In their 2019-20 home opener at Agganis Arena, the Boston University men’s hockey team nearly doubled Northern Michigan University in shots on goal, but could not find a winner in the 4-4 tie on Friday night.
“I thought we played well enough to win, but you have to close the game out,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell, whose team led for much of the contest.
It was a dream start for the visiting Wildcats (1-1-1), who scored just 62 seconds in when junior forward Joseph Nardi knocked in a loose puck from the edge of the crease.
“When you score first…you feel good about how you’re playing,” said NMU head coach Grant Potulny, whose team came to Boston off of a win over Michigan State six days prior.
BU (1-0-1) would respond to the early deficit nearly instantly, when senior forward Patrick Harper whipped home the equalizer on the man advantage.
It was the assistant captain’s first goal of the year, with freshman forward Trevor Zegras providing the feed across the attacking zone, and junior defenseman David Farrance earning the second assist.
“I thought [Harper] really worked hard on both ends,” said O’Connell.
Just three minutes later, Farrance gave BU the lead with a wrist shot from range. It was his second goal in as many games, coming off passes from graduate forward Alex Brink and sophomore forward Jake Wise.
“[I’m] just feeling pretty confident,” said Farrance. He feels he has benefitted from “a little different look on the offensive side of things.”
Farrance would go on to miss the third period due to cramps, according to Coach O’Connell.
With exactly six minutes left in the opening frame, junior forward and assistant captain Logan Cockerill doubled BU’s advantage with a power play tally of his own.
After taking the puck from Wise, freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone uncorked a rocket on net, which Cockerill tipped on its way in. BU’s third goal marked the first of the season for the assistant captain.
Reacting to the two-point game for Jake Wise, who missed the majority of last season with an injury, Coach O’Connell said, “[it] seems like every day he’s getting more confident.”
Having responded well from the early NMU goal, BU headed to the first intermission with a 13 to five shots on net advantage and a two-goal cushion.
“I thought, on balance, we played really well,” said O’Connell after the game.
The second period started and ended with fewer fireworks than the first, but BU did get the period’s lone goal from their captain eight minutes in.
Parked at the back post, senior forward Patrick Curry pounded in his third of the season to make the lead four. The goal was set up by quick passes from Zegras and freshman defenseman Alex Vlasic, whose assist marked his first collegiate point.
“He’s been rewarded for his hard work,” O’Connell said of Curry, the team’s leading scorer.
The period would be halted several times due to official’s timeouts, but when the clock finally hit zeros, the Terriers had a 4-1 lead and a 27-10 advantage in shots on goal.
About the frequent delays that prolonged the period, O’Connell said, “it was frustrating, standing there waiting. Sometimes we didn’t know what we were waiting for. Hopefully that will be better.”
Into the third period, the Wildcats got one back six minutes in when sophomore defenseman Vincent de Mey unleashed a laser on the power play. Less than a minute later, junior forward Caleb Schroer snuck one in from up close to bring the visitors within a goal.
After a series of great looks for BU, it was Northern Michigan who found the game’s eighth goal to tie it with 2:17 remaining when senior forward Darien Craighead found space for a tap-in to the left of BU graduate goaltender Sam Tucker.
We can’t let swings like that happen in games,” said Farrance of surrenderring the three-goal lead. “We gotta stay on the right pattern and finish games out a little stronger.”
Level at four, the teams headed to overtime, and traded penalties in the additional five minutes. Tucker, who made 16 saves in the game, came up with a sprawling stop late to keep BU in it, and while Terriers poured on pressure late, they could not find a winner.
“To end up with a tie with them…was probably fortunate for us,” said Coach Potulny regarding the flurry of chances BU had just before the final horn.
Despite BU outshooting NMU 39-20, the game would finish as a 4-4 tie.
“We’ll learn,” said O’Connell about allowing NMU to come from behind to earn a tie. “We’ll just keep getting better.”
For the second-year coach, there is no reason to panic after letting one game slip away.
“I really like the way we play,” said Coach O’Connell after the game. “I really love the team.”
The Terriers and Wildcats will settle the series on Saturday night when they meet on the Agganis Arena ice at 7pm.