Want to call it the luck of the Irish? Actually, it was more like the skill and goaltending of the Irish.
Eighth-seeded Notre Dame (23-13-2) generated a pair of goals in the second period — both by senior right wing Bryan Rust — on the way to a 4-2 victory over top-seeded Boston College (26-7-4) in the teams’ third and deciding Hockey East quarterfinal game Sunday afternoon at Conte Forum. Notre Dame advances to the semifinals against UMass-Lowell Friday at TD Garden.
The other semifinal pits Providence against New Hampshire.
For the first time since 1988 neither BC nor Boston University will be competing at the Garden.
High-scoring left wing Johnny Gaudreau saw his point streak end at 31 games, leaving him tied with Maine’s Paul Kariya for the Hockey East record. The Eagles, ranked second in the country, will have an extended break now, waiting until March 23 to find out where and against whom they will be playing in the NCAA regionals the following weekend.
“It was certainly a very difficult loss for us,’’ said coach Jerry York, whose team has lost three of its last four games, all to Notre Dame. “The locker room was just crushed. We’re very disappointed in the outcome. But I thought our team played well. We competed really hard. We had numerous opportunities to score goals. You have to give [ND’s senior goaltender Steven] Summerhays a tremendous amount of credit. He was certainly the difference in the game tonight.’’
BC actually had a lead in this one, striking first at 4:43 of the opening period. The Eagles finished off a tic-tac-toe play with freshman center Adam Gilmour finding senior right wing Kevin Hayes skating in from the right side.
Notre Dame tied it on what initially looked like a harmless fling of the puck by senior defenseman Stephen Johns. But freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko (19 saves) didn’t tightly close his gap against the left post and the puck squeaked through at 11:31.
Rust gave the Irish their first lead at 4:10 of the second. Senior center T.J. Tynan took the initial shot and it caromed off BC junior forward Michael Sit and landed on the stick of Rust, who beat Demko from the right circle.
The Eagles pulled even during a two-man advantage. Hayes took a shot from the right point. Senior center Bill Arnold got a piece of it and Brown popped it in from the edge of the crease at 8:05, making it 2-2.
BC thought it had a third goal at 9:41 when Gaudreau’s shot from the right circle bounced in front and went off Brown and over the shoulder of Summerhays (30 saves). But after a review, it was ruled that Brown committed interference on the play. The goal was waved off and Brown was sent to the penalty box.
Notre Dame closed out the period with its third tally, scoring with just 4.2 seconds remaining. The Irish completed a give and go, with Tynan finding Rust on the right side and Rust shoveled a shot past Demko’s glove.
BC had an opportunity to pull even at 12:33 of the third when senior right wing Mike Voran was whistled off for hooking. But the Eagles couldn’t convert.
Senior left wing Jeff Costello sealed the victory for the Irish at 18:08 of the third period.
The Irish find themselves headed to the semifinals in their first season as a member of Hockey East.
“We had a tough first half and some crazy things happened,’’ said ND coach Jeff Jackson. “It was an adjustment to the league and the conference is so deep. I think we had a lot of surprises. We were in eighth place but 5 points out of second so that tells you about the quality of the conference.’’
Now they can set their sights on the River Hawks, who eliminated Vermont in three games.
“We have a very senior-heavy team,’’ said Rust. “We have 11 seniors on our team so we’ve kind of been through it all. It’s huge for us. It speaks volumes about our program and how far we’ve come. [Lowell] is obviously a really great team. They have a really good goaltender so they are very comparable to us.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.