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BU to host Illinois in NIT

03.17.14 at 8:35 am ET
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Boston University will host Illinois at Agganis Arena in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The seventh-seeded Terriers (24-10), who lost the Patriot League tournament championship game to American, are one of 13 automatic qualifiers in the 32-team field for winning their conference’s regular-season title.

Illinois (19-14) is a 2 seed after finishing tied for eighth in the Big Ten at 7-11.

If BU advances, it would play the winner of Thursday’s game between Clemson and Georgia State.

One other New England team made the field, as Vermont (22-10) is a 7 seed and will play at second-seeded Georgia (19-13) on Wednesday.

SMU is the tournament’s top overall seed. The other No. 1 seeds are Minnesota, Florida State and St. John’s.

Notre Dame knocks off BC in Hockey East quarterfinals; Lowell, UNH also advance

03.16.14 at 6:56 pm ET
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After running away with the Hockey East regular-season title, Boston College saw its conference tournament run end in the quarterfinals on Sunday, as the Eagles suffered a 4-2 loss to Notre Dame in a decisive Game 3.

This is the first time the Eagles have not made it to TD Garden for the conference semifinals since 2004, and it’s the first time in league history that no Boston team has reached the semis. The Fighting Irish, meanwhile, will head to the Garden in their first season in the league. They will take on UMass-Lowell Friday night.

“It’s certainly a very difficult loss for us based on the winner goes to the Garden to play for the Lamoriello Trophy,” said BC coach Jerry York. “It’s something that’s been one of our major goals. The locker room is just crushed. We’re very, very disappointed in the outcome.”

York and the Eagles still have plenty to play for, though. They will be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which gets started in two weeks. York was quick to point out that plenty of teams have reached the national championship game after not playing for their conference championship.

Yale won the national title last year after losing in the ECAC semifinals. In the 2012 national title game, BC met a Ferris State team that had lost in the CCHA quarterfinals. And in 2007, the Eagles lost to a Michigan State team that had gotten bounced in the CCHA semis.

“The most major goal we all have is the national championship,” York said. “You don’t necessarily have to win your league title to win a national championship. It probably happens more often the other way. That’s where our mindset is now. … We have two weeks to prepare for a national championship.”

BC opened the scoring 4:43 into the game when Adam Gilmour picked off a pass in the offensive zone and fed Kevin Hayes for an easy finish. Notre Dame tied it seven minutes later when Stephen Johns threw a backhander on goal that sneaked between Thatcher Demko and the post. The play was originally ruled no-goal, but replay showed the puck clearly crossed the line.

The Irish went up 2-1 a little more than four minutes into the second when Bryan Rust collected a loose puck in the slot and fired it past Demko before the freshman goalie could get set. The Eagles answered four minutes later when Patrick Brown bunted in a rebound for a 5-on-3 goal. Read the rest of this entry »

NCAA tournament: UMass seeded 6th in Midwest, Harvard 12th in East

03.16.14 at 6:48 pm ET
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The good news for UMass is the Minutemen received a 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, higher than expected. The bad news? UMass is one win from a date with perennial powerhouse Duke — in the Blue Devils‘ backyard.

UMass was placed in the Midwest Region will open play Friday in Raleigh, N.C., against the winner of a first-round game between Iowa and Tennessee. If the Minutemen advance, they will play the winner of Friday’s game between third-seeded Duke and 14th-seeded Mercer on Sunday.

Undefeated Wichita State is the top seed in the Midwest Region. Michigan is second. Louisville is a 4 seed, despite coach Rick Pitino‘s expectations of a 1 seed.

Harvard, champion of the Ivy League, is seeded 12th in the East Region and will play fifth-seeded Cincinnati on Thursday in Spokane, Wash. If the Crimson advance, they would play the winner of fourth-seeded Michigan State and 13th-seeded Delaware on Saturday.

Two other New England teams landed in the East Region. Providence is seeded 11th and will play sixth-seeded North Carolina on Friday in San Antonio. The survivor meets the Iowa State-N.C. Central winner on Sunday. UConn is seeded seventh and will play 10th-seeded St. Joseph’s on Thursday in Buffalo, with the victor playing the winner of Villanova-Milwaukee.

Virginia, which won the ACC regular-season title and beat Duke in Sunday’s conference championship game, is the top seed in the East Region. Villanova is seeded second, Iowa State third and Michigan State fourth.

Florida is the top seed in the South and the tournament’s top overall seed, while Arizona is the top seed in the West.

Vermont, Northeastern force Game 3s; Providence completes sweep of Maine

03.15.14 at 11:02 pm ET
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LOWELL — Mario Puskarich buried a rebound 5:36 into overtime to give Vermont a 3-2 win over UMass-Lowell and force a Game 3 in their quarterfinal series. The win not only extended the Catamounts’ Hockey East season, but it also kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive, as they likely would have been on the wrong side of the bubble had they lost.

Vermont opened the scoring with 1:07 left in the first when Jonathan Turk threw a pass to the front that deflected off Lowell defenseman Jake Suter‘s skate and into the net. The River Hawks answered midway through the second when Joseph Pendenza scored on a rebound.

Brendan Bradley gave Vermont a 2-1 lead with a power-play goal 5:53 into the third, but Scott Wilson tied it back up on a breakaway goal less than two minutes later. Lowell outshot Vermont 6-3 in overtime, but Brody Hoffman (36 saves) came up with some key stops. Puskarich ended it when he followed up an H.T. Lenz slapper that led to a juicy rebound.

“It’s a good sign for this hockey club to keep coming back. However, that’s not a recipe for success,” said Lowell coach Norm Bazin. “We know we have to work on playing with a lead and not chasing the game.

“I thought tonight we were better than we were last night. We had plenty of chances to score. Hey, it’s hockey. It’s exciting. It’s a game of bounces at times. We’re looking forward to playing a Game 3.”

For Puskarich, the winning goal was a new highlight in a season full of them. The freshman from Florida leads Hockey East rookies — as well as his team — with 19 goals this season, and he is likely the frontrunner for the conference’s Rookie of the Year award.

“I think we saw things early in practices that told us he was very gifted offensively,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said of Puskarich. “We’ve been very impressed with his attention to detail and learning the defensive side of the game to go along with his offense. He’s become a very complete player in a very short period of time.”

– Northeastern also staved off elimination in overtime, beating New Hampshire 5-4 on a Mike Szmatula goal 3:39 into the extra session. UNH led 4-2 late in the second, but Colton Saucerman cut it to 4-3 with 3:31 left in the period, and Kevin Roy tied it a couple minutes later with his second goal of the game. The game remained tied through the third. Grayson Downing had a goal and an assist for UNH.

– Providence became the first team to punch its ticket to TD Garden for next week’s semifinals, as the Friars beat Maine 4-2 to complete the series sweep. Nick Saracino scored twice and Jon Gillies stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced. Maine’s season is over, while Providence is almost certainly heading to NCAAs for the first time since 2001.

– Earlier in the day, Johnny Gaudreau put up four points as Boston College beat Notre Dame 4-2 to force a Game 3.

– As of 11 p.m., here is how Hockey East looks in the Pairwise:

2. BC
7. Lowell
8. Notre Dame
9. Providence
11. Vermont
12. Northeastern
20. UNH
23. Maine

BC is locked into a one-seed. Lowell, Notre Dame and Providence are all virtual locks to make NCAAs. A win over Lowell on Sunday would just about clinch a spot for Vermont, while a loss would put the Catamounts square on the bubble and have them scoreboard watching next weekend.

Northeastern most likely needs to beat UNH on Sunday. If the Huskies lose, they would still have a chance, but it would probably be less than 50 percent. UNH definitely needs to beat Northeastern on Sunday to have a chance, and it would most likely need to win its semifinal game as well. Maine has no chance.

Johnny Gaudreau leads BC past Notre Dame to force decisive Game 3

03.15.14 at 6:43 pm ET
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They say you need your best players to play their best in big games, and Boston College‘s best players certainly did that Saturday afternoon. Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold combined for three goals and six assists to lead the Eagles to a 4-2 win over Notre Dame, forcing a decisive Game 3 in the rivals’ Hockey East quarterfinal series.

After turning Game 1 into a 7-2 blowout, the Fighting Irish got off to a fast start Saturday, as Bryan Rust scored just 39 seconds into the game. BC answered midway through the period when Gaudreau set up Patrick Brown, and then took the lead with 2:21 left in the first when Hayes set up Gaudreau for a 5-on-3 goal.

The Eagles held onto the one-goal lead through the second, and then put the game out of reach with goals from Hayes and Gaudreau early in the third. Vince Hinostroza cut the lead to 4-2 with just under four minutes to go, but it was too little too late. Game 3 will be Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. (call on 850 AM).

With his first assist of the game, Gaudreau tied Paul Kariya‘s Hockey East record 31-game point streak. And with four points on the day, he now has 32 goals and 37 assists in 36 games this season. The Flames draft pick should be just about a lock to win the Hobey Baker Award.

Score aside, the most encouraging sign for the Eagles Saturday was that they were effective in transition and were able to sustain offensive pressure — two things that had been areas of concern in their last two games against Notre Dame.

Regardless of what happens Sunday, the Eagles are locked into a one-seed for the NCAA tournament. The Irish aren’t 100-percent locks to make NCAAs if they lose, but they should be pretty safe.

UMass eyes at-large NCAA berth after falling in A-10 quarterfinals

03.15.14 at 10:31 am ET
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UMass forward Maxie Esho came off the bench to score a career-high 22 points, but the Minutemen were ousted by George Washington in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic-10 tournament, 85-77, on Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

UMass (24-8), which rallied to beat Rhode Island, 65-61, in Thursday’s second round despite shooting a season-low 31 percent from the field, will await Sunday’s NCAA tournament announcement to determine its fate.

“I feel tremendously confident about it,” guard Chaz Williams told reporters of UMass’ tourney hopes.

Williams had 19 points (16 in the second half) and seven assists for the sixth-seeded Minutemen, who fell behind by nine points at the break. The margin was 16 midway through the second period when UMass embarked on a 10-2 run over the next two minutes to get within 56-48. However, GW used an 8-0 run to regain control.

Patrico Garino scored 15 points for the third-seeded Colonials (24-7), who play 23rd-ranked VCU, the tourney’s second seed, in Saturday’s semifinals.

Notre Dame blows out BC in Game 1; Lowell, Providence, UNH also pick up wins

03.14.14 at 10:34 pm ET
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From the start of December through the end of February, Boston College didn’t lose a single game. Now the Eagles have lost two in a row, both at home against Notre Dame.

After watching Notre Dame snap their 19-game unbeaten streak in the regular-season finale two weekends ago, the Eagles got run out of the building on Friday night, suffering a 7-2 loss in Game 1 of the rivals’ best-of-3 Hockey East quarterfinal series. The Eagles will try to stave off elimination in Game 2 on Saturday (4 p.m., 850 AM).

“We just got beat soundly by a better hockey team tonight,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, and we understand that. Our only objective now is to get the series to Sunday.”

BC opened the scoring with 2:23 left in the first when Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald buried his own rebound on the power play, but Notre Dame answered on a goal from defenseman Stephen Johns with 9.4 seconds left in the period.

Johns, a Blackhawks draft pick, scored again 2:50 into the second to put the Fighting Irish up 2-1. Mario Lucia made it 3-1 before the end of the second, and then the rout was on in the third.

The Irish scored four times in the first 15 minutes of the period, with Peter Schneider netting two of those goals, to turn the game into a laugher. BC scored with 2:18 to go, which was notable only because Johnny Gaudreau picked up the primary assist to extend his point streak to 30 games. He is now one game away from tying Paul Kariya‘s Hockey East record.

“I think it’s our depth. I think we match up really well against them,” Johns said when asked why his team gives BC problems. “When we’re playing all four lines and all six D, we’re a tough team to play against. I think when our forwards are backchecking as hard as they were tonight, allowing the D to have good gaps like we did tonight, it’s almost impossible for a team to come in and gain speed on us and get us off our game.”

– UMass-Lowell scored twice in the final nine minutes of regulation to pick up a 3-2 win over Vermont in Game 1. Evan Campbell tied the game with 8:43 remaining, and Adam Chapie scored the winner with 1:17 to go after a Michael Paliotta penalty gave the River Hawks a late power play. Campbell and Scott Wilson each had a goal and an assist for Lowell, while Brady Shaw scored both goals for Vermont.

Casey DeSmith stopped all 27 shots he faced and Tyler Kelleher scored the game’s lone goal to lead New Hampshire to a 1-0 Game 1 victory over Northeastern. Clay Witt made 34 saves in a losing effort and the Huskies went 0-for-6 on the power play.

Jon Gillies stopped 34 of 35 shots to lead Providence to a 3-1 win over Maine in Game 1. Mark Jankowski registered a goal and an assist for the Friars, while Trevor Mingoia and Derek Army also scored goals. Providence has now beaten the Black Bears three times in the last 15 days, as it closed the regular season with a sweep in Orono.

– As of 10:30 p.m., here is where all these teams rank in the Pairwise (the rankings system used to select the 16-team NCAA tournament field):

2. BC
8. Lowell
9. Notre Dame
10. Providence
14. Vermont
18. Northeastern
20. UNH
23. Maine

BC is locked into a one-seed. Lowell and Notre Dame are virtual locks for the tournament. Providence is pretty close, but could use another win just to make sure. Vermont most likely needs to win at least one more to get in. Northeastern definitely needs to win one more — probably two. UNH and Maine most likely need to win this weekend and then reach the conference championship game.

Report: Steve Donahue will return as Boston College coach

03.14.14 at 8:28 am ET
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Steve Donahue was informed by Boston College athletic director Brad Bates on Thursday that he will return as coach of the Eagles, according to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel.

Donahue, who will be entering the final year of a five-year contract, is coming off a disappointing season. The Eagles, 16-17 a year ago, were expected to contend for an NCAA tournament berth but instead struggled to an 8-24 record, capped by an overtime loss to Georgia Tech in the opening round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday.

The highlight was an overtime win at then-No. 1-ranked Syracuse on Feb. 19.

BC will have seven seniors next season (assuming there are no transfers), and would get a boost with the return of center Dennis Clifford, who missed the large majority of the season. Sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who has said he would consider the NBA draft, appears likely to return as he is not viewed as a lock to be drafted in the first round.

Read More: Steve Donahue,

Boston College’s season ends with OT loss to Georgia Tech

03.12.14 at 10:50 pm ET
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Trae Golden converted a three-point play with 35 seconds left in overtime to help Georgia Tech to a 73-70 overtime victory over Boston College on Wednesday night in a first-round game of the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

Robert Carter Jr. led the 11th-seeded Yellow Jackets (16-16) with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Patrick Heckman scored 21 points for the 14th-seeded Eagles (8-24), and Ryan Anderson had 15 points and 12 rebounds.

BC trailed by 13 points with just over eight minutes left in the second half and by 11 with 5:28 left before rallying, closing regulation on a 12-1 run. Olivier Hanlan (16 points) had a chance to put BC ahead with five seconds left, but he could only make 1-of-2 free throws, forcing the extra session.

George Tech went almost 10 minutes between field goals at the end of regulation and into the final minute of overtime until Golden’s basket while being fouled ended the drought and gave Tech a 69-67 lead.

On BC’s ensuing possession, Anderson missed a hook shot in an attempt to tie the score.

Kammeon Holsey went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 14 seconds to put Tech up by six. Joe Rahon hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for BC.

Georgia Tech advances to play sixth-seeded Clemson in Thursday’s second round.

Boston University falls in Patriot championship game

03.12.14 at 10:35 pm ET
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Boston University’s dominance in its first season in the Patriot League ended Wednesday, as American stifled the Terriers en route to a 55-36 victory Wednesday night in the conference tournament championship game at Agganis Arena.

Darius Gardner scored 18 points for second-seeded American (20-12), which grabbed the league’s automatic NCAA berth. Tony Wroblicky added 15 points and eight rebounds.

Maurice Watson Jr. had 11 points and five assists but also seven turnovers for top-seeded BU (24-10), which will have to settle for an NIT bid. Dom Morris finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.

BU won the league’s regular-season title and cruised into the title game, but American frustrated the hosts with an aggressive 2-3 defense. The Terriers were unable to find the range from long distance — shooting an abysmal 1-for-17 from behind the arc — and finished at 30 percent overall from the field.

American, meanwhile, had no such troubles, shooting 55 percent, including 4-of-9 3-pointers.

The Eagles, who never trailed, led 24-16 after a first half in which BU hit just 6-of-25 shots. Gardner hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the period. The second half was more of the same, with the Terriers unable to put together a run. The Eagles closed the game on an 11-2 run and then celebrated with their fans, who stormed the court.

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