There’s only one word for it: heartbreak.
And it’s a word Boston College men’s hockey is acutely familiar with.
At the end of the second period of the Hockey East Tournament semifinals, BC was ahead of UMass Lowell 4-1 and just 20 minutes away from its second straight berth in the final. About two hours and almost three full periods later, Spencer Knight stood devastated in front of his net in disbelief and slowly sank to the ice. The No. 7 River Hawks upset the No. 1 Eagles, eliminating them from the tournament.
In a shocking third-period collapse, Knight and the Eagles gave up four goals, only to have what appeared to be their game-winning overtime goal disallowed. Matt Brown batted the puck out of the air and past Knight in double overtime to send his River Hawks (10-8-1) to the conference final and the Eagles (17-5-1) home.
“We played pretty fundamentally solid through the third period,” head coach Jerry York said in his postgame press conference. “ … We could have been a little tighter, but they weren’t major breakdowns.”
Despite the shock and devastation, mixed with cheers from UMass Lowell’s bench resonating through Conte Forum after Brown’s goal, the game opened like any other—namely the Eagles’ quarterfinal victory last Sunday night.
During 4-on-4 play, Hobey Baker finalist Matt Boldy received a drop pass from linemate Alex Newhook and rifled a stellar cross-ice pass off his backhand to Marshall Warren. Warren put a one-timer past netminder Henry Welsch to give the Eagles the first goal of the night. Coming into the game, the Eagles were 16-2-1 when scoring the first goal.
In the second period, the Eagles’ famed sophomore line truly took over the game. About seven minutes into the frame, Welsch’s worst nightmare became a reality. Newhook came down the ice with the puck on his stick and his two wingers on each side. There wasn’t a single River Hawk defender in sight. Newhook gave it to Boldy, who then passed the puck to Mike Hardman, who finished off the tic-tac-toe play, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Later in the period, the Eagles extended their lead to three goals, just like they did against New Hampshire in the previous round of the playoffs. From behind the net, Hardman completed a pass to Newhook, who wristed a shot past Welsch on the glove side.
Even though it seemed like the game was all but over, if UMass Lowell was going down, it was going down swinging. Just 21 seconds after Newhook’s goal, the River Hawks cut the deficit back to two goals. Anthony Baxter took a shot from distance that uncharacteristically snuck by Knight and into the net.
The looming memory of heartbreaks past returned.
In the final minutes of the second period, Newhook struck again. This time, he received a pass from Boldy at the top of the slot and rocketed another wrist shot past Welsch, giving BC a 4-1 lead at the end of the second period.
In the third period, UMass Lowell seemed to change its gameplan and took over the game. The puck was in the Eagles’ end for most of the period, and the River Hawks fired a barrage of shots at Knight. As a Hobey Baker finalist and Hockey East Goalie of the Year, Knight is typically a brick wall in net, but the River Hawks beat him three times in just a six-minute span.
“We got the best goaltender in the country,” York said.
Even after blowing their big lead, the Eagles had a power play at the end of the third period, and they took advantage immediately. Captain Marc McLaughlin received a pass from Boldy and rifled a shot into the back of the net to give the Eagles the lead again with 2:07 remaining.
But it was a short-lived lead. With an extra Lowell attacker on the ice after pulling Welsch, a Baxter point shot was deflected on its way to the net, and the puck trickled past Knight to tie the game up at 5-5.
“We got no puck luck in the third period,” York said. “[They scored] crazy types of goals that got them back in it.”
After a tumultuous third period, the game headed to overtime.
What made this loss even more crushing was that the Eagles thought they had won the game in the first overtime period. Patrick Giles deflected a Jack St. Ivany shot into the back of the net for what he thought was the victory. The BC bench mobbed Giles in the corner of the ice in elation.
After review, the officials overturned it due to offsides, meaning the Eagles had not won and the game would resume. Apparently, the term “March Madness” doesn’t just apply to basketball.
“We had some really good chances to put the game away in both the first overtime and the second overtime,” York said. “The elation of scoring the OT goal and having it reviewed and called back for offsides [was difficult].”
Brown’s goal in overtime ended the Eagles’ hopes of their first conference title since 2012. But the Eagles aren’t done yet.
“It’s not a season-ending loss for us,” York said. “We have a chance to go to the National Tournament. We’re certainly not going to dwell on this game for too long.”
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics