Long list of firsts ends BU’s magical season in championship

Danny O'Regan gets knocked down.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Danny O’Regan gets knocked down.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

For the last game of the year, there sure were a lot of firsts occurring Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Boston University men’s hockey team, none of those firsts went its way.

In 19 games where the Terriers held a lead after two periods, the Terriers were winners of all 19.

In five games at TD Garden, BU was undefeated.

In games where the Terriers took at least 50 shots, they never lost.

In title clinching, playoff-elimination and tournament games, BU boasted an unblemished 8-0 record.

In the National Championship Game, those streaks came to a crashing end.

The season that had been filled with many trophy ceremonies, new hats and smiles ended only in heartbreak and disbelief. BU did not win its first championship in six years. Providence College celebrated its first national title. The smiles, trophy and new hats were on the other side.

For a team that seemed to have endless magic, one last miracle never happened.

But even in tough moments throughout Saturday’s final game, it didn’t initially seem like the luck would run out.

Like when BU fell down early 1-0, the Terriers answered back with a quick, albeit unusual, goal from junior winger Ahti Oksanen that snuck in between the post and goaltender Jon Gillies’ right pad. By the smallest of margins, the game was tied.

BU’s first line then came out for a faceoff, won the draw and skated it down the ice, with junior forward Danny O’Regan scoring a goal. In four seconds, the Terriers had taken the lead and set an NCAA Tournament record for fastest consecutive goals. In the blink of an eye, BU was back in control.

Even when forward Mark Jankowski tied things up 4:29 in the second, there was no panic. BU peppered Gillies with 22 shots in the period, finally breaking the tie when senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann wristed one in halfway through the period. That all but ensured a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

It looked as if everything was all coming to fruition, and it would culminate in one last championship. But everything was not as it seemed.

Providence pushed hard, as one would expect, in the opening ticks of the third. Just like they had against University of North Dakota the game before, BU hung on through the initial storm. At the 11:24 mark, though, everything changed.

Defenseman’s Tom Parisi’s simple chip-in from center ice was flubbed by an indecisive junior goaltender Matt O’Connor, and with the unluckiest of plays, the game was tied. The Terriers had overcome weak goals given up by O’Connor before, including one in each of the two previous games. This time that didn’t happen.

Brandon Tanev celebrates his goal.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Tanev celebrates his goal.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Even after a timeout that looked like it might settle the Terriers down, Providence’s Kevin Rooney won a faceoff against freshman center Jack Eichel in the BU zone, winger Brandon Tanev corralled the puck and roofed it high over O’Connor’s left shoulder. With 6:17 left, Providence, not BU, had the lead.

But that’s when BU’s top-six forwards were supposed to step in. That’s when the formidable line of senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues-Eichel-O’Regan was supposed will its way to a tying goal. That’s what happened all season. But it’s not what happened Saturday night.

Rodrigues, who had been so integral to this season’s late run, was held off the score sheet. And although O’Regan and Eichel worked to score BU’s second goal, they were held in check by Rooney’s line. The trio had 11 shots on goal, but none hit twine in the third period.

And in the final push with an extra attacker, Gillies, who had been unshaken throughout the third, left one open opportunity with one minute remaining, one BU had cashed in on time and time again. A diving attempt by both Hohmann and sophomore forward Nick Roberto looked like it would have eyes and head into the gaping net. It looked to be enough to at least force overtime.

Like every other play in the third period, it wasn’t enough. Gillies made a sprawling save, stunning the BU bench. The Terriers wouldn’t get a better chance in the following 60 seconds.

In such a special season, BU came up just short for the first time.

19 thoughts on “Long list of firsts ends BU’s magical season in championship

  1. Still proud to be a BU Terrier fan and proud season ticket holder. I was there in 1995 and 2009 to see them win it all. Was there in 1997 and 2015 to suffer heartbreak. Losing makes us stronger. Boston Strong. We’ll be back. Go Terriers. Scarlet and White Forever.

  2. Great year even with the ending. Nothing to be ashamed of. BU hockey is back where it belongs. Thanks for the great ride.

  3. WOW! what an amazing ride! So sad to see all these comments bashing Oconnor. That kid is going to live with that miscue for life. He was a great goalie for us and I wish him nothing but the best. I agree with both above comments….we are going to be stronger than ever next year and the following years to come. So proud of this turn around!! Til next year….

  4. I just got back from Boston. I was at both games. OC is still an excellent goalie and an even better person. I wish him a Stanley Cup championship … with my Rangers of course!

  5. Feel so bad for O’Connor. However I seemed to notice in the interview after that he seemed more than emotionally drained drained as to one tough game. Playing all the games down the stretch may have been too much for him. He seemed out of game focus in the North Dakota game as he gave up an easy goal there and almost another when he went way out of his crease. And his technique for handling pucks with his glove always seemed off to me. I think we could use a new goalie coach as he is the only hold over from the Parker era. I was proud of the guys playing tough as they did not leave anything out on the ice. Too bad we will be losing about nine guys from this team. Championship games come son infrequently. But still I can’t wait ’till next year.

  6. After following the trials and tribulations of this BU team, (can’t believe what I’m about to say), I have a ton of respect for BC winning the title in three out of five seasons (2008, 2010, 2012). There’s just so much that can go wrong on the path to an NCAA championship. I feel like the holder of a mega-jackpot lottery ticket (with ten numbers), hearing the first nine numbers match my ticket, then missing on the tenth number. As a fan, I was extraordinarily entertained by this BU team. The problem for me was that I got too close … shall we say. I got so emotionally involved that my self-esteem and identity were too tied up with the success of BU Hockey.

  7. A tough ending to a magical season. The youth factor and the tendency to give up soft goals finally caught up to the team. I felt bad for O’ Connor , a great student , who answered all questions after the game. Sad to see Eichel end his B. U. career on the ice , exhausted.I wish him nothing but the best in the N. H. L. It certainly will be different without him.

  8. It’s ironic how many of us were concerned that once we got deep into the playoffs, our demise might have come from falling too far behind and finally not being able to have enough third period magic left in our tanks. What actually happened was that PC did what we had always done in the third period … outscoring us 2-0 in that final period of the season. I sure do hope Eichel stays one more year. As to Walter’s comment … with seniors and early departures, I would expect five or six. Where do you get nine …. just curious?

  9. Well, Evan and Cason are gone..that’s a given. Moccia and Carrabino. That’s 4.
    Danny O – Maybe.
    OC – Yes.
    Eichel – Still think he’s coming back so I’ll say no.
    Might see the departure of non playing kids like Tommy Kelley, Dillon Lawrence and Kevin Duane.
    Matt Grzelcyk – Think he turns pro with The Bruins.
    Be hard pressed to see Matt Lane or Ahti or any others leave. So, I would say about 7-8.

    • Sorry to be so harsh, but In my opinion Eichel is not coming back. He has nothing left to prove and he will be a top six forward and the center piece for the lucky team that drafts him. A once in lifetime player with a great attitude that carried this team to the frozen four. He will be missed, I hope everyone appreciated his talent.

      • You’re not harsh Larry. My opinion is that Eichel may be coming back. Now that he reached the Championship Game and lost, hopefully he has a bitter taste in his mouth and comes back next year to give it one more shot.

        • I hope you are right ! It is my opinion that he has nothing left to prove at the college level. The best career move for growth is the NHL . Although he had a bad experience in Canada at the world juniors and would prefer a team in the U.S.A. I believe that is now a probability with a landing spot in either Buffalo or Arizona.

  10. And yes Glenn to having respect for Boston College. You have to have respect for all those teams and the last two that won it back to back. 2002 – 2003 Minnesota and 2004 – 2005 Denver.

  11. Disappointed in falling short of the ultimate goal, especially in the way things played out in the 3rd. I think the magnitude of the moment may have finally got to them and it affected their ability to execute in such a pressure-filled situation. However, the experience they gained under such circumstances will likely help them rise to the occasion in future crucial situations.

    The pride I have in what this year’s team accomplished far exceeds the hurt I felt watching how hard the guys took the loss. This team’s commitment, effort and pride in representing the University can’t be questioned. They made this one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve ever had following BU Hockey and took major strides towards restoring the shine on the program.

    There will almost certainly be significant roster turnover this offseason. However, the incoming talent next year (and beyond) is more than impressive, not to mention the continued improvement of returning players who will develop into significant contributors. I’m optimistic about BU’s chances of having another very successful season next year, and think they’ll return to the Frozen Four sooner rather than later.

    Lastly, I can’t say enough about Matt O’Connor as a student-athlete. He is a terrific representative of the hockey program and the BU community as a whole.

  12. it has taken me a bit to get over the shock and disappointment of that game.

    i agree with many of the comments on this blog. O’C is a stand up guy. i admire how he answered all those post game questions, and i love the way his coaches and teammates stood by him. plus the fact that he graduated in three years, speaks volumes for his character

    it definitely was, however, a weird set of circumstances for him. three straight ncaa playoff games and three straight gaffes that cost us a goal. is that mental? nerves? technique? i get it once, maybe twice but…. someone posted that it is time for a new goalie coach. not sure how to coach those mistakes
    i hope O’C can overcome this issue, improve his puck handling skills, and fine tune his rebound control so he has a shot at the NHL. that said, i think for him and the team, it is best he move on. personally, i would not want to see him in net for BU next year, always kinda wondering if another snafu would occur at a crucial moment. i will take my chances with mcguire and lacouvee. be careful what you wish for, i know

    finally, i just love Quinny. he talked all year about the team’s “respectful swagger” and i think that stems directly from him. there were many post games quotes by players and coaches, but the one that jumped out at me was when Quinn said, “‘We’ll be back'”. i believe him and can’t wait till next year

    ps: here’s hoping the defections are somewhat minimal

    • I feel bad for O’Conner and hopes he can recover mentally from this most unfortunate mistake. I could not agree more about the three soft goals. He seems to have issues handling the puck and at times being indecisive. However he was the backbone of the team until the last game. I am unsure about next year if Jack (as expected ) leaves. He really carried the team and cannot be replaced. He made every one better and took the pressure off the other lines.

  13. i hear you, Larry. if we could squeeze one more year out of the Eichanator that would be incredible. i heard there is a chance Gryz might return. that would be nice too

  14. Scott McLaughlin @smclaughlin9 · 18h 18 hours ago
    FWIW- I don’t think Matt Grzelcyk has made a final decision on returning to BU vs. signing with B’s, despite a recent headline saying he has

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