BOSTON – The University of Maine’s hockey team has won with goaltending, defense and timely goals all season.
It was the same on Thursday night.
Sophomore goalie Jimmy Howard made 40 saves, his teammates protected the front of the net and junior right winger Dustin Penner broke a 1-1 tie early in the third period as the Black Bears edged Boston College in their Frozen Four semifinal at the FleetCenter.
Maine, which extended its winning streak to 10 games including eight straight one-goal triumphs, will take a 33-7-3 record into Saturday 7 p.m. championship game against 26-12-5 Denver, which rallied from a 3-1 deficit with four third-period goals to beat Minnesota-Duluth 5-3.
Boston College concluded a 29-9-4 season.
“I knew going to the bus it was going to be one of these [special] nights,” said Howard, who made 18 Grade-A [high-percentage] saves and considered it among his best performances of the season. “I just tried to play my game.”
“Howard is one of the best goalies in the country positionally,” said BC senior defenseman J.D. Forrest.
“He played an outstanding game,” said BC senior defenseman Brett Peterson.
“Jimmy makes it look so simple,” said Maine sophomore center Jon Jankus. “My brothers [Steve and Chris] are both goalies and they’ve never seen anyone like him. That’s quite a compliment.”
BC senior defenseman Brett Peterson said Howard was “outstanding.”
Jankus had opened the scoring for Maine with 32 seconds left in the first period but Boston College junior center Ryan Shannon equalized 2:35 into the second period.
BC outshot Maine 41-18, including a 33-15 edge over the first two periods but Howard was superb and his mates rebounded from a shaky first period to limit the odd-man rushes and prevent BC from getting many point-blank attempts from the low slot.
BC attempted 59 shots and Maine had 35.
The Eagles had several odd- man rushes in the first period.
Penner scored his first game-winner of the season 1:05 into the third period after Jeff Mushaluk took a shot from the point.
“Jankus one-touched the puck to me in the high slot and I tried to get my shot off quickly,” said Penner whose initial shot was blocked by a diving Ben Eaves. “It came back to me, I think [BC goalie Matti] Kaltiainen was still looking for it and I put it up high and hard.”
Maine held BC to eight shots in the third period and killed off a late Eagle power play. BC went 0-for-7 on the power play after going 5-for-18 over its previous four games. The Eagles had an extended five-on-three in the second period.
“We tried to pressure Patrick Eaves and not let Forrest get off one-timers,” explained Jankus.
“They did a good job,” said Ben Eaves. “They blocked a lot of shots. They sacrificed their bodies.”
“The guys kept the shots to the outside and stayed in the shooting lanes,” said Howard.
Boston College outshot Maine 17-10 in the first period and had the better of the play.
But Howard was sharp and kept the Eagles off the scoreboard.
Jankus scored off a give-and-go with Mike Hamilton. He took a wrist shot from the middle of the left faceoff circle that squeezed through Kaltiainen
“I thought it was a brutal shot,” said Jankus. “I fanned on it. Maybe it fooled the goalie.”
Boston College’s best chance of the first period came with 13:09 left when Dave Spina took a pass from Andrew Alberts and broke in alone on Howard.
He tried to beat Howard to the glove side with a 16-foot wrister but Howard reached out and snared it.
Howard had made a few quality stops in the opening minutes off brothers Ben and Patrick Eaves; an alert save off a Ty Hennes deflection tip and rapid-fire saves off Stephen Gionta and Ryan Murphy.
Shannon tied it early in the second period after winning a faceoff to the left of Howard.
Chris Collins took a quick wrist shot that Howard punched out with his blocker but Shannon beat Derek Damon to the front of the net, pulled the rebound around Howard and swept a backhander just inside the short- side post.
Damon atoned for his missed assignment later in the game when he won several crucial defensive zone faceoffs.
BC generated nine of the first 10 shots on goal in the first half of the middle period and then received a five-on-three power play that spanned 1:25.
Howard made a couple of nice stops, including one on a Patrick Eaves snap shot labeled for the glove side corner. He flashed out the glove and held on.
But the Eagles generated just two shots on goal as Maine defenseman Jeff Mushaluk and freshman center Michel Leveille made important clears.
Later in the period, the Eagles had a great opportunity to take the lead on the power play when a shot deflected to J.D. Forrest with Howard down and out.
But Prestin Ryan saved the day for the Bears by blocking the shot.
“What can you say about Prestin Ryan?,” posed Howard. “He’s like a man among boys out there.”
“I tried to get the shot off quickly but he did a good job coming out and blocking it,” said Forrest.
Kaltiainen finished with 16 stops, including six Grade-A’s..
“The main thing is we found a way to win,” said Jankus. “Getting the first goal was important. We seem to struggle when we give up the first goal.”
Maine is 28-1-1 when it scores the first goal, 5-6-1 when the opponent scores first.
“We may have had 41 shots but they were still pretty stingy,” said Ben Eaves.
“I thank God for the Zamboni coming out at the end of the second period. We would not have been here if it weren’t for that,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “It gave us a chance to regroup and play methodic and smart in the third period. We feel very fortunate.”
“Maine deserves a lot of credit. They are a very difficult team to play against and Jimmy Howard was outstanding in goal,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Their penalty-killing and goaltender’s play were probably the reasons our season ended tonight.”
BLACK BEARS 2, EAGLES 1
Maine (33-7-3) 1 0 1 ? 2
Boston College (29-9-4) 0 1 0 ? 1
First period ? 1. Maine, Jankus 10 (Hamilton, Ryan), 19:28; Penalties: Maine, Deschamps, holding, 9:46; BC, P. Eaves, roughing, 13:25; BC, P. Eaves, roughing, 20:00
Second period ? 2. BC, Shannon 15 (Collins), 2:35; Penalties: Maine, Deschamps, roughing, 3:01; BC, B. Eaves, holding, 3:48; Maine, Moore, roughing, 3:48; Maine, Barnes, tripping, 12:15; Maine, Ryan, high-sticking, 12;50; BC, Forrest, cross-checking, 15:48; Maine, Jackson, holding, 18:18
Third Period ? 3. Maine, Penner 11 (Hamilton, Lundin), 1:05; Penalties: Maine, Mushaluk, holding, 1:36; Maine, Leveille, cross-checking, 14:23
Shots on goal: Maine 10-5-3?18; BC 17-16-8?41
Goaltenders: Maine, Howard (41-40); BC, Kaltiainen (18-16)
Power-play opportunities: Maine 0 of 3; BC 0 of 7