BOSTON — University of Maine senior goaltender David Wilson was being consoled by his counterpart, Boston College goalie John Muse, in the hallway following Saturday night’s 7-6 overtime loss to the Eagles in the Hockey East championship game.
Muse told him to “keep your head up” and praised him for his play over the weekend.
Wilson was visibly upset and Muse knows the emotional roller-coaster that goes with being a goaltender.
Four-year backup Wilson had come so agonizingly close to putting the finishing touches on a remarkable story of perseverance only to have BC senior right wing Matt Lombardi ruin the ending by jamming the puck past him 5:25 into overtime.
When Maine starting goalie Scott Darling was suspended before the next-to-last game of the regular season, freshman Shawn Sirman got the nod against UMass but was ineffective and was pulled out of both games, 5-2 and 4-3 losses.
Wilson played well in relief, making 19 saves on 21 shots to earn the start for the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal against UMass Lowell.
His start in game one was his first start in a regular season game since Oct. 10.
He responded with 68 saves on 72 shots in three games as Maine rallied from a first-game loss to advance with 2-0 and 3-2 (overtime) victories.
Then Wilson made 22 saves against Boston University in a 5-2 triumph in the semifinals. One of his saves came off Ross Gaudet’s potential game-tying breakaway with 2:51 remaining.
But Saturday’s championship game was a tough night for both goalies as the teams combined for 13 goals on 66 shots.
There were 68 Grade-A scoring attempts between the two teams with BC holding a 37-31 edge.
Wilson made 19 Grade-A saves among his total of 27 while Muse had 10 among his 26 saves.
But Wilson watched his team overcome three two-goal deficits to force the overtime and wanted desperately to reward them.
“We just came up a little short. The way the guys competed was unbelievable. They kept coming back, down a goal, down two goals. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen,” said Wilson.
“I think our guys deserved a better fate, to be honest. They scored a lot of goals. I thought they should have gotten the win,” said Wilson. “Unfortunately, this was one of the games I really didn’t really step up in and I’m probably going to regret it for the rest of my life.”
Wilson said the Eagles are a difficult opponent because of the way they drive the net as Lombardi did on his game-winner.
“They attacked the net all night and tried to bang the rebounds in and it worked out for them,” said Wilson. “They got a lot of goals tonight and deserved them all. It was all hard work. They all got pucks to the net and they all drove the net.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said, “I’m extremely proud of our student-athletes and how hard they competed and the poise they showed under pressure, starting with David and going all the way through the entire team. They played to win, they never quit and made plays under pressure. They left it all out on the ice.
“Our seniors really inspired us and I’m very proud of the heart they showed,” added Whitehead referring to Wilson, right wings David deKastrozza and Kevin Swallow and center Brett Carriere. Carriere missed the game with a knee injury.
Whitehead noted that his team had some scoring chances in overtime but “whistled a few shots wide.
“BC is dangerous and I’ve been in enough overtimes to know they can go either way and, unfortunately, it went their way,” he added.
Bears are 18th in PairWise
The Black Bears finished 18th in the PairWise Rankings that mimic the NCAA Hockey Committee’s selection process.
There were three teams that finished above them that didn’t get in either: Ferris State, Michigan State and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Two teams below them made the tourney because they won their conference tournament championships and earned the automatic bids: Alabama-Huntsville from College Hockey America and the Rochester Institute of Technology from Atlantic Hockey.
In addition to tournament champion Boston College, which finished fourth in the PairWise, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Vermont will also represent Hockey East in the tournament.
UNH and UVM were tied for 11th in the Pairwise along with Michigan and Alaska (Fairbanks). Michigan won the CCHA title to earn its 20th straight NCAA berth.
Maine’s 1-5 start and 2-6 finish in the regular season proved costly.
Maine’s 0-3-1 record against Boston College was also damaging and the late-season demise of two of the non-conference teams they beat, Michigan State and Colorado College, didn’t help their cause, either.
Michigan State and Colorado College were both ranked in the top 10 at one time or another but neither made the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State went 2-5-2 in its last nine games and Colorado College finished up 2-7. Maine split at home with Michigan State and beat Colorado College 3-2 in the championship game at the Florida College Classic.