It wasn’t a win, but it got the job done.
Well, sort of.
The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team tied, 2-2, with the University of Notre Dame on Friday night at Agganis Arena. With the point in hand, the Terriers (19-5-5, 13-3-3 Hockey East) clinched a share of the Hockey East title and gained a first-round bye in the conference playoffs.
Sophomore forward Nick Roberto scored halfway through the second to tie the score at one, and senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues netted his 14th goal of the year early in the third to give BU its first lead of the evening. However, on the strength of a late goal, the Fighting Irish (13-15-5, 8-6-5 Hockey East) forced overtime and eventually a draw.
A bounce here or a rebound there and this game could’ve swung in a different direction. As always, there were positives and negatives, so here’s a closer look at the pluses and minuses:
Defensive corps stands out
When you have five underclassmen manning the blue line, there might the be expectation that there will be a lapse at some point in the game. But for the most part of the season, this young group has risen to the occasion. That didn’t change Friday night.
Just looking at the numbers, it’s fair to say the defense kept BU in the game from start to finish. The blue liners kept the Fighting Irish outside of prime real estate and forced outside shots. By the time the game ended, Notre Dame finished with 19 shots on goal, the second-fewest BU has allowed in a single game this season.
What stood out most for BU head coach David Quinn was the play of freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey. The first-year defenseman again showed his prowess with the stick and body.
“He can really close on people,” Quinn said. “He’s got a great stick, he’s strong. He plays through people not to people, which is important at this level. For a kid 18 years old he certainly has a great grasp of that. But again, I thought in general, I thought we did a good job defending. I thought we did a nice job keeping them on the perimeter.”
Everyone deserves a second chance
We’ve seen some highlight-reel goals this season, mainly from BU’s top line, but when it came down to it tonight, it was plays in the gritty areas that got the Terriers on the board.
Down a goal in the second, freshman center Jack Eichel pushed through near the crease, jamming at a few chances in front of netminder Cal Peterson. Not before long, Roberto came down through the left side of the crease and gave a whack at a loose puck. On a second attempt on the backhand, Roberto drove home just his third goal of the year.
Thirty-one seconds into the third, Rodrigues got his own chance at a second opportunity. Junior winger Danny O’Regan failed to put his shot past Peterson, but a trailing Rodrigues deposited the puck into the the twine.
Fourth line quietly produces chances
Roberto had his name appear on the scoresheet, although his linemates didn’t play all that bad either. Centered by junior Mike Moran and flanked by freshman wing Chase Phelps, the unit hemmed the puck in deep and created some turnovers with a good forecheck.
The line had six shots combined for the night — double the total BU’s first line had. Moran and Phelps had a few good chances in the first period, but Peterson stood tall.
Kudos to this trio. The three of them don’t get the most ice time by a long shot, but they played well when given the chance.
Late goal re-writes ending
With four minutes and 43 seconds to go, the Terriers held a 2-1 lead that appeared pretty safe. The defense had held its own and didn’t give Notre Dame many chances.
It wouldn’t have been much longer until the Fighting Irish would most likely look to pull Peterson for an extra attacker. Sole possession of Hockey East appeared imminent.
But what looked as a benign rush ended up as a game-changer. Freshman Anders Bjork skated the puck through the slot, wristing the puck toward junior goaltender Matt O’Connor. The shot beat him clean, and instead of celebrating with a trophy, the Terriers settled for a tie and share, at least for the night, of the Hockey East Crown.
The ceremony will have to wait another night.
“[Notre Dame gets] a big goal towards the end of the third period there to tie it,” Quinn said. “Give them a lot of credit, I thought they made life difficult for us as coach Jeff’s [Jackson] teams usually do — they got good skill.”
It wasn’t like the Terriers didn’t have chances two points Friday night. BU garnered 36 shots on goal, yet also had chances that either missed the net entirely or were blocked.
The clock dwindled in the third period and BU looked to break the tie. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk fired a shot from the point that careened perfectly for O’Regan to tap in. Instead, he couldn’t get a clean handle of the puck and shot it a mile high of net.
BU’s power play, which has been a strength of this team, also failed to come through, going 0-for-3. Playing a man up in the third, the Terriers recorded only one shot on the advantage and had trouble entering the zone.
“Space was hard to come by, I thought both teams well defensively,” Quinn said. “Both power plays unable to capitalize on their opportunities.”