BOSTON – To beat the top-ranked team in the country, the University of Maine could not afford lapses.

But defensive mistakes came early as Boston College took a quick lead and defeated the Black Bears 4-1 for the Hockey East championship Saturday night at the TD Garden.

Maine was without the Hockey East player of the year, Spencer Abbott, who was injured Friday night when he was hit in the head by a Boston University defenseman.

Freshman Johnny Gaudreau, the tournament MVP, scored two goals in the first 7½ minutes for BC.

“We got out of the gate a little tentative,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “That made it a tough climb.

“We had some real good moments in the second and the third, but we were just a smidgen off.”

Boston College (29-10-1) won its 15th straight game and became the first team to win three consecutive Hockey East championships. The Eagles have won six of the last eight league titles and 11 overall.

Brian Flynn scored in the second period, briefly closing the Black Bears (23-13-3) within one. BC scored again in the second period and added an empty-netter.

Maine goalie Dan Sullivan made 39 saves.

Both teams now turn their attention to the NCAA tournament next weekend. They will be among 16 teams announced during today’s selection show. BC will be a No. 1 seed at one of the four regionals, while the Black Bears will likely be a No. 3 seed.

“We’ll be playing in a regional for the first time since I’ve been here,” Flynn said. “There will be some of the same pressure. Hopefully we can learn from (Saturday).”

Whitehead said Abbott’s status for the NCAA tournament is up in the air.

“We have to wait and see,” Whitehead said.

Maine swept the Eagles in two games on Jan. 20-21, but Boston College has not lost since. BC switched back to goalie Parker Milner after the Maine series, and he’s been starring between the pipes. He had 41 saves Saturday.

“In the second period, Maine came in surges, and Parker made some incredible saves,” BC Coach Jerry York said.

Maine moved Matt Mangene to the top line to replace Abbott, and the unit had a strong first shift with three shots.

“We came out hard,” Flynn said. “But then we kind of sat back and they made some nice plays.”

Soon, the Eagles were getting free in the Maine zone and creating chances.

Patch Alber sent a puck into the Maine zone, which defenseman Nick Pryor stopped but couldn’t control. It bounced right to Gaudreau, who scored at 5:24.

BC got its first power play on an interference call against Joey Diamond. The Eagles needed only nine seconds to score. One shot was blocked. Sullivan stopped the first shot, but Gaudreau got the loose puck, had space to maneuver and tucked the rebound in at 7:31 for a 2-0 lead.

The Black Bears cut into the deficit at 7:37 of the second period. Diamond centered to Flynn, who roofed a backhander.

But Boston College restored its two-goal lead late in the period, thanks to another good play by Gaudreau. He collected a rebound, skated around the net and fed Pat Mullane for a one-timer at 18:39, putting the Eagles up 3-1.

Barry Almeida scored the empty-netter at 18:59 of the third.

NOTES: Diamond and Maine defenseman Will O’Neill were named to the all-tournament team, joining Milner, Gaudreau and Brian Dumoulin of BC and Alex Chiasson of Boston University.

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: KevinThomasPPH