WORCESTER, MA - Junior goaltender - and Northeast Regional MVP - Mike Ayers made 27 saves as New Hampshire advanced to its second consecutive Frozen Four with a 3-0 win against Hockey East rival Boston University on Saturday night at the NCAA Northeast Regional Final in Worcester, Mass.
Much like the Hockey East Championship game two weekends earlier, this game was a showcase for the goaltenders. Both goalies broke school records for saves in a season during tonight's game. Ayers now has 1,080 saves on the season while also extending his school single-season shutout record to seven. The win also moved Ayers into sole possession of the single season win record with his 26th win of the season. Ayers has shut out Boston University in the last three meetings between the schools - a stretch of 194:24 without allowing a Terrier goal.
BU junior netminder Sean Fields made 24 saves to set the Terrier single-season save record with 1,035. Fields also set a BU goaltending record by playing in his 40th game of the season.
Also like the Hockey East title game, this one was a nail biter throughout, but junior captain Patrick Foley scored at 9:12 of the third period to give New Hampshire a 2-0 lead and some much needed insurance.
Off the face-off in the Terrier right wing circle, senior Jim Abbott fed a pass across in front that sophomore Justin Aikins directed on net. Fields made the initial save but the puck fell down to his side in the crease and Foley was able to poke it in for his eighth goal of the season.
Things started badly for UNH when senior Lanny Gare fell awkwardly on the opening shift of the game, separating his shoulder and taking him out of action for the remainder of the night. Sophomore Preston Callander moved into Gare's spot on a line with seniors Colin Hemingway and Josh Prudden.
Callander also took Gare's spot on the power play and his shot gave UNH a 1-0 lead at 13:09 of the first period. But his shot had a little help.
First deflecting off a BU defender, then off the body of Prudden, then bouncing off the back of Fields before finding its way into the net. The goal was credited to Prudden as the last Wildcat to make contact with the puck. It was his ninth goal of the season and his second power-play goal.
BU's best chance in the first also came on the power play when sophomore defenseman Bryan Miller made a great play with the glove to keep the puck in at the line but saw his shot deflect off the crossbar and out of play late in the period.
Entering the second period on the power play, BU got another great chance right away when junior Frantisek Skladany sent fellow junior Mark Mullen in alone on Ayers who made a left pad save.
The Wildcats penalty trouble continued early in the second period, but Ayers made a series of saves to keep BU off the board.
At the other end, Fields key save of the second period was a superb blocker stop of a Steve Saviano shorthanded breakaway.
Fields also came up big early in the third as UNH carried the play early, but Foley's goal proved huge and Ayers shut the door the rest of the way.
Sophomore Sean Collins scored his 21st of the year into an empty net at 18:55 to close out the scoring.
It marks the second consecutive year - and fourth time in the last six years - that UNH has advanced to the Frozen Four.
It was the third time that New Hampshire and Boston University have met in NCAA Tournament play. The Wildcats defeated the Terriers, 4-3 in overtime, in the 1998 East Regional to advance to the Frozen Four. The other previous meeting was in the 1977 third-place game, won by BU, 6-5.
The Wildcats improve to 27-7-6 on the season, while Boston University finishes its season at 25-14-3.
Joining MVP Ayers on the All-Regional Team were forwards Colin Hemingway (UNH), Preston Callander (UNH), and Dominic Moore (Harvard); and defensemen Bryan Miller (BU) and Garrett Stafford (UNH).
UNH will next face the winner of Sunday afternoon's NCAA East Regional final between Cornell and Boston College at the Frozen Four in Buffalo, N.Y. Which semifinal UNH will play in will be announced at a later time, but the game times for the national semifinal games are 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 10.
Both semifinal games will be televised nationally on ESPN2.