Playing with their season on the line in the 2019 Hockey East semifinals at the TD Garden, the Boston University men’s hockey team fell to Northeastern University in overtime, 2-1.
BU head coach Albie O’Connell put it best: “it’s not fun being on the wrong side of it.”
It was a familiar matchup at the Garden, as BU (16-18-4) and Northeastern (26-10-1) had met on February 4 for the Beanpot semifinals. That contest was decided in overtime by a score of 2-1, 53 days before the result would be repeated in Hockey East tournament play.
“We knew that there was a little bit of an incentive there for them,” said Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan, acknowledging the Terriers’ hunt for Beanpot revenge.
The Terriers suffered a major blow in the hours leading up to the game, as freshman forward and leading scorer Joel Farabee was announced unavailable due to a lower-body injury suffered in the final game of the quarterfinal series against the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
“We had a bunch of guys who were pretty dinged up,” O’Connell said.
Despite missing their offensive leader, the Terriers came out on the front foot, gaining the immediate advantage in zone time. Senior forward and co-captain Bobo Carpenter and sophomore forward Shane Bowers both saw Northeastern netminder Cayden Primeau turn away their early attempts.
The Huskies would finally turn things around past the halfway point in the period, maintaining possession in the offensive zone and getting dangerous chances from defensemen Jeremy Davies and Eric Williams.
With the first period winding down, the Terriers regained their rhythm, and nearly broke the game’s deadlock.
On a rebound chance in the slot, sophomore forward Logan Cockerill spun and fired one by Primeau. However, the officials would review the play, ultimately determining that Carpenter had interfered with the Husky keeper on the edge of the crease, nullifying the goal.
With the Terrier tally taken off the board, the teams would return to the locker rooms still level at 0-0.
“They took the play to us a little bit in the first,” recalled Madigan.
Beginning the second period, it was Northeastern who grabbed the majority of the zone time in the period’s opening minutes. The Huskies’ pressure was boosted by the game’s first power play, but the Terrier penalty killers held on to survive the two minutes.
Receiving a power play of their own, BU flipped play to the Northeastern end, and earned an opener that would stay on the board.
As the Husky penalty expired at 7:39, sophomore defenseman David Farrance let go a long drive that fell in front. Picking up the rebound, sophomore forward Ty Amonte caught Primeau sprawling out and roofed the shot to beat the recently-named Hockey East goaltender of the year.
“They’re hard to beat,” said Madigan, who had seen his team concede four consecutive goals to the Terriers in BU’s lone win over Northeastern back in November.
The teams would trade punches on unsuccessful odd-man rushes and well-worked shot opportunities, with the best chance coming for BU junior forward Patrick Harper, who rang the post from close range on the pinpoint feed from Cockerill.
Northeastern turned up the heat late in the period with shots from defenseman Jeremy Davies and forward Tyler Madden, among others. Still, BU junior goalkeeper Jake Oettinger stayed perfect, accumulating 18 saves in the second period compared to 8 in the first.
The frame would come to an end on a scrappy note, with a late scuffle resulting in four-on-four play to conclude the period. The late intensity set up for an exciting final 20 minutes, as the Terriers took a 1-0 lead into the second intermission.
We’ve come a long way as a team,” said O’Connell, referring to BU’s newfound sense of tenacity and unity he had noted after the quarterfinal series in Lowell.
With both teams skating four-on-four to open the third, it did not take Northeastern very long to find their equalizer.
16 seconds into the period, forward Matt Filipe drove in on the backhand, and pulled the puck back to a streaking Madden. The standout freshman did the rest, beating Oettinger just as he had in February to overcome BU in the Beanpot semifinals.
“We’ve excelled in the third period,” Madigan said. “There’s a confidence level.”
With the Husky fans finding their voice and the team sensing an opportunity for a lead, Northeastern nearly grabbed a go-ahead goal at the 13:19 mark.
Crashing the Terrier net, forward Brandon Hawkins could not get through Oettinger, but the puck would slide across the line on the second effort from forward Lincoln Griffin. Upon review, goaltender interference was called once again, this time against Hawkins for the initial net drive.
Gaining a lifeline on the disallowed goal, BU found new energy, coming closest on a rocket from sophomore forward Shane Bowers that glanced off the iron and into the protective netting above Cayden Primeau.
“We had chances to make some plays,” said O’Connell.
The second half of the period would feature porous defense, but masterful goaltending to make up for it. Primeau kept out bids from the likes of Cockerill and Amonte, while Oettinger denied good looks from Huskies such as forwards Grant Jozefek and Zach Solow to counter Primeau.
Back-and-forth play and late power plays for both teams would not be enough to separate the sides, who would require overtime just as they did back in the Beanpot matchup, tied 1-1.
As O’Connell put it simply, “it was a tight game.”
Moving into the extra frame, the Huskies tilted the ice early, but would not find a winner in the first minute like they did in February. The Terrier defense held firm, including an impressive kill of a power play three and a half minutes in.
“I thought our guys played really hard,” O’Connell said.
BU were able to gain opportunities as overtime wore on, with promising chances from Carpenter and Cockerill falling apart in great positions. Freshman forward Matt Quercia would have BU’s best look of the fourth period, jamming away at a resilient Primeau just outside the crease.
“We had some chances that we didn’t capitalize on,” claimed O’Connell.
While the Terriers looked to have taken the upper hand, it was clear that fatigue was becoming a factor. With 4:16 to play in overtime, Northeastern would take advantage.
Holding the puck deep in the left corner, Brandon Hawkins zipped it centrally for Zach Solow. Receiving the pass in the slot, Solow ripped one top shelf, taking Northeastern to the conference title game and pushing BU into the offseason.
“You have to tip your cap to them,” said O’Connell. “They made a play in a critical time of the game.”
The final score was a repeat of BU’s Beanpot defeat at the hands of the Huskies, and also marked the first loss all season for the Terriers when leading after two periods.
As Madigan suggested, “this game could’ve gone either way.”
Northeastern’s win was their program-record 26th of the season. The Huskies will play for a 27th tomorrow when they take on Boston College in the Hockey East final before turning their attention to the national tournament.
“[I’m] thrilled we’re in the championship,” Madigan said.
With the semifinal defeat, the Terriers’ season has come to an end. BU will graduate five skaters: captain Bobo Carpenter, Ryan Cloonan, Max Prawdzik, Shane Switzer, and Max Willman.
“The seniors played really hard,” credited O’Connell.
As the offseason begins, stay tuned for reflection on the 2018-19 season and team updates in anticipation of the 2019-20 campaign right here on the Boston Hockey Blog.