By Brian Foisy
Scanning the crowd going into the final period of Thursday night’s semifinals, nobody seemed excited.
The raucous Minnesota fans, rowdy from the outset, were nearly silent. Even when their team entered the arena late Thursday afternoon, a crowd of Gopher fans was more energetic in 90-degree weather than they were entering the third with a 2-2 tie.
Despite their coach calling the Terriers a “favorite” on Wednesday’s media day, the Gopher fans expected their team — which had led USCHO and Pairwise rankings for most of the year –– to quickly dispose of BU’s team.
Throughout the game, the Gophers were faster and wiser than the Terriers, skating circles around the team and refraining from the lazy penalties that BU committed repeatedly.
Even though they were the better team Thursday night, a mix of luck and Drew Commesso kept the Terriers in a game they could have already lost. Ending the second period 2-2 was big.
Usually, on any given night, there’s an air of superiority within the Agganis fan section, which built as the season went along. A large lead never felt truly insurmountable. A deficit could almost always be erased. Sure, there were low points, the Beanpot especially. But the team would allow fans to buy in again once they returned to their winning ways.
BU never played Minnesota before, though. Never played a team who possessed Minnesota’s ability to turn a game into a speed skating competition.
The Terrier fans may have entered the building Thursday night wearing Hockey East Championship hats and t-shirts on, but they quickly realized that the title on that hat probably didn’t matter anymore.
Sure, BU scored first and the team hadn’t lost yet when scoring first. But did that matter anymore? A quick two goal response from the Gophers answered that question.
A sinking feeling set in when the team was faced with the prospect of a 3-1 deficit to close the first period. The goal was called back and the Terriers embarked on a long run of unabashed dumb luck.
Disclaimer: luck is dumb. It’s not real. As Brian Kelley, SID for the Terriers will tell you, it’s an excuse for losing.
Luck is dumb, but it’s so damn easy to forget that. Everyone flushes ice cubes down the toilet and puts a spoon in the freezer in hopes of a snow day. Everyone thinks that the Red Sox finally won a World Series because of an eclipse and everyone thinks that the Cubs didn’t win for so long because of a goat.
Luck is fake but if it’s real, the Terriers had it on their side for most of the second period. Shot after shot hitting crossbars, being called back for interference, or just narrowly not crossing the line.
You’re an idiot if you think that all those things aren’t coincidences, ergo we’re all idiots.
What these “lucky” moments bring to a game, in a real tangible sense, is momentum and confidence and the Terriers were building both as the second period ended.
But all of it –– the luck, the confidence, the momentum –– was likely washed away after the Terriers had just barely escaped the penalty kill hell to just again sign up for some more to begin the third period with Cade Webber’s last second penalty.
Luck is fake but if it’s real it ran out there. I think the BU fans in attendance at Amalie Arena realized that.
Before the game if you had offered any BU fan a 2-2 tie heading into the third period they would’ve been thrilled out of their minds. Tell them they have to enter that period with one minute of five-on-three hockey against the best team in the country and they’re terrified.
Barring some inspiration from Sasquatch’s appearance, most knew that the game was likely over as the Gophers grabbed a 4-2 lead.
Looking at this score a decade from now, college hockey fans will probably think that Minnesota won the game in a wire-to-wire blowout. The details will most definitely become fuzzy.
Labeling this as a blowout lets the Terriers off the hook, it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that for a brief moment they had the game in their hands.
With a 6-2 loss you can say the Terriers just got outmanned and outmaneuvered by a far superior team. While that was the case in the end, it misses the point that for a moment they had flipped the script.
A quick pop of excitement from the BU fans signaled this when time expired in the second and the Terriers ended their first of two five-on-three disadvantages.
The game, the season, and the college careers of the many seniors who returned to win trophies in their final year all came down to whether the team could do it again in the third and kill off Minnesota’s power play once more.
It’s going to be easy to remember this year for the ridiculous success of Pandolfo in his first year, to remember it for the Hockey East Championship, or to remember it for an appearance in the Frozen Four.
It’s going to be hard to also remember that the semifinals wasn’t a blowout, that for a moment it was close, but the Terriers came up short.