Last night’s Hockey East championship game at TD Garden was a rematch of the 2010 finale, when Boston College beat Maine in overtime and went on to win the NCAA crown.
The Black Bears were hoping to derail the Eagles this time and earn their first conference tournament title since 2004.
Instead, the top-ranked Eagles continued their remarkable roll, beating Maine, 4-1, for their third straight Hockey East championship (11th overall) and 15th straight victory this season.
“I’m very excited,’’ said BC coach Jerry York. “The Lamoriello [Trophy] is something we point toward, and to be successful here in the Garden is a major, major goal for us.’’
BC (29-10-1), a guaranteed No. 1 seed in the NCAA Regionals next weekend (most likely at the Northeast Regional in Worcester on Saturday), will find out its next opponent at noon today when the 16-team field is announced. It seems a certainty that Hockey East will have four representatives, with Maine, Boston University, and UMass-Lowell being the others.
Maine went into the game at a disadvantage because left wing Spencer Abbott, the top scorer in the nation, was unavailable after suffering an undisclosed injury in Friday night’s semifinal victory over BU.
John Parker moved into Abbott’s spot on the top line alongside center Brian Flynn and right wing Joey Diamond.
The Black Bears were impressive at the start, storming BC in the first two minutes with the first four shots of the game. Flynn had a point-blank opportunity from the slot, but BC goalie Parker Milner (41 saves) turned it back.
“There were a couple of surges by Maine, especially in the second period where Parker made some incredible saves to keep it where it was,’’ said York. “Every time they had that surge, Parker would make a . . . from the bench it looked like a surefire goal . . . he would make a save off it.’’
Then freshman phenom Johnny Gaudreau continued his magical season, putting BC on top at 5:24. Defenseman Patch Alber started the play when he fired the puck toward the net from the right point. Maine defenseman Nick Pryor, who was in front of goalie Dan Sullivan (39 saves), tried to get a stick on it to get it out of harm’s way but couldn’t, and Gaudreau collected the rebound and buried it.
The Eagles made it 2-0 on Gaudreau’s 19th tally of the season during a power play. With Diamond taking an interference penalty at 7:22, it took BC just nine seconds to cash in.
Chris Kreider fired a shot from the right point that Sullivan stopped. Pat Mullane got a whack at the rebound in the slot, and it bounced over to Gaudreau, who backhanded in a shot from just outside the right post.
“We’re continuing to get outstanding play from Johnny Gaudreau up front,’’ said York.
Gaudreau was named most valuable player of the tournament with three goals and four assists in four games.
Late in the period, Flynn gave the Black Bears an opportunity to make a dent when he had two bids from just outside the left point during a power play, but Milner held him at bay.
BC outshot Maine, 20-11, in the opening 20 minutes.
Maine (23-13-3) cut the deficit in half when Flynn’s efforts finally paid off. The Black Bears dumped in the puck and Milner went out of the crease to play it. His clearing attempt up the boards didn’t have much on it, and Diamond snagged it along the right hash marks. He swung it across to Flynn in the slot, and Flynn’s backhander eluded Milner at 7:37.
The Eagles scored a potentially backbreaking goal with 1:21 remaining in the period. Senior right wing Paul Carey raced down the right side and sent the puck at the net. It hit the side of the net and bounced in front. Gaudreau collected the puck and backhanded a centering pass to Mullane, who rapped it past Sullivan to restore a two-goal lead.
BC went into the final 20 minutes with a 20-0-1 record when leading after two periods.
Maine had a terrific opportunity to fight its way back with a power play starting at 7:17 of the third, and sophomore left wing Mark Anthoine nearly made it a one-goal game on his tip in front, but Milner made a pad save and BC killed off the remainder of the penalty.
BC left wing Barry Almeida closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 18:59.
“We had our opportunities,’’ said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “To fall behind a strong team like BC, 2-0, that made it a tough climb. But these guys didn’t quit at all. We were just a smidgen off tonight.’’