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Penner blasts Black Bears into title game

4/9/2004

BOSTON -- Shots came at goalie Jimmy Howard from left and
right, from far and near, and he never lost his cool under the
barrage.

That's why Maine beat Boston College 2-1 Thursday night for a
berth in the NCAA hockey championship game.

"Jimmy's got exceptional concentration,'' Maine coach Tim
Whitehead said. "He appears to be the most composed guy in those
scramble situations.''

The Black Bears (33-7-3) will face Denver (26-12-5) in Saturday
night's championship game. The Pioneers beat Minnesota Duluth 5-3
in Thursday's first semifinal by scoring the last four goals in the
third period.

That's not likely to happen against Howard, who led the nation
with a 1.20 goals against average.

"The goaltender play was the reason our season ended,'' BC
coach Jerry York said. The Eagles were 29-9-4.

Howard stopped 40 shots, including two when BC had a two-man
advantage for 1 minute, 25 seconds in the second period.

"In these types of (low-scoring) games we feel we have to score
some power-play goals and we didn't do that,'' York said.

After Dustin Penner gave the Black Bears a 2-1 lead with his
11th goal of the season 1:05 into the third period, the stingiest
defense in the nation got even tighter.

Howard faced just one weak shot in the last seven minutes, BC's
41st of the game.

"It didn't seem like there were that many,'' he said. "They
didn't get too many shots up close and that says a lot about our
defense.''

Penner thought Howard was being modest, especially the way he
played in the second period, when BC outshot Maine 16-5.

"When you have a guy like Jimmy in net, it's pretty easy to get
through a period like that,'' Penner said.

Penner's goal came on a second chance after his first shot from
about 30 feet was blocked. The puck ricocheted right back to Penner
and he put a 20-footer to the far side of goalie Matti Kaltiainen
with 1:05 gone.

"I was lucky enough to get it back,'' Penner said. "I put all
my strength on the (second) shot.''

It gave Maine its 10th straight win, with the last eight coming
by one goal each, and the Black Bears improved to 3-1 this season
against its Hockey East opponent.

It was an emotional loss for senior Ben Eaves, Patrick's
brother.

"It's going to be tough to leave 25 brothers behind,'' he said,
"and one real brother.''

The low score was no surprise because the two teams had the best
goals-against average in the nation, Maine at 1.60 and BC at 1.93.

Despite outshooting Maine 33-15 through two periods, BC had to
come from behind. The Eagles tied the game 1-1 on Ryan Shannon's
goal at 2:35 of the second period after Maine's Jon Jankus scored
with 32 seconds left in the first.

Jankus took a 25-foot shot from the left that went in between
Kaltiainen's left arm and body for his ninth goal.

Shannon got his 15th goal on a play he began by winning a
faceoff to the left of Howard. Shannon won the draw, then skated to
the net. Howard made the first save with his arm, but the unguarded
Shannon, put the rebound under the goalie's stick.

Howard was right at home in the Maine net at the FleetCenter,
just five miles from BC's campus.

In three games in the building, including two in the Hockey East
tournament, he saved 123 of 125 shots.

Now he has another game -- the biggest of his career -- in the
same building. That will end a season that he began with a 4-0 win
over two-time defending champion Minnesota.

Denver has won five NCAA championships, the last back in 1969.
Maine has been in four finals, winning in 1993 and 1999. In 2002,
it lost 4-3 in overtime to Minnesota.