By Brian Foisy
For the first 60 minutes of Friday night’s semifinals, it looked like the TD Garden curse for BU was real.
Something about stepping onto the ice in the Garden seemed to draw the hockey-playing ability out of the Terriers, like in Space Jam when that alien guy stole Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing’s ability to play basketball to create the Monstars.
Who’s the alien guy in this scenario? Has to be Jerry York, right?
Thankfully, though, Dylan Peterson and Quinn Hutson were able to break that curse and ensure BU a place in the championship game.
The typical rollercoaster of optimism began shortly after, leaving the Garden Friday thinking we could beat anyone and waking up Saturday morning thinking the sky was falling. As if losing Case McCarthy after a scary injury Friday night wasn’t enough, the news of Hockey East suspending Skoog for the game meant we’d be heavily depleted.
The roster was getting so thin that I was expecting some announcement to come out saying that the Boston Junior Terriers were getting called up to play on the fourth line.
Throughout the day, I was getting minute-by-minute updates suggesting that there would be thousands upon thousands of Merrimack fans descending on the Garden.
When I got into the Garden, I looked up at the banners as one has to in that arena. Amid all the Celtics and Bruins titles commemorated up there, the Hockey East Championship banner stuck out for obvious reasons.
Ahead of last night’s game, the bottom half of the banner, the “UMass 2022 Champions” half, was gone. Seeing that made me realize there’s two banners somewhere in the Garden, and I really don’t want to see one of them for a whole year.
The initial TD Garden walkaround confirmed suspicions about the amount of Merrimack fans, who looked to be outnumbering BU by a factor of 10-1.
Something that dawned on me about last night’s game was that it may have arguably been the biggest game in Merrimack’s athletic history.
Not trying to be rude, but they haven’t had any significant moments on a big stage like this. A win would definitely have been the biggest, but the appearance in the championship alone may rank in the school’s top three all time. The other two moments being a D2 title and missing out on a chance to play in March Madness this year due to weird NCAA bylaws. Yikes.
When it came time for the main event, the number of Merrimack fans was far lower than I had anticipated. Because of this realization, I felt a calmness that had eluded me since leaving the Garden Friday night.
Before I continue, I have an overdue disclosure. This edition of the Dog Pound Diary was not reported from within the Dog Pound but instead from the TD Garden press box. I sincerely apologize for misleading you all for the first 500 words of this piece. Dog Pound Diary just sounds a lot better than Press Box Diary. Send any and all comments about my being a fraud to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An early Merrimack goal didn’t take the juice out of the fan section as most people had prepared themselves for BU winning in a sixth or seventh overtime, given the tournament’s track record.
BU got away from their TD Garden style of play in the first period by beating their opponent in shots on goal.
When its team was leading, the Merrimack fan section felt like a slightly more subdued version of Northeastern’s Dog House. No one can match those rapscallions, but at times the “sucks to BU” and “F**k BU” chants hit me like only Stacy’s Mom can.
The Merrimack band was a very interesting subplot throughout the game. I had only heard stories, never seen them in real life. They are … interesting.
Merrimack’s fans were getting a little more comfortable in the Garden as the period went on without a response from BU.
A pair of penalties late in the first period gave BU a five-on-three man advantage, leading to a minute of the most chaotic hockey of the night thus far. But it was eventually fruitless chaos as the period ended 1-0 Merrimack.
Good vibes for BU fans returned with a goal from Lane Hutson early in the second.
A weird sequence of calls followed, with Fensore seemingly getting called for a penalty for falling over.
Good old-fashioned referee chicanery ensued: BU fans got mad at the Fensore call, a lengthy review with the officials began, they showed the replay causing more fans to get upset, the review ended with a penalty going against Merrimack, then the Merrimack fans got all upset too.
Nothing was gained, and we all lost minutes of our lives that will never be returned.
In a break from the action that led into one of the most demoralizing moments of the night, the TD Garden speakers played “Mr. Brightside.” A stadium classic, a 10/10 song … or so I thought.
Coming out of the break, after the whole arena sang the chorus to the Killers’ classic in unison, Merrimack scored immediately off the faceoff. At that moment, I said, “I will never play Mr. Brightside again.” The Garden might have inadvertently created Merrimack’s equivalent of Stacy’s Mom if Merrimack had won.
Merrimack fans followed that up with a very hurtful rendition of “Sucks to BU,” at that moment, yes, it did suck to be me.
The second period ended without much more action, except for Ty Gallagher flicking a Merrimack player’s stick out of their hand, which was pretty cool.
With the score 2-1 entering the 3rd, the Terriers were looking for a shot in the arm. And it came from a familiar place, an appearance from Sasquatch.
It’s incredibly hard not to clap for your team when you’re in the press box. It’s damn near impossible not to clap when Sasquatch shows up.
After Sasquatch left the jumbotron, Devin Kaplan scored to tie it up at two each.
There’s nothing better than a Sasquatch appearance followed up by a BU goal. It proves that the hairy flag-waving man doesn’t just whip the Dog Pound into a frenzy, he hits the guys out on the ice too.
From there, the final minutes of regulation were nothing short of terrifying. Minute after agonizing minute watching ridiculous saves by Commesso at one end and some good chances go by at the other end.
As the clock hit zero on regulation, I felt relieved and stressed, first because the game wasn’t over and second because the game wasn’t over.
In what seemed like the longest fifteen minutes of my life, I paced around the press box, grabbed some popcorn, and tried to prepare myself to hunker down for a six or seven overtime night.
Two minutes into overtime and that thought went out the window as Lane Huston dabbed his way to a Hockey East Championship. Merrimack’s bench challenged for offsides, mainly because you can’t take the challenge back to North Andover.
The review ended with the result we all knew was already in hand, a good goal and a Hockey East Championship for the Terriers.
What followed was a classic Garden Party.
On top of Hey Baby, I heard victory songs from the BU Band I had never heard before. We got chant after chant from the Dog Pound. I stuck my press pass in my pocket to safely celebrate with everyone else.
Dom and the rest of the seniors got to skate around with the Lamoriello Trophy for the first time in their college careers. Lane skated around with it for hopefully not the last time in his college career.
We all probably have our sights set on loftier accomplishments for this season, but if nothing else comes from this season, we’ll always have the Hockey East Championship and a year in the TD Garden rafters to commemorate a fantastic conference season.