By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
ALLSTON — Through the first 19 games of the 2011-12 Boston University men’s hockey season, senior captain Chris Connolly did everything a captain of a hockey team should do – everything, that is, except score a goal.
The goal-scoring drought was unfamiliar territory for the senior. Connolly scored exactly 10 goals in each of his previous three seasons as a Terrier, but it has never taken him longer than seven games to net his first of the year. The Duluth, Minn. native has had plenty of chances to score this season as he leads the team in shots on goal (66) and assists (16).
But for some reason, he struggled to find the back of the net on any of his chances, and so with every passing game, the pressure was mounting. It seemed to be anyone’s guess as to when Connolly would finally get that first goal out of the way, but it was an educated guess from Brian Kelley, BU’s senior assistant director of athletic communications, that finally came true.
Before Saturday night’s game, Kelley, who is also the sports information director for the men’s hockey team, told Connolly that his chances of scoring at Harvard looked bright considering Connolly’s past at the rink.
Connolly last played at Harvard’s Bright Hockey Center in his sophomore year when the Terriers beat the Crimson, 6-5, thanks to Connolly’s game-winning goal in overtime. On Saturday, Kelley not only reminded Connolly of his history at the Crimson’s rink; he also predicted that Connolly would score twice in Saturday night’s game.
“Against Harvard, I’ve been fortunate in the past,” Connolly said. “If history told the story, I guess it was my chances were as good as any in the upcoming game so [Kelley] said tonight, he felt tonight was going to be the night.”
True to Kelley’s prediction, Connolly’s drought finally came to an end 16 minutes into the Terriers’ 4-3 overtime win against the Crimson. The goal, which evened the game to a 1-1 score, was exactly what a first goal after a long scoring drought tends to be: a deflection off an Adam Clendening shot from the point.
Connolly at first did not believe his goal Saturday would count. His immediate reaction, he said, was to question, “did that go in?”
“I thought they maybe would call it back or something,” Connolly said. “Just my luck. It felt great. It was like a weight was immediately lifted off my shoulders. I’d call it a gorilla off my back. It wasn’t so much a monkey at this point.”
The gorilla was off his back indeed. Connolly wasted no time getting his second goal of the year out of the way, just as Kelley said he would. The Terriers were trailing Harvard 3-1 in the third when Connolly found a rebound in a sea of skates and banged it home to narrow the BU deficit to 3-2 with slightly over 11 minutes left to play.
“That’s usually how it goes,” said coach Jack Parker of Connolly’s quick route to his second goal. “Once you get the first one, they’ll start going in for him. Hopefully that will be the case.”
Connolly made a bid for a hat trick in overtime. Junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson forced a Harvard turnover in the neutral zone, and Connolly grabbed the puck and raced in on Crimson goaltender Steve Michalek on a 2-on-1 with Chiasson. Connolly drew Michalek out of the net on a shot from the right side, and the rebound bounced out to sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan, who sent the game-winner into a virtually empty net 2:08 into overtime.
Connolly earned an assist on the play, helping himself to a three-point night and moving into second on the team in scoring with 18 points (2 goals, 16 assists). After the game, Connolly gave plenty of credit to his teammates for his goals, but he did send some light-hearted jabs Kelley’s way.
“He kind of called that one,” Connolly admitted, “but he should have said that 10, 15 games earlier.”