BOSTON — The University of Maine’s freshmen and sophomores have been pivotal in Maine’s turnaround this season but it was a pair of seniors who sent them into tonight’s Hockey East championship game against Boston College.
Senior goalie David Wilson saved a game-tying breakaway by Ross Gaudet with 2:51 remaining in regulation and senior right wing David deKastrozza scored 47 seconds later as the Black Bears beat Boston University 5-2 at the TD Garden Friday night.
Maine, 19-16-3 and winners of three straight, will face 24-10-3 Boston College at 7 p.m. BC shut out Vermont in Friday’s earlier semifinal 3-0.
Maine outshot BU 37-24.
First-period goals by Joey Diamond and Brian Flynn and Robby Dee’s second period goal built a 3-0 lead for the Black Bears but third-period goals by Kevin Shattenkirk and Vinny Saponari pulled BU within 3-2.
Saponari’s goal was awarded after a 10-minute delay to review the goal-mouth scramble and came with just 3:47 left in regulation.
Maine was on the power play but Gaudet was sent in alone only to have Wilson make a stick save.
“I came out and challenged. He threw a couple head fakes at me and I didn’t really fall for them. I just kept my eye on the puck. He had a quick release and I just shifted into it. It was a bottom of the blocker, top of the pad kind of thing,” said Wilson, who was celebrating his 25th birthday.
Moments later, Josh Van Dyk carried the puck up the ice and flipped it over to deKastrozza, who one-timed the bouncing puck and had it glance off Kieran Millan’s stick and up into the short-side corner for a 4-2 Maine lead.
“Van Dyk was coming down the wall. It was a three-on-two and he cut to the middle and he passed to me and I just shot it,” said deKastrozza. “It deflected off his pad and went over his shoulder. It was pretty lucky. The puck was on edge and I just whacked at it. Nothing fancy.”
DeKastrozza called the power-play goal the biggest goal of his career.
Tanner House added an empty-net goal.
Defending national champion Boston University concluded an 18-17-3 season.
Maine freshman right wing Joey Diamond and sophomore left winger Brian Flynn staked Maine to a 2-0 lead with goals 4:32 apart in the first period. Flynn’s goal came on the power play.
Maine outshot BU 18-5 in the first period.
“We knew we wanted to wear them down pretty quick and we did,” said deKastrozza.
“We know they have a skilled team and they have great defensemen who love to step into the play so we wanted to get the puck in deep and forecheck them and that’s what we did,” said Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist.
“One team came out and played at the top of its game and the other didn’t,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Maine played hard and played quick. They came out flying.”
“We weren’t ready for how well they were playing. We didn’t match their intensity,” said BU junior defenseman and captain Kevin Shattenkirk.
“They never let off the gas. They kept coming,” said BU senior defenseman and assistant captain Eric Gryba.
Robby Dee extended the lead at the 7:00 mark of the second period, two minutes after the Black Bears had killed off a two-man disadvantage that lasted 1:01. In the opening seconds of the five-on-three, deKastrozza broke his stick leaving the Bears with defensemen Ryan Hegarty and Mark Nemec and a stickless deKastrozza.
DeKastrozza blocked a shot by extending his right leg and the trio did an exemplary job protecting the front of the net in a triangle.
BU was limited to shots from the point.
Dee rewarded the effort by taking a pass from Nemec and splitting the defense before slicing across the top of the crease and roofing a 10-footer.
BU was in the midst of a line change and one of their defensemen was late getting off the bench.
Maine had a goal disallowed with 9:17 left in the period when it was ruled that Nyquist deflected Hegarty’s point shot with a high stick.
Maine had a couple of other glorious chances to pad the lead but Spencer Abbott and Tanner House both fired high after finding open space down the slot.
The Bears caught a break when Chris Connolly hit the short-side post with a redirection off a pinpoint pass by Shattenkirk. It was a shorthanded two-on-one.
Shattenkirk pulled one back on a four-on-four 1:54 into the third period.
Wilson made an initial save but when Hegarty tried to sweep the puck into the corner, it hit a BU player and deflected across in front to Shattenkirk.
Saponari scored after he followed up his initial shot and pushed the puck in the net through a crowded goalmouth.
Diamond opened the scoring with a terrific individual move. His goal snapped a nine-game goalless drought.
Diamond rose from his knees amidst traffic in the left circle, skated in on Millan, faked a shot and pulled it around the goalie before tucking it in on the backhand.
“Any time you get a goal like that, it gives you momentum. Joey showed a lot of poise,”
Flynn made it 2-0 with a low wrister from the midpoint that snuck through a maze of players and beat Millan five-hole. Flynn and Abbott worked a give-and-go at the point.
Maine’s power play, ranked number one in the nation, went 2-for-8 while BU went 0-for-4.
“To spend a third of the game shorthanded against the nation’s best power play is insanity,” said Parker.