By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
ALLSTON — It was far from the “complete-game effort” coaches always want to see, but the No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team (13-6-1) pulled off a 4-3 overtime victory against Harvard University (4-6-6) on Saturday on the strength of two third-period goals and sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan’s overtime winner.
Although senior forward Chris Connolly scored his first goal of the season late in the first period – to go with 15 assists on the year – BU was outplayed for most of the first two periods, trailing Harvard 22-14 in shots after 40 minutes.
“We looked way out of sync and they really controlled center ice,” BU coach Jack Parker said of the first two periods. “We had no way to get in their zone. I had to get into my team pretty good at the end of the second period because I thought they were just cruising around out there. [In the third period] we really played much smarter and much harder, and the ice just seemed tilted after we got the second goal. We just really dominated after that.”
The Crimson own the nation’s best power play, with a conversion rate of 34.2 percent, and they lived up to that reputation, scoring on their first two power-play chances. Winger Alex Fallstrom opened the scoring at 3:06 with a redirect on the man-advantage, and after Connolly scored late in the period to tie it at 1, Fallstrom struck again when he drew BU senior goalie Kieran Millan out of the net on an odd-man rush and slid the puck around him.
Then, with nine seconds remaining in the first and sophomore forward Matt Nieto in the box for high-sticking, Harvard stopped a shorthanded BU rush and turned it back the other way, and center Alex Killorn beat Millan to make it 3-1. Millan allowed three goals on nine shots in the first period.
For the next twenty or thirty minutes of play, it looked as if Connolly’s goal might be the only bright spot of the game for BU. The Terriers managed just four shots in the second period and struggled to keep Harvard players from standing in front of Millan, but after looking shaky in the first, Millan rose to the challenge.
“The guy who really won the game for us was our goaltender, because in that second period when it was 3-1, he made three or four 10-bell saves and kept the game within striking distance,” Parker said.
At the end of the second, despite Millan’s play, BU was still down by two goals and having trouble moving the puck through the neutral zone or getting the puck on net through the Harvard defenders, who blocked 11 shots. But when Connolly knocked in a rebound for his second goal midway through the third, the pace of the Terriers’ game changed.
“I think we got scrambling around a little bit. We could see guys running out of position and we just told guys to settle down,” Connolly said of what happened between the second and third periods. “I think being in the same situation we were in last night and realizing we can score three in a period or four or whatever, that we have the firepower to come back and do that, gave us the confidence to know we’re still in the game.”
With less than four minutes left to play, junior center Ben Rosen appeared to push a puck across the goal line behind Harvard goalie Steve Michalek. The play was reviewed, but the officials ruled that the puck did cross the line.
“I talked to the referee and he said it went off one post and over to the other,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said. “He said it went over the line by a millimeter, and I said, ‘Are you sure? It’s a big millimeter.”
That goal, Rosen’s first of the year, sent what had once looked like a certain Harvard victory to overtime. Harvard and BU traded end-to-end rushes for the first two minutes of the extra frame until Chiasson and Connolly broke away on a 2-on-1. Connolly’s intended pass across to Chiasson was poked away by Michalek, but Noonan, trailing the play, was at the top of the crease to knock the rebound into the net for the game-winning goal.
Parker praised Noonan’s play as well as that of fellow sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening, who assisted on all of BU’s goals except the last one. Both had three shots, contributing to the 20 the Terriers put on Michalek in the third period and overtime after struggling in the first and second.
“Coach Donato said it was a tale of two games, and really, it was two-thirds them and one-third us, but we had the best third,” Parker said.