BOSTON—Boston University capped off a victorious night for Hockey East as the Terriers held on to defeat North Dakota 5-3 and advance to the national championship game against Providence on Saturday. BU is seeking its first national title since 2009. Here are three thoughts from Thursday’s second semifinal:
1. Request submitted to change name of Frozen Four to “The Jack Eichel Show.”
When BU clinched its spot in the Frozen Four, where it'd be playing in front of a home Boston crowd, it was obvious on whom the spotlight would fall: Jack Eichel. And why wouldn’t it? When the freshman from North Chelmsford, Mass., chose BU over the CHL, it appeared that this was the end goal.
The Hobey Baker finalist wasted no time in making his presence known, getting BU on the board with a power-play goal on a smooth backhand five minutes into the game. It was the 18-year-old’s seventh goal on the man advantage and it brought his season total to 25.
In the second period, seconds after stepping onto the ice, Eichel lasered a cross-ice pass to A.J. Greer for a one-timer that sizzled past North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre.
And when his team was on its heels after a spirited North Dakota comeback, with UND having cut the deficit to one with under a minute to play, Eichel launched one into the empty net from his own end of the ice to punch the Terriers' ticket to Saturday.
Projected as the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft behind Connor McDavid, this is the last opportunity for Eichel to make a big impression before draft day.
2. BU almost let the wheels fly off.
The Terriers carried a commanding 4-1 lead into the third period, and the BU-Providence previews were already half-written when North Dakota caught lightning in a bottle.
The spark came from a gift off the boards and BU goaltender Matt O’Connor, who let the puck slip away and gave Troy Stecher an easy shorthanded goal to make it 4-2. After finishing off the rest of the penalty kill, UND was rolling.
A mental lapse on the bench led to a BU too-many-men penalty which set up a Connor Gaarder goal on the power play, making it a one-goal game with 3:43 left to play.
North Dakota had a 5-on-4 man advantage with McIntyre pulled and had the puck in the offensive zone when Eichel’s final strike bailed out BU.
North Dakota had previously come back from a three-goal deficit on Dec. 5 against Lake Superior State and came oh-so-close to repeating the feat in this one.
3. Hockey East trumps the NCHC.
The NCHC had six members earn tournament bids this year, with Miami (Ohio), Denver and North Dakota among the favorites for the national championship.
With Boston University’s victory in the second semifinal Thursday and Providence’s win over Nebraska-Omaha, Hockey East teams went 5-1 against NCHC foes in the tournament.
Providence had to make its way past three opponents from the power conference, overtaking Miami and Denver before topping Omaha to clinch its spot in the final.
BU narrowly overcame Minnesota-Duluth in the quarterfinals to punch its ticket back to Boston.
Hockey East's lone loss came in the first round when Boston College fell to Denver 5-2. In the five victories, Hockey East teams outscored their NCHC opponents 23-12.
The wins by BU and Providence set up the first all-Hockey East final since 1999. That year, Maine beat New Hampshire 3-2 in overtime in Anaheim.