The game plan might have been to shut down projected No. 1 overall pick Macklin Celebrini, but the North Dakota men’s hockey team had no answer for sophomore defenseman Lane Hutson, who single-handedly dragged the No. 9/8 Boston University men’s hockey to overtime.
BU (4-3-1, 1-1-1 Hockey East) put everything on the line — coming back three different times — but fell in heartbreaking fashion, 5-4, to the No. 3/4 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks (5-2-1, 0-0-0 NCHC) in overtime Saturday night at Agganis Arena.
“North Dakota is a very good hockey team. They’re going to beat a lot of teams,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said. “So this is a big weekend for us…going to help us down the line.”
From the starting whistle, the tension between these two teams increased two-fold overnight. The Fighting Hawks came out eager for revenge after dropping the weekend’s first game in regulation.
North Dakota head coach Brad Berry said he was not happy with his team’s discipline Friday night, and the Fighting Hawks did not show improvement early on in Saturday’s rematch.
UND made an effort to make contact with Macklin Celebrini every chance it could get this weekend, and junior forward Jake Schmaltz continued the sentiment by laying a hit up high on the first-year phenom at the 3:20 mark of the first period.
“It’s gonna happen. The other team is going to be hard on your best players,” Pandolfo said. “Obviously don’t like seeing head shots, but our guys kept their emotions in check.”
Schmaltz was assessed a five-minute elbowing major, and the Terriers’ hot power play as of late got an extended look. Midway through the man advantage, the top unit settled in.
After breaking his stick on a one-time attempt, Macklin Celebrini regrouped and went flying down the left wing with sophomore forward Ryan Greene on the right. Greene dished the puck cross-ice to Macklin for the tap in, but the goal was successfully challenged by North Dakota for offsides.
BU had some additional good looks — leading in shots on net 12-0 by the end of major — but the Fighting Hawks killed off the remainder of the power play.
UND did not record its first shot on net until the 9:19 mark, so the Terriers finding themselves down 1-0 at 15:36 of the first period was not for a lack of effort.
Senior forward Riese Gaber was fed a pass from sophomore forward Owen McLaughlin in transition, and Gaber beat junior goaltender Mathieu Caron glove side.
However, the Terriers were dominating up to this point and tied up the game at 1-1 with 1:26 remaining in the first frame. Per usual, Lane Hutson patiently walked the line — deking a North Dakota player to create a pathway — and unleashed his lethal shot past senior goaltender Ludvig Persson.
Sophomore defenseman Ty Gallagher entered the weekend series with zero points, but his primary assist brought his season total to two. At the end of the first, BU led in shots on net 15-6.
North Dakota found their game in the middle frame and took an early 2-1 lead. At the 1:01 mark, sophomore forward Jackson Blake spun the puck to a crashing McLaughlin for his second goal of the season.
The Fighting Hawks added a third goal at 8:27 on the man advantage. Schmaltz and freshman forward Jayden Perron took it end-to-end before Perron sniped it past Caron. A less-than-100% senior forward Dylan Peterson trailed behind the entire play.
Peterson remained a game-time decision after Friday’s blocked shot to his left foot, but the veteran player perservered through the pain Saturday.
“He was in pain, and he wanted to play. I give him a lot of credit,” Pandolfo said. “Could tell he was feeling it a little bit, but overall, he’s a gutsy kid, a tough kid, and he played excellent for obviously being sore.”
But then, Lane Hutson took over.
With 2:40 remaining, the sophomore carried the puck to Macklin Celebrini above the right circle before driving the net, tapping home the freshman’s pass past Persson.
“I had a couple of lucky bounces, and pucks were finding me,” Lane Hutson said post game. “I felt like stuff was going in, so I was just going to throw it at the net.”
Making it a one-goal game late in the second, Lane was not done just yet.
Just over a minute later, he tied the game 3-3 at the 19:28 mark. Peterson worked down low along the boards while freshman forward Shane Lachance collected the rubber. Lachance knew to dish it to No. 20, who found the back of the net through several bodies for his first collegiate hat trick.
“He was feeling it tonight. There was no question about it,” Pandolfo said. “He was exceptional … that was fun to watch, and you could see he had a will to do anything to help us try to get back in that game.”
Agganis erupted, the hats came raining down and the Terriers entered the final frame on a clean slate.
After making a crucial rebound save with time expiring on a BU holding penalty, Caron let North Dakota regain the lead 5:35 into the third period. Off a clean faceoff win by the Fighting Hawks, sophomore forward Ben Striden whipped the puck past Caron’s right shoulder to give his team the 4-3 lead.
A late power play with six minutes remaining ignited the home team as the top unit peppered Persson with shots, but it was sophomore forward Devin Kaplan’s tip off of senior defenseman Cade Webber’s blast from the blue line at 17:43 that kept the Terriers in the game.
Webber does not get on the score sheet often, but the assistant captain stepped up offensively when his team needed him — adding six blocked shots on the night.
“I thought [Webber] had a terrific weekend,” Pandolfo said. “He’s hard to play against, he’s great on the penalty kill, he’s playing against the other team’s top players … he’s feeling healthy clearly, so that was the biggest difference for him.”
At the end of regulation, BU led in shots on net 33-25. It might only be the first week of November, but the electric atmosphere in Agganis was playoff-esque.
“Fans came out and gave us lots of support. [North Dakota] had good support, too,” Lane Hutson said. “Really fun.”
Unfortunately for the home team, it only took North Dakota 20 seconds to seal the deal in overtime. The Fighting Hawks took possession off of the opening faceoff, and Blake pulled off a highlight-reel finish, beating senior forward Luke Tuch and Caron.
“Blake did a great job of scoring a goal, but winning the draw was huge,” Berry said.
This loss stung for a Terrier group that absolutely battled against a top-three team in the nation. Leaving the series sweep on the table hurts, but BU proved they can hang around the big dogs this weekend — something this team over its first couple of weekends would have struggled to do.
“We’re understanding you have to play a certain way to be successful,” Pandolfo said. “It’s gonna take a little bit of time, but I think we’re moving in the right direction … that’s a really good hockey team over there, so overall like I said, I’m happy with it.”
Come spring time, BU’s young group will have a plethora of lessons learned early on to lean on in big games.
“When you get into these games that are tight, you have to understand that you have to play a simple game — and when we did that — we had a lot of success,” Pandolfo. “I think that’s the biggest lesson.”
BU will return to conference play next weekend in a home-and-home against the UMass Lowell Riverhawks. The Terriers will play on the road Friday Nov. 10 at 7:15 p.m. at Tsongas Center, followed by a 7 p.m. home matchup on Saturday, Nov. 11 at Agganis Arena. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage. Follow along on Twitter (X) @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.