The hottest line in the nation was continued to sizzle Friday night at TD Garden and it helped send No. 3 seed Boston University all the way to the Hockey East championship game.
Junior left wing Matt Nieto, freshmen center Danny O’Regan, and sophomore right wing Evan Rodrigues came in having racked up 73 points, 33 of them goals, in the previous 20 games. All they did in BU’s 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Boston College Friday night was account for four goals and 6 points. O’Regan and Rodrigues each scored twice and Nieto added a pair of assists to send BU to Saturday’s title game against top seed UMass-Lowell.
Nieto has nine goals and 15 points in his last eight outings.
“He’s been a very streaky scorer ever since he arrived,’’ said BU coach Jackie Parker, referring to Nieto who has 37 points in 38 contests. “He really struggled in the first semester of his freshman year and the last eight games of his freshman year, he really caught fire and took off. At the beginning of his sophomore year, he was on fire and extended his scoring streak. He’s always been like that. Now he is on the best streak he’s been on.’’
O’Regan has six goals and 15 points in his last 11 contests and Rodrigues also had averaged better than a point a game, with 16 in his last 14 games.
In some interesting scheduling news, Hockey East released the tentative 2013-14 plans as the league expands to 11 teams with the addition of Notre Dame. All schools will make it to the postseason, unlike this year where the top eight qualified.
What is significantly different is the number of conference games. Instead of 27 Hockey East games, each team will play 20 and will have 14 nonconference games. In addition, the league postseason will be played out over three weekends instead of two.
The top five teams will receive a bye while No. 6 will host No. 11, No. 7 will host No. 10 and No. 8 will host No. 9. The next weekend will be best-of-three quarterfinal round with No. 1 hosting the lowest remaining seed and so on. The semifinals and final will be the following weekend at TD Garden.
Adjusting without York
BC coach Jerry York was not in attendance Friday night. He was continuing his recovery at home after eye surgery on Monday. York underwent a surgery to repair a detached retina in his right eye. The procedure was performed by Dr. Jeffrey Heier at Opthalmic Consultants of Boston. York initially had an operation Jan. 10 but he required a follow-up operation just four days later. Associate head coaches Mike Cavanaugh and Greg Brown were behind the bench for the Eagles in York’s absence.
Cavanaugh said because York was sidelined earlier in the year, it made it easier for the players to adapt to not having him there this weekend.
“If we had not gone through it earlier in the year, it probably would’ve been a lot more to handle,’’ he said. “But since we had experienced it with the UNH weekend and with UMass and Northeastern, we had a pretty good idea of how it was going to work and how we handle things.’’
UM-Lowell stays on roll
In the evening’s first semifinal, UMass-Lowell improved to 19-3-1 in its last 23 games with a 2-1 win over Providence . . . The Friars lost for the first time when leading through two periods, ending their 16-game unbeaten streak (14-0-2) . . . Kevin Rooney netted his first collegiate goal in his 29th career game for Providence . . . UMass-Lowell’s freshman netminder Connor Hellebuyck improved his nation-best winning percentage to 89.5 percent and his record is now 17-2-0 . . . UMass-Lowell, looking for its first Hockey East title, will play in its third championship game overall and first since 2009, when it lost to BU, 1-0.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.