BOSTON, MA-The clock struck midnight. The bus turned to a pumpkin, and the glass skate didn't quite fit. The Cinderella story that was beginning to unfold two weeks ago came to an abrupt end on Friday night, March 19, when the Terrier hockey team lost to the University Maine, 1-0, in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament.
With the loss, the hopes of winning the Hockey East title and earning a bid to the NCAAs ended, as the Terriers' final record of 12-17-9 will not be good enough to earn an at-large bid.
The game's only goal was scored at 7:09 of the third period when the Black Bears' Mike Hamilton one-timed his shot from just to the left of Terrier goalie Sean Fields (Edmonton, ALTA). The shot, which found the upper left corner of the goal, ended Fields' stretch of 112 minutes and 10 seconds during which he had blanked the Black Bears.
"I heard him scream for the puck," said Fields, who finished the game with 31 saves. "He got it off really fast and put it where he had to."
It wasn't until two weeks ago that the Terriers and Cinderella were linked. Playing at the University of New Hampshire, the Terriers were within 2:30 of finishing their season in ninth place in the Hockey East standings. Had that been the case, they would have missed the league's post-season playoffs for the first time in the 20-year history of Hockey East. But, sophomore David Van der Gulik (Abbotsford, BC) beat New Hampshire goalie Mike Ayers, and the Terriers had a 4-3 win and a trip to top-seeded Boston College in the tournament quarterfinals.
The Cinderella story that began in Durham, NH continued in Chestnut Hill where the Terriers won game one, 3-2, lost game two, 4-0, and then finished the upset with a 4-2 victory in the best-of-three series.
Against Maine on Friday night, the Terriers tried valiantly to keep the story alive as they had a number of good scoring opportunities. But, Maine goalie Jimmy Howard, who had set Hockey East regular-season records for the lowest goals against average (1.15) and highest save percentage (.953), denied each Terrier bid.
Through the first two periods, neither team scored as Fields stopped 20 Black Bear shots, while Howard turned aside all 13 Terrier shots.
"The game was played the way we wanted to play, until the third period," said Terrier head coach Jack Parker. "We were back on our heels, and we weren't going to pucks.
"We were more concerned about our areas," the coach continued. "We also made a couple of sloppy passes. Maine really picked it up.
"However, once they scored, we got back on track," said Parker.
When Hamilton finally scored, it ended 47:09 of scoreless hockey, which set a league record for the longest a semifinal tournament game had gone without a goal. The previous record had been 38:57 set in the 1993 tournament game between the Terriers and New Hampshire.
When the clock read 0:00 and the final horn had been sounded, Fields stood in the Terrier crease just looking around.
"I was savoring the moment," said the Terrier goalie who finished his career with more wins (62), more games played (122), more minutes played (7308:13), and more saves (3066) than any goalie in Terrier history. "I realized this was the last game I would play in B.U. colors and I was just trying to remember it all."
Terrier senior captain Mark Mullen (Dorchester, MA) also had a chance to reflect on the season and the past couple of weeks.
"It was pretty inspiring what we did," Mullen said of the team's stretch that began with the overtime win over New Hampshire. "This was probably the toughest season I have ever had. But, in the end, to see how we hung together, and how the coaches and players got together was a great feeling."
"I'm real happy with the way our guys played down the stretch," was how Parker expressed his feelings.