By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
There was no quit in the No. 17 Boston University men’s hockey team Friday night at TD Garden.
Thanks to five unanswered goals after the midway point in the game, the Terriers topped rival No. 4 Boston College 6-3 in the Hockey East semifinals, postponing BU coach Jack Parker’s retirement at least one more day.
“We came back from the dead, I thought,” Parker said. “The game could’ve been a lot worse after the first half of the game. But we hung in there and hung in there, and we got a little life and took advantage of it.”
With the win, BU (21-15-1) advances to the Hockey East finals Saturday night against Hockey East regular season champion No. 6 University of Massachusetts-Lowell with another win-or-go-home game. BU will not make the NCAA tournament without winning the Hockey East championship.
BC controlled play early, outshooting the Terriers 18-7 and peppering freshman goaltender Sean Maguire with high-quality scoring chances. Hockey East Player of the Year Johnny Gaudreau had Maguire beat on the doorstep with the game scoreless, but Maguire dove backward and got his glove on the shot to keep the game tied.
Maguire could not hold the Eagles scoreless for long, though. With less than a two minutes remaining in the period and the Eagles on the power play, BC forward Bill Arnold flung a shot toward Maguire and it deflected off BU defenseman Garrett Noonan’s stick and into the top corner of the net. It was Arnold’s 17th goal of the season and gave the Eagles a 1-0 advantage entering the first intermission.
BC was not done, though, as it continued to barrage Maguire with shots, taking the advantage to 29-10 at one point in the frame. Eagles captain Pat Mullane set up winger Quinn Smith for their second goal of the game 8:46 into the second, when he snapped a hard pass off Smith’s stick into the top corner on the rush.
“I thought that the game was so out of hand the first half,” Parker said. “I thought my guys were uptight, I thought we were struggling, we were losing pucks. I thought we were getting outskated.”
After Smith’s goal, though, the rest of the second period was all BU. Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues snapped a wrist shot under BC goalie Parker Milner’s arm with 8:43 remaining in the second to bring BU within one. It was Rodrigues’ 10th point in his last nine games.
Less than two minutes later, freshman forward Matt Lane found the puck off a faceoff and chopped it off the boards past BC defenseman Danny Linell to spring himself on a breakaway. Lane calmly brought the puck to his backhand and slid it through Milner’s five-hole for the game-tying goal and his fourth goal of the season.
Lane’s line has been getting more ice time lately, and it has made use of it. The freshman winger now has points in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“It is definitely nice,” Lane said of the extra ice time. “It gets the legs going and I think we have come a long way offensively. We have gotten better every game since we have been put together.”
Noonan did not let the momentum stop there though, as he scored his sixth goal of the season with less than three minutes remaining in the second. With BC defenseman Mike Matheson in the penalty box, Noonan took a pass from freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and drilled a one-timer to Milner’s right.
Gaudreau found himself in the penalty box early in the third period, when he earned a five-minute major for cross-checking senior defenseman Sean Escobedo from behind. Escobedo left the ice with an apparent injury, but later returned to the game.
Freshman forward Danny O’Regan capitalized on the power-play opportunity, firing a shot over Milner’s shoulder from the slot for his 15th goal of the season. Freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen and junior forward Matt Nieto earned assists on the play. It was BU’s fourth goal in less than 10 minutes.
O’Regan was not done on the power play. With forward Steven Whitney in the penalty box later in the period, O’Regan snapped home a rebound from Nieto’s shot and gave the Terriers a three-goal lead with 11:03 remaining in the third period. BU had a good night on special teams, going 3-for-7 on the power play while holding BC to 1-for-7 on the power play.
Whitney added another goal for BC with 6:17 remaining in the third, when he chipped a puck from a bad angle over Maguire’s shoulder. However, Maguire kept the Eagles out of the net for the rest of the game, finishing with 44 saves.
The Terriers will now face UMass-Lowell for a chance at BU’s first Hockey East Championship since 2009. The Terriers have lost all three of their games they played against the Riverhawks this season.
“Obviously, we have played them three times and we have not been fortunate enough to get a win yet,” Lane said. “But we know them better now and we are going to be studying them tonight and tomorrow, and hopefully it will be a different outcome.”