Boston College downs UMass Lowell to advance to Frozen Four

By Richard Murray

Ian McCoshen - Boston College

Photo: Boston College defenseman and Florida Panthers prospect Ian McCoshen celebrates with teammates after scoring the eventual winning goal in the Eagles 4-3 victory over UMass Lowell, a win that sends that school to the 2014 Frozen Four (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

A day after Boston College’s top line went off for six goals, it was second-line winger Ryan Fitzgerald and bottom-pairing defenseman Ian McCoshen who were the difference makers.

Fitzgerald and McCoshen’s third period goals lifted the top-seeded Eagles past the second-seeded UMass Lowell River Hawks, 4-3, in the NCAA Northeast Regional Final.

BC will head to Philadelphia for the Frozen Four and will have another crack at Union College, who knocked the Eagles out of the NCAA Tournament just a year ago.

It was only the second time this season that UMass Lowell goalie Connor Hellebuyck allowed more than three goals. The Winnipeg Jets goalie prospect stopped 25 of 29 shots.

This was back and forth affair for the entire game. The River Hawks gained their first lead of the game just 43 seconds into the third-period. Evan Campbell flipped the puck off a defender and into the goal, beating BC goalie Thatcher Demko (29 saves). Luckily for the Eagles, Fitzgerald had the answer.

“As a team we have hit a lot of adversity this year, so when (Campbell scored), we stayed calm,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew what we (needed) to do, executed our game plan and it worked out.

Just 21 seconds after Campbell’s goal, Fitzgerald split the defense and went in one-on-one with River Hawks' goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Fitzgerald made a nifty move to the backhand and slipped the puck through Hellebuyck’s five hole.

“The puck popped out at their blue line,” Fitzgerald said. “I saw some space, so I just tried to hit the hole. I took it to the cage, got a good bounce and it went in.”

Midway through the third period, Kevin Hayes had Hellebuyck beaten but put the puck just wide. Hayes kept the play going, though, and got the puck to Teddy Doherty. He heard McCoshen calling for the puck, and Doherty dished out a tape-to-tape pass. McCoshen fired home the game-winner from the top of the circle, once again beating Hellebuyck five hole.

“Hayes was hanging onto the puck down low and maintaining a good cycle,” McCoshen said. “He passed it off to Teddy, he was about to shoot it but passed it to me. I was fortunate to put it away. We talk about communication and thrive off of that.”

BC’s top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes was far from quiet in this game. The line combined for six points and figured in three of the four Eagles goals.

Midway through the first period, Gaudreau raced down the ice and fed Hayes on a backdoor one-timer. Hellebuyck couldn’t push over and Hayes whacked the puck into the wide open goal.

Before the end of the period, Michael Kapla fired a puck through traffic and it slipped through Demko’s five hole.

Late in the second period, Arnold put BC back on top, wristing one past Hellebuyck from the hash marks following a shot from Gaudreau that was blocked. Less than a minute later, though, River Hawks captain Josh Holmstrom answered.

“Joe Pendenza did a great job getting it out of the corner,” Holmstrom said. “It took a couple of bounces, and I was able to get a stick on it. I snuck it past (Demko).”

Fitzgerald and McCoshen’s third period heroics were the difference makers, though.  UMass Lowell pulled Hellebuyck late to try to tie the game and force overtime, but McCoshen once again stepped up. He was able to get the puck away from the net to the boards, where Kevin Hayes' diving effort forced the puck out of the zone to clinch another trip to the NCAA's Frozen Four for BC.

In high school at Malden Catholic, Fitzgerald was actually linemates with Union forward Mike Vecchoine. It will be the first time the two have ever squared off wearing different uniforms.

“It’s going to be a little weird being on the other side of the ice,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been watching him in the tournament, and I can’t wait to play against him.”

Follow Rich Murray on Twitter via @Richie_Murray