Colin Wilson's second goal of the night broke a tie and gave the top-seeded Terriers a 5-4 victory over Hockey East rival Vermont on Thursday night in the second Frozen Four semifinal at the Verizon Center in Washington. In the opener, Tommy Wingels scored twice as Miami of Ohio eliminated Bemidji State 4-1 in a battle of underdogs.
The RedHawks and Terriers will face off Saturday night in the championship game.
Wilson, a Hobey Baker Award finalist and Nashville's first-round pick in last June's Entry Draft, was the best player on the ice. He opened the scoring for the Terriers by deflecting Kevin Shattenkirk's shot into the net midway through the first period, then snapped a 4-4 tie with 5:41 left in regulation by winning a faceoff, going to the net and firing the rebound of Chris Higgins' shot past Rob Madore for his team-high 17th goal of the season.
"When it came down to it, we wanted it more," said Wilson, the son of former NHL center Carey Wilson.
Higgins had tied the game with 6:54 remaining when his pass across the crease hit sliding defenseman Drew MacKenzie's stick and trickled into the net. McKenzie had put Vermont ahead at 9:40 with a power-play goal, a point shot that went off the pad of BU goaltender Kieran Millan.
"We know we can score goals," said BU coach Jack Parker, whose team was the only No. 1 seed to avoid a first-round upset in regional play. "I thought the third period was really a great period for us. We had been tied with (Vermont) before, 3-3, and lost both games, 4-3.
"Sure enough, they score to make it 4-3 and I thought that’s where our team came up really big -- not just because they scored the goals, but because of the way they played."
Nobody played better than Wilson, who was a force on every shift.
"I didn’t see where Chris [Higgins] went with the puck; I just went to the net," he said of his game-winner. "Sure enough, the rebound went right onto my tape.
"I didn’t have a thought. It was natural reaction [to shoot] . Afterwards it seeped in that I’d scored a big goal."
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Catamounts, who had a trip to the championship game in their grasp only to see it snatched away.
"We needed to be a little bit better tonight defensively in order to get the job done," coach Kevin Sneddon said. "But that being said, I couldn't be any more proud of our student-athletes and what they've accomplished this season.
"And this certainly stings a little bit, but as I told them in the locker room, they'll be able to look back at this moment in time for the rest of their lives as a very positive experience, and one that they know full well they left it all out there on the ice."
BU (34-6-4) dominated the first period against its Hockey East rival, outshooting the Catamounts 14-7 and skating off with a 2-0 lead on goals by Wilson and Jason Lawrence.
But Vermont (22-12-5), which won two of its three regular-season meetings with the Terriers, regrouped at intermission and scored three goals in a span of 6:09 to take the lead.
Parker called his timeout at that point, and the Terriers appeared to regain their composure, dominating play for the rest of the period and tying the game at 18:39 on Vinny Saponari's power-play goal.
"We were battling hard and thought we had them at the end," MacKenzie said. "But they're a good team. They kept coming."
In the opener, Miami became third CCHA team in as many years to make the title game.
The bigger RedHawks (23-12-5) took command after a scoreless first period, getting goals by Wingels, Alden Hirschfeld and Bill Loupee to take a 3-1 after two. Wingels added an empty-netter late in the third period, and freshman goaltender Cody Reichard made 24 saves.
"Obviously, we got some bounces there in the second period, and we knew Bemidji was going to be tough in the way they play, real aggressive style," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "I thought our guys did a pretty good job of adapting to that and really trying to turn it on them in transition."
It was a disappointing finish for Bemidji State, the 16th and final seed in the tournament, which shocked Notre Dame and Cornell to win its regional and get to its first Frozen Four.
"We got beat by a better team tonight," coach Tom Serratore said. "Miami was strong, they were quick, they reacted well. Every facet of their game was very good. We couldn’t get on track."
Wingels opened the scoring with a power-play goal 3:54 into the second period. He took a pass from Andy Miele and fired a shot from the left point that went through a screen and beat Bemidji goalie Matt Dalton inside the post.
The RedHawks made it 2-0 at 8:35 on the first of three goals scored by both teams in a 2:11 span. Wingels carried down left wing on a 2-on-1 break, deked Beaver defenseman Cody Bostock and fed Hirschfeld, who beat Dalton while falling to the ice.
The Beavers got on the board at 9:45 on Matt Read’s power-play goal. Matt Francis' pass from the slot found Read to the left of the crease, and Read deked Reichard to the ice before sweeping past him and hitting the open net.
But just 61 seconds later, Carter Camper’s shot from the left circle hit Bill Loupee’s stick in the crease, ricocheted off Dalton and trickled into the net to give Miami a 3-1 lead.
"The first shift after a goal is most important," Wingels said. "I thought we came out, got back to our game, chipped pucks deep. I thought we were physical the whole game. After a goal that's one of the things you need to do. Bill came back with a goal shortly after, and it's a big boost to the team."
Wingels' empty-net goal with three minutes to go completed the scoring, sending the Beavers home with a 20-16-1 record.
"They did a good job taking away our speed through the neutral zone," Bemidji State forward Tyler Scofield said. "I don't remember too many times where we had great speed coming into their zone, and we were just having a tough time hitting each other tonight."
So who will win Saturday?
"BU's the team," Sneddon said. "In my opinion, they're the best team in the country -- and have been that way for most of the year."