MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — The No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team has had its fair share of success at TD Garden this season, posting a record of 4-0 while taking both the Beanpot championship and the Hockey East title.
Now, it’ll try to win a national title on Causeway Street.
The Terriers (27-7-5) defeated No. 7 University of Minnesota Duluth, 3-2, Saturday night in the NCAA Northeast Regional final at Verizon Wireless Arena, clinching the Icedogs’ 22nd Frozen Four appearance and their first visit since the 2009.
Facing off against a physical Bulldogs (21-16-3) squad, BU relied on two goals from senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues to help secure its bid back to TD Garden.
As with every game, there was a fair share of good and bad takeaways from BU’s performance out on the ice. Here’s a look:
Terrier depth shines
Looking at the big picture, it appeared that Duluth accomplished its goal of shutting down freshman center Jack Eichel — holding the North Chelmsford native off the scoresheet for the first time since the Beanpot semifinal game against Harvard on Feb. 3.
While Rodrigues picked up the slack on the first line with two tallies in the contest, BU received a big boost throughout the game from its deep roster.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the second period, freshman forwards Chase Phelps and J.J. Piccinich — BU’s fourth-line wingers — created space around the Bulldogs’ net, generating an opportunity for junior forward Matt Lane.
Piccinich dished the puck to Lane, who promptly snuck the puck past Duluth goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo at 3:32 to hand BU a 2-1 lead.
BU’s versatile group of players also came up big on the defensive end, especially after freshman defenseman John MacLeod went down with an injury just about halfway through the game.
BU coach David Quinn was forced to roll out five blueliners for the remainder of the tilt, but scarlet and white D-corps stood firm, keeping the Bulldogs off the board through the final 32 minutes of play.
Somerby leaves his mark
He might not have registered a point over the weekend, but sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby was a huge presence (literally) for the Terriers out on the ice.
While the New York Islanders prospect used his 6-foot-5 frame to impact Saturday’s game — including a bone-crushing hit on UMD forward Tony Cameranesi at center ice in the second period — he also impressed with both his offensive and defensive awareness.
On multiple shifts, Somerby pinched up on the ice, using his size to win puck battles along the boards while keeping the pressure on the Bulldogs. Later, Quinn noted that Somerby was one of the few skaters unfazed when UMD pulled Kaskisuo in the closing minutes of the game.
“He was immense,” Quinn said. “Very active on the forecheck. Did a great job the last 20 seconds with the goalie pulled. You have a tendency when the other team has six and you have five to kind of sit back and watch. We did that when they almost scored. I thought after that, ‘OK, the guy’s got the puck let’s go defend him.’
“Everybody else has to protect, but don’t give him time. He did a great job jumping. The guy had the puck down by the left of our goalie with about eight or nine seconds to go and people were indecisive and Doyle took charge.”
He might have been snubbed from the Hockey East First Team earlier this month, but Evan Rodrigues just keeps producing out on the ice.
The Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Northeast Regional, Rodrigues once again came up big for the Terriers, scoring twice — including the game winning goal with just under 2:30 left in the match.
— Evan Rodrigues (@evanr17) March 29, 2015
For more on Rodrigues’s performance, check out Andrew’s sider.
Terriers falter in middle frame
Coming out of first intermission, it appeared that the Terriers had the Bulldogs right where they wanted them — jumping out to a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
Ultimately, though, Lane’s second-period strike proved to be the one bright part of the stanza, as the Bulldogs out-muscled and out-hustled the Terriers throughout the period. UMD bested BU goaltender Matt O’Connor twice in the period, first off of a slapshot goal from defenseman Willie Raskob just 37 seconds into play to tie the game.
Just under four minutes after Lane’s goal, Duluth capitalized again, with forward Kyle Osterberg firing a wrister from outside the blue line that bounced off O’Connor’s glove and trickled into the Terrier cage, once again knotting the game at two goals a piece. Minnesota outshot the Terriers by a 13-6 margin in the period.
“I wasn’t surprised how that game unfolded,” Quinn said. “It was kind of like a heavyweight fight. We controlled the first few rounds. Almost had a couple of opportunities to deliver a knockout punch. Then they’d come back and dominate for about 10 or 12 minutes. Then we’d come back and dominate for about 10 or 12 minutes.”
Hohmann takes a tumble
Lost in the scrum at BU’s net following the win was senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann, who wiped out while skating out to his teammates. Hohmann was a good sport about it, however, posting a replay of his slip on Twitter.
— Cason Hohmann (@cashohmann) March 29, 2015