There were a lot of eyes on Jack Parker when the final horn sounded at TD Garden Saturday night as the Boston University coach finished up 40 years of service.
Although the Terriers played an inspired game against No. 1 seed UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East championship, the River Hawks earned the title with a 1-0 victory.
Parker, who closes his tenure with a record of 897-472-116, said he didn’t dwell on his final appearance at the Garden. But there were fleeting moments when it came up.
“The very first time I thought about it was tonight, that this is my last time in the Garden as a coach, that was after the game was over,’’ said Parker. “I took a walk around before the game because there was nobody in the building and I didn’t want to sit in the dressing room by myself . . . I’m a real Celtics fan so I took a walk around upstairs and looked at all the Celtics memorabilia. Somebody came up to me and said, ‘You took a walk around getting your last tour of duty here?’ It didn’t even dawn on me.’’
Parker said he didn’t want to leave with a loss but joked that there were worse ways to go out.
“I knew how I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to get out alive,’’ said Parker, who turned 68 earlier this month. “So, they’re not carting me out and that’s a good thing at my age.’’
A wanted man
The goal scorer for UMass-Lowell was junior right wing Derek Arnold, who hails from Foxborough. Parker had a conversation with him in the postgame handshake line.
“He said he wished he played for me and I told him I wished he did, too,’’ said Parker. “I’ve known him and his dad and I’ve talked to him a few times in the line during the course of the last couple of years.
“He was supposed to go to another school and the other school reneged on him and he wound up at Lowell. I kept saying to him, ‘I know that other school wishes they had you now.’ He’s a really good kid and a really good player.’’
Where it went wrong
A midseason struggle effectively ruined BU’s chances to get into the NCAA Tournament. Pairings will be announced on Sunday night.
“BC lost [Friday] and they’re going to the national tournament, UNH lost last weekend and they’re going to the national tournament,’’ said Parker. “Ordinarily, we would’ve lost tonight and gone on to the national tournament but it was not to be. I’m happy with these guys and I’m happy with my team. I told them I was proud to be their coach this year. I had a lot of fun with them all year long.
“I was proud of the way they faced adversity in the middle of the season and came back and shook it off and worked as hard as they did. I mentioned I was happy Wade Megan was my last captain because he was a hell of a captain. I’ve been blessed with a lot of those type of guys over my career here. This wasn’t a hug-in-fest or a goodbye-fest, we’ll see each other [at the team banquet].’’
Megan, a senior forward, said it is hard to leave the school with no trophies but it doesn’t mean there isn’t an important legacy left by his class. “I didn’t think I’d be leaving BU without any trophies but the group of guys we had and the senior class this year was pretty amazing,’’ said Megan. “I think what we did leave for this organization, we hopefully showed the freshmen and the younger guys what it means to wear the uniform and what it means to be a BU hockey player. Obviously, we wanted to extend the season for Coach Parker as long as we possibly could. At the end of the day, we played as hard as we possibly could, we left it on the ice. It’s tough to have regrets when you play like we did tonight. We just couldn’t solve their goaltender. That was the bottom line.’’ . . . UMass-Lowell went 4-0-0 against BU this season . . . UMass-Lowell is the 21st No. 1 seed to reach the title game in 29 league championships. No. 1 seeds are now 15-6 in title games. Norm Bazin became the first coach to win in his first championship game appearance since BC’s Jerry York in 1998.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.