BOSTON (CBS) – Just 43 miles and one hockey game separate two New England schools from a national title.
The Boston University Terriers will take on the Providence College Friars in the National Championship game at TD Garden on Saturday night. BU is vying for their sixth national title while Providence is looking to raise the trophy for the first time. This will be the first time two Hockey East schools will meet in the title game since 1999.
18-year-old Jack Eichel led BU over North Dakota in the semifinal on Thursday night. Eichel got the scoring started in the first period on the power play when Danny O’Regan knocked the puck to Eichel, who backhanded it into an empty net. BU is now 18-0-0 when Eichel finds the back of the net.
After a tense third period for the Terriers, Eichel sealed the win with a long distance empty netter to give BU a 5-3 victory.
With a Beanpot Championship and a Hockey East title already under his belt, Eichel is looking to finish the job during what could be his only season in a Terrier uniform. He is projected to be the first or second pick in the NHL draft this June.
The Terriers benefited from some timely saves by goalie Matt O’Connor on Thursday as North Dakota out-shot BU 39-28. O’Connor’s play this season has put him on the radar of multiple NHL teams interested in signed the undrafted free agent. Beating the North Dakota’s offense, ranked 7th best in the country, certainly adds to the goalie’s impressive resume.
Earlier on Thursday, Providence College dominated the University of Omaha Nebraska, beating the Mavericks 4-1. After a scoreless first period, the Friars finally found a way to get the puck past UNO’s goalie Ryan Massa after 29 shots. The Friars two leading scorers, Noel Acciari and Trevor Mingoia, both tallied a goal in the game.
Providence tends to spread the wealth offensively with seven players recording more than twenty points this season.
A major reason the Friars find themselves in the national championship game is their net minder, South Portland, Maine native, Jon Gillies. Gillies has a 1.98 goals against average and .930 save percentage, and made 25 saves on 26 shots from Omaha on Thursday night.
Competing for a national championship was all part of the plan for Gillies. After a successful 2014 season in which the Friars made the NCAA tournament for the first time in thirteen years, he had the opportunity to sign with the Calgary Flames. After only losing three players to graduation after the 2014 season, Gillies knew that Providence had a team that could compete for a title in 2015. His decision to stay has paid off and he will get his opportunity to give Providence their first national championship on Saturday night.
One New England team will be crowned a champion on Saturday night. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. at TD Garden.