WORCESTER, Mass. — Defending champs never go away easily.

The University of Maine discovered that Saturday night as Minnesota-Duluth rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Black Bears 5-2 in the NCAA Northeast Regionals at the DCU Center.

Maine had all the early momentum and a 2-0 lead in the second period.

But Black Bear mistakes allowed the Bulldogs to rally, scoring two goals by Caleb Herbert and Jake Hendrickson off give-aways within 60 seconds late in the second period to take the lead.

Maine, which got a boost from the return of Hobey Baker finalist Spencer Abbott, finished the season 23-14-3. Minnesota-Duluth (25-9-6), the defending champs and seeded second in the regional, will play top-seeded Boston College at 8 tonight, with the winner advancing to the Frozen Four on April 5 in Tampa, Fla.

The Bulldogs led 3-2 entering the final period, then clamped down defensively, holding the Black Bears to three shots over the final 20 minutes.

Bulldogs forward J.T. Brown scored with 10:45 remaining, a backhander from the low left circle that came off a nice pass from Travis Oleksuk and gave the Bulldogs a 4-2 advantage. Hendrickson scored an empty-net goal with 42 seconds left.

Duluth goalie Kenny Reiter finished with 25 saves, including some huge ones in the first period to keep the Bulldogs within a goal of Maine.

Maine had all the momentum early. And when Matt Mangene scored with 12:50 left in the second, the Black Bears had a 2-0 lead. It was a strange play as Bulldogs forward Caleb Herbert had knocked Maine’s net loose at the other end. But no whistle was blown and play continued.

Mangene took a pass at the blue line on the right wing from Mike Cornell and broke in, shifting to a backhander to beat  Reiter.

It stayed that way until Minnesota-Duluth got a power-play goal with 9:13 left from Jack Connolly.
Then mistakes caught up with the Black Bears.

Duluth’s Herbert stole the puck from Brice O’Connor at the Maine blue line and went in alone. His shot was over the net, but ricocheted off the glass toward the net, hitting Maine goalie Dan Sullivan’s right skate and rolling into the net with 3:32 left in the second.

A minute later, the Bulldogs had the lead.

Abbott, who has been out since suffering a concussion in the Hockey East semifinals against Boston University, was back in the lineup and scored  in the first period.

Taking a pass from Brian Flynn out of the left circle, Abbott settled into the high slot and surveyed the ice in front of him.

Finally, he ripped off a wrister that Reiter never saw, the puck sailing over his shoulder with 2:44 left in the first period.

The Black Bears almost made it 2-0, but Reiter made a stunning sliding pad save on Mangene with 1:30 remaining. Abbott began the play with a low shot from the left circle, the rebound sliding into the slot when Mangene skated in.

He snapped off a shot that Reiter got with his left pad as he slid across.

Boston College 2, Air Force 0: Chris Kreider scored twice and Parker Milner stopped 20 shots to lead top-seeded Boston College to a  win against Air Force in the NCAA Northeast Regional.

The Eagles (30-10-1) are looking to take a familiar route to the Frozen Four and another NCAA championship. Three times in the past 11 years they’ve advanced from Worcester and captured the NCAA title, winning it in 2001, ‘08 and ‘10.

West regional

North Dakota 3, Western Michigan 1: Aaron Dell made 25 saves and North Dakota beat Western Michigan 3-1 on Saturday to advance to the NCAA hockey regional finals.

Minnesota 7, Boston University 3: Jake Hansen scored two goals and Nate Schmidt had two assists, leading Minnesota to a victory over Boston University in the West Regional semifinals.


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