By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
There was a sense of excitement in the air Friday at Agganis Arena.
The night started with the Boston University men’s hockey team honoring its four departing seniors, and then a first-intermission ceremony retiring former coach Jack Parker’s No. 6 jersey instilled an energy in the crowd of 5,577 rarely seen this season.
In between, though, came the most important 25 seconds of the night for the Terriers. They scored twice in that span en route to a 4-1 win over No. 9 Northeastern University, the team’s first victory in more than a month and second in the last three months.
This one came with BU playing undermanned. As a result of a violation team rules, freshman Nick Roberto did not dress while sophomores Matt Lane and Mike Moran and senior Jake Moscatel dressed but did not play. Coach David Quinn rolled three lines, and for most of the game — after freshman T.J. Ryan went down hard into the boards during the first — the Terriers had five defensemen.
Sources indicated 4-5 more Terriers will not see the ice Saturday when BU (9-20-4, 4-12-3 Hockey East) and Northeastern (18-11-4, 10-7-2 Hockey East) face off at Matthews Arena.
“I wouldn’t call it immaturity,” Quinn said. “I would call it a college decision. A college student making a bad decision, and all of us in this room have made it. It was nothing big. I still love them. And they’re still staying on the team and we’re moving forward.”
With the win, BU is guaranteed the No. 9 seed in the Hockey East tournament. It will visit the University of Vermont or the University of Notre Dame next weekend for a one-game playoff.
Despite having just 14 skaters, BU killed all five penalties and kept the shots-on-goal margin to a reasonable 32-27 in favor of Northeastern. The Terriers also led in the only category that really matters — goals — with ease.
BU’s scoreless streak, the majority of which came last week during back-to-back shutouts at the hands of Notre Dame, reached 183:19, the longest in program history. Then it came to a screeching halt when the Terriers scored twice in 25 seconds during the first period.
Freshman wing Kevin Duane ended the drought at 10:59 when his centering pass deflected off of a Northeastern defenseman and by Husky netminder Clay Witt. Moments later, sophomore wing Danny O’Regan scored his team-high 10th of the year when he beat Witt five-hole on a shot from the right circle.
“You need some puck luck in this game,” Quinn said. “We won a national championship [in 2009] with some puck luck, let’s not kid ourselves here. This is a sport where the thing isn’t round and you can’t predict which way it bounces. So it’s nice to get a bounce in your favor every now and then.”
Both goalies made a handful of big stops to keep the game close. Witt settled in for a bit, stifling the Terriers’ poor power play (0-for-7), including one close save on a back-door chance for senior captain Garrett Noonan during a BU 5-on-3. Sophomore Sean Maguire stoned Northeastern freshman Mike Szmatula during a one-on-goalie breakaway shortly thereafter.
BU broke through again at the 7:49 mark in the second when freshman center Robbie Baillargeon followed up on O’Regan’s drive to the net with a drive of his own, finishing with a backhanded shot by Witt’s stick side. That goal, assisted by junior Evan Rodrigues, was the one that impressed Quinn the most.
“I just like that line,” Quinn said. “When they’re going, they look like a legitimate first line in college hockey, and I thought they did at times tonight.”
Northeastern struck back while on the penalty kill. Assistant captain Braden Pimm forced a turnover in the neutral zone, went in on a one-on-goalie and deked around Maguire for the easy backhander. It was the 11th shorthanded goal BU gave up this season.
Pimm nearly netted another with 7:09 to go in the third. After the Huskies poked at a loose puck in the crease for several seconds, Maguire — on his back — made a glove save on Pimm’s wraparound bid to keep it a two-goal game.
Sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen scored a shorthanded empty-net goal with 2:35 left to ice it.
The Terriers wrap up their regular season Saturday at Matthews. The game means nothing for them standings-wise, so the only significance it carries comes in the form of intangibles — momentum, self-esteem, feel.
“As a coach, you wonder, was your performance related to the way you played or the way they didn’t play?” Quinn said. “We’ll find out tomorrow night.”