WORCESTER, Mass. – With all of the talk and focus being on Boston College’s veteran top line, it was a freshman defenseman who played the hero on Sunday evening.
First-year defenseman Ian McCoshen, part of the Eagles’ third defensive pairing, scored the game winning goal, breaking a 3-3 tie at 11:16 in the third period to lift Boston College past Hockey East rival UMass-Lowell in the NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey tournament’s Northeast Regional final and punch its ticket to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.
McCoshen’s goal capped a rally by the Eagles that was started by freshman Ryan Fitzgerald shortly after the River Hawks took the lead early in the third period.
“It’s a great way to win the game – two late goals by two young guys,” Boston College head coach Jerry York said.
The Eagles will take on Union College in the first game of their 24th Frozen Four appearance, which ties them with Michigan for the most all-time. Union defeated Providence 3-1 in the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn. The game will take place on April 10 and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The time has yet to be determined.
Boston College will be vying for its sixth national championship and fifth since 2001. The Eagles were crushed by Union in their only other meeting, losing 5-1 in the East Regional last season.
The goal, more of a low slider than a bullet, was the result of a great play by Teddy Doherty, who lured River Hawks goalie Connor Hellebuyck into cheating to his glove side, slid the puck past the crease to McCoshen in the circle and the defenseman was able to slip it under the UMass-Lowell keeper’s right leg pad as he attempted to slide over a second too late.
“Teddy Doherty made a really patient pass to a weak-side defenseman, Ian McCoshen, who had almost an open net,” York said. “Teddy froze Connor [Hellebuyck].”
After a game and a season dominated by the Eagles’ top line, York said it was a bonus to be able to get secondary scoring.
“It’s good to see balance in your scoring, especially for Ian McCoshen to get a goal,” York said. “It’s nice to spread it around, but as long as we get one more goal than our opposition, I’ll be happy with our offense.”
The goal was McCoshen’s fifth of the season and first since Jan. 18 when the Eagles beat Maine 7-2.
With the game tied 2-2 after two periods, UMass-Lowell appeared to snatch momentum, scoring just 43 seconds into the third when Evan Campbell forced a turnover, then snuck the puck under Eagles goalie Thatcher Demko’s pads for a one-goal advantage, the River Hawks’ first of the game.
Fitzgerald answered just 21 seconds later with a backhander in the slot that made its way past Hellebuyck to tie things up again.
“Ryan Fitzgerald made what we call a run to daylight, coming across Connor [Hellebuyck] and was able to beat him on that play,” York said.
Boston College had to overcome a sloppy first period in which they were called for four penalties in the first period, including a Fitzgerald boarding call that resulted in UMass-Lowell’s first goal of the game to knot things up at 1-1 at 18:08.
In the final two periods, however, the Eagles settled down and were not called for another infraction.
Johnny Gaudreau was named the Northeast Regional’s Most Outstanding Player and was one of three Eagles to make the region’s All-Tournament Team along with linemate Kevin Hayes and defenseman Michael Matheson.
“We’ve had some really good players at BC over the years and he certainly is going to be one of those top players. He seems to have a whole new gear when the game produces a hat or a trophy or whatever you want to call it. He kind of rises his game up,” York said. “He’s hard to hit. He’s not very big, but he’s elusive and he really has a good feel for how to play hockey.”
Hayes scored the Eagles’ first goal of the game at 12:57 in the first period on an assist from Gaudreau and Matheson and Hayes and Gaudreau also set up Bill Arnold’s goal late in the second period to put the Boston Globe up 2-1.
The line of Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes compiled an outstanding 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) and a plus-21 rating in the first two rounds of the tournament.
Josh Holmstrom tied the game just over a minute after Arnold put the Eagles ahead, sending the teams into the second intermission tied.
“When you get to this point, you’ve got to play good hockey because you’re going to face good hockey teams,” York said. “I think our team played very, very well and, hey, are we fortunate to come out with a trip to Philadelphia? Absolutely. It easily could have gone the other way tonight.”
Hellebuyck, Joe Pendenza and Christian Folin were the All-Tournament selections for UMass-Lowell.
Boston College returns to the Frozen Four after a one-year hiatus. UMass-Lowell misses out on its chance for a second straight Frozen Four appearance. It marks the third straight year Hockey East has had a representative among the tournament’s final four teams.