BOSTON – Exactly one month before runners from around the world cross the historic finish line, Boston sports fans traded Boylston for Causeway and pavement for ice as they were treated to an early marathon Friday night at the TD Garden.
After an exhausting and ultimately controversial 112 minutes and 27 seconds, Lowell senior A.J. White scored in the third overtime period to send the UMass Lowell Riverhawks passed Providence and into the Hockey East tournament final where they’ll face Northeastern. It was the ninth-longest game in NCAA Division-1 college hockey history, and the second-longest in Hockey East History.
“A good couple games out there,” said UML head coach Norm Bazin.
At 12:27 of the third extra-frame, Senior Michael Fallon sent a pass across the zone to White, at which point the puck bounced off his skate and passed Providence goaltender Nick Ellis. The goal was immediately waived off by the official, but was overturned after video review.
NCAA rules state that a goal must be disallowed if the scoring player uses a “distinct” kicking motion. And while replays appeared to show White extending his leg and angling his skate to direct the puck towards the net, Lowell was eventually credited with the winning goal.
“I was just trying to corral the puck, and it kinda bounced off my skate,” said White.
The victory puts the Riverhawks in the Hockey East Championship game for the fourth-consecutive year, where they will try to avenge last year’s loss to Boston University.
Providence got the scoring started when senior Nick Saracino assisted freshman Vincent Desharnais’ first collegiate goal at 6:38 of the first period. With just over a minute left in the frame, though, Lowell sophomore C.J. Smith tied the game.
Smith gathered a pass from junior Joe Gambardella, and after a beautiful set of backhand-forehand dekes in the slot, slid the puck through Ellis’ five-hole, tying the score 1-1.
And there the score stayed, for nearly four hours.
The game was not without its fair share of chances, though. After all, Lowell senior goaltender Kevin Boyle made 58 saves on the evening. Ellis was no slouch either, turning away 42 shots by the Riverhawks.
Perhaps the most spectacular save of the night came courtesy of Boyle with just over two minutes remaining in the first overtime.
Providence senior Trevor Mingoia was all alone in front of Lowell’s human barricade, but had the puck swatted away by Boyle as he was switching to his backhand. It was a key moment in a busy night of work for Boyle, the Hockey East co-player of the year with BC goaltender Thatcher Demko.
“I think I drank about six Gatorade bottles throughout the game,” said Boyle.
As the game wore on and fans from the next game, that was scheduled for 8 PM, began to file in, the crowd became split. Lowell and Providence fans were filled with anxiety, while the supporters for Northeastern and Boston College grew increasingly frustrated.
The second game was eventually scheduled for 10:33 PM. For the sake of context, the Boston Bruins dropped the puck in Anaheim against the Ducks at 10 PM.
The officials did their part to move things along, only calling one penalty, a second-period hooking minor on the Friars’ Conor MacPhee, for the entire game.
The fourth-seeded Lowell will now square off against the sixth-seeded Northeastern Huskies for Hockey East supremacy. No team seeded lower than fourth has ever won the conference tournament.
Puck drop is set for 7 PM at the TD Garden.