, and this year he’ll have two NHL draft picks at his disposal in freshmen Garrett Metcalf (6th round, Ducks) and Tyler Wall (6th round, Rangers). Sure, this could be the year Lowell doesn’t figure out its goaltending and the team takes a step back, but that seems unlikely.

3. Notre Dame
I’m still not entirely sure why so many Hockey East fans are so eager to get rid of a high-caliber program that brings the league more TV coverage, but they’ll get their wish when the Fighting Irish depart for the Big Ten after this season. Don’t expect them to go quietly, though, because this year’s team looks like an NCAA tournament team that could potentially compete for a league title. Their strength will be on the back end, where they return Sabres draft pick Cal Petersen — whose .927 save percentage is the highest mark among returning goalies — and four starting defensemen, including offensive contributors Jordan Gross and Bobby Nardella. The Irish do lose four double-digit goal-scorers up front, but top point-getters Anders Bjork (5th round, Bruins) and Jake Evans (7th round, Canadiens) are both back, and freshmen Andrew Peeke (2nd round, Blue Jackets) and Cam Morrison (2nd round, Blackhawks) should play key roles right away.

4. Northeastern
Remember that time Northeastern overcame a 1-11-2 start to go 20-1-2 down the stretch and win its first Hockey East title since 1988? That was awesome. Now the Huskies enter the season as the defending league champs and one of the favorites. If there’s one thing we know they’ll do, it’s score. After finishing second in the league in offense last year, they bring back five of their top six scorers in seniors Zach Aston-Reese and John Stevens, juniors Nolan Stevens (5th round, Blues) and Dylan Sikura (6th round, Blackhawks), and sophomore Adam Gaudette (5th round, Canucks), while also adding freshman Matt Filipe (3rd round, Hurricanes) to the mix. There is some uncertainty behind the forwards, though. The Huskies lose four starting defensemen, and while freshmen Ryan Shea (4th round, Blackhawks) and Jeremy Davies (7th round, Devils) will help, the blue line still has to be considered a question mark. In net, sophomore Ryan Ruck was very good for part of Northeastern’s turnaround, but it needs to be noted that he did fall off a bit in the final month and finished the season with a save percentage of just .909. Read the rest of this entry »

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Frozen Fenway to return in January with 4 Hockey East games 06.29.16 at 1:25 pm ET
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Frozen Fenway is returning to Fenway Park with a pair of Hockey East doubleheaders on Jan. 7 and Jan. 14. The first Saturday will feature Boston University vs. UMass and Boston College vs. Providence, while the second weekend pits Maine vs. UConn and Northeastern vs. New Hampshire.

College hockey has previously visited Fenway in 2010, 2012 and 2014. This will be the fourth Frozen Fenway game for BC; third for BU, Northeastern and Maine; second for UMass, Providence and UNH; and first for UConn.

“Hockey East and our schools could not be more excited to take the ice once again at Fenway Park,” said Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna in a statement. “Once Frozen Fenway 2017 is complete all 12 Hockey East schools will have played an outdoor game at Fenway Park, creating once-in-a-lifetime memories for the players, students, alumni and fans.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh also announced a free public skate for Boston residents on the Fenway rink on Monday, Jan. 16. Game times, ticket information and additional Frozen Fenway games and events will be announced in the coming months.

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