By James Garrison
The No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team (26-10-0, 18-6-0 Hockey East) made their return to the TD Garden after having seemingly recovered from the malaise that was onset by the Beanpot. After a sketchy 60 minutes, the Terriers found their game in overtime to beat the Providence College Friars (16-14-7, 9-9-6 HE) 2-1.
Captain Domenick Fensore played but was clearly not at 100 percent. Fensore’s lower-body injury limited his minutes and his ability, but the senior stayed in the Terriers’ defensive rotation.
Fensore had to log extra minutes after Case McCarthy sustained a scary injury. McCarthy crashed into the boards at full speed and had to be carried out on a stretcher. He reportedly has a broken collarbone.
“It’s always scary to see one of your players and teammates going out like that,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame. “The good news is…he was alert, he’s got movement in all his extremities. He was transported to a local hospital. He’s doing very well.”
Having won five in a row and capturing the Hockey East regular season title, confidence should have been a strong suit for the Terriers this time around. However, BU fanned on passes and forced pucks to the middle when the play wasn’t there –– they gave Philip Svedebäck an easy night, until they didn’t.
“We’re stubborn at times,” Pandolfo said. “Our puck management has to be better. It wasn’t great early, and even a little bit in the second period as well. I thought as the game went on, we started playing a little more direct game.”
Led by a fantastic performance from goaltender Drew Commesso, BU managed to kill off a first period five-on-three. The Terriers did a good job of keeping the Friars to the outside, only until Nick Poisson rang the crossbar in the dwindling seconds of the man-advantage.
If not for Commesso, the Terriers would have needed more than one shot to tie things up late.
“He was outstanding,” Quinn Hutson said of Commesso postgame. “Without him I don’t think we would have won that game.”
Another empty power play carried the Terriers’ slow start into the second period. It was at that point though, when BU finally decided to start testing Svedebäck.
BU’s bottom six provided most of the few chances that the Terriers had in the front end of the contest. Junior forward Nick Zabaneh continued his run as the Terriers’ most impactful forward of the last few weeks.
BU got better as the second period went along, but still looked too much like a group tensing up under the bright lights and a continually filling lower bowl of the TD Garden.
The Terriers generated almost no offense –– eight shots through two periods to be exact. At any point where BU was able to muster a shot on net, it was almost always one and done.
“Early on, they were winning more of the 50/50 puck battles and that hurt us as well,” Pandolfo said. “We didn’t have any sustained offensive zone time, especially in the first period.”
Commesso continued to be the difference in the second period, as the Terriers left the ice outshot 23-8. The netminder’s reaction save on Bennett Schimek headlined a stellar 40 minutes for the junior goaltender.
Everything stopped at 7:55 of the third period when McCarthy crashed into the boards at full speed. McCarthy remained down as a silent TD Garden waited for a sign from the defender.
“It’s always difficult to see that,” Pandolfo said. “When you see that he’s okay, he gave a thumbs up. I think all the guys saw that…credit to our leaders, they got the group together and they weren’t gonna be denied.”
The Terriers immediate response was far from the right one though, as Wilmer Skoog took a cheap retaliation penalty. The senior forward was lucky to only be given a minor penalty for a textbook board in a dangerous area of the ice.
After being robbed in the second period by Commesso, Schimek got his revenge midway through the third period. Schimek wisely placed his shot stick side after the Terriers’ goaltender had lost his lumber. With that, the Friars were off and running.
The Terriers received a late power play, where they came oh-so-close as Q. Hutson rang iron in search of the equalizer.
The Friars received an even greater scoring chance while on the penalty kill. Lane Hutson wiped out at the blue line, giving way for a breakaway from Poisson. Commesso stretched his right pad to stone the cross-crease move from the junior forward for a game-saving stop.
“We get the breakaway and Commesso made a big save,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said postgame. “We get that goal, it’s over.”
Down and out, having only mustered a mere 12 shots on net, the Terriers just needed one play, which is exactly what they got.
Building off of a strong past couple of weeks, Dylan Peterson brought back his TD Garden heroics with a clutch goal to tie it up. While he struggled to score early in the season, he’s been a big part of BU’s recent jump. Set up beautifully by Lane Hutson, Peterson found a crack to beat Svedebäck with just 2:32 to go in regulation.
“Lane kind of put it into that high slot where Peterson was coming in,” Pandolfo said. “It was a nice finish by him. I thought Peterson had great legs all night –– arguably one of our better forwards.”
The two sides headed off with one goal standing in the way of a berth to the Hockey East Championship.
The Terriers looked like a different group in the extra frame. They looked like the team that had gotten them to this point. Despite only placing 15 shots on net in regulation, the Terriers peppered Svedebäck in overtime. Their 10th shot of the frame was a memorable one.
Q.Hutson, without a doubt, was overwhelmed by the bright lights of the TD Garden in February. All nerves must now be gone for the freshman forward. A semifinal clinching goal can do that. Hutson tipped home Luke Tuch’s centering feed to seal the victory.
“It was pretty crazy,” Q. Hutson said. “I saw it go in and it looked kind of slow motion, I wasn’t sure.”
Let it not be lost in the excitement of the moment that the Terriers did not play well enough to win. Providence executed a winning formula against BU perfectly. The Terriers will have to play much better tomorrow if they are to call the Hockey East title theirs.
“The guys stuck together, and they got themselves together,” Pandolfo said. “They wanted to win it for Case.”
BU will face the winner of the Merrimack, UMass Lowell game tomorrow night at TD Garden in the championship contest. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of the 7:00pm puck drop so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.