Behind 45 saves from junior netminder Jake Oettinger, the Boston University men’s hockey team skated to a hard-fought 1-1 draw in a visit to Providence College on Thursday night.
“Our goaltender was the story,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “We’re pretty fortunate to get out of the rink with a point.”
With fifth-place BU (13-15-4, 11-8-3 Hockey East) only four points behind second-place Providence (20-9-5, 13-7-3 Hockey East) with a game in hand on the Friars at the time of the opening puck drop, the Terriers were looking for the full two points to assist their mission of securing a playoff game on home ice.
“They [knew] the importance of the points tonight,” O’Connell said of his squad.
BU nearly got on the board less than a minute into the game, as junior defenseman Chad Krys spotted a seam in the Friar defense on one of BU’s first rushes of the game. Krys beat senior goaltender Hayden Hawkey, but could not beat the post to the keeper’s left, and Providence would survive the early scare.
“I think we were mentally…and physically ready to go,” O’Connell said about his team’s quick start.
Building off of the early Krys chance, BU kept the pressure on Providence through the opening stages of the game, and were rewarded for their efforts eight minutes into the period.
After Oettinger made a phenomenal double-save to rob forward linemates Tyce Thompson and Scott Conway, the Terriers turned the other way, skating four against one. After freshman forward Joel Farabee was denied by Hawkey, sophomore forward Shane Bowers was there to knock in the rebound for his 11th goal of the season.
“We got off to a really good start – that gave us a chance to get a goal,” said Coach O’Connell.
Awoken by the Terrier opener, the Friars came charging back, riding an effective forecheck to a 14-7 shots on goal advantage by the end of the period. Coming off a dominant weekend against the University of Vermont, Oettinger stayed strong, fending off point-blank chances from forwards Kasper Bjorkqvist and Greg Printz among others.
According to O’Connell, “[Providence] did a really good job of getting in, forechecking, and holding pressure on [BU].”
Despite the lopsided shots on target counts, BU led 1-0 after one.
The Terriers started the second frame on the front foot, as Hawkey was forced into action five minutes into the period to keep out sophomore forward Ty Amonte’s diving effort, getting a stick on a saucer pass from junior linemate Patrick Harper in the corner.
Turning the tides as the period progressed just as they had in the first, Providence peppered Oettinger throughout the middle ten minutes of the second stanza en route to a 28-13 lead in terms of shots in goal by the end of the period.
Battling wave after wave of Friar attacks, Oettinger and his defense weathered the storm. The greatest threat from Providence came from defenseman Spenser Young swinging away in front with eight minutes remaining in the period, but Oettinger and a crowd of Terriers smothered the chance just in time.
“I thought we defended hard,” said Coach O’Connell, who saw his Terriers concede a maximum of one goal for their fourth consecutive game.
After another important stop by Oettinger to deny junior Vimal Sukumaran up close, BU would finally gain some zone time in the waning moments of the period with the game’s lone power play. Still, it was Providence’s Scott Conway who had the best chance while BU were up a man, stickhandling his way into shooting position but seeing his drive turned away by Oettinger.
“Providence played a really good game,” O’Connell said regarding the constant danger brought by the Friars.
After 40 minutes, the score would stand, 1-0.
Continuing their theme of hot starts into the third, the Terriers hit the ground running for the final twenty, as junior forward Patrick Curry’s off-balance swipe at a rebound was kept out by a sprawling Hawkey three minutes into the frame. That would be the closest BU would come in the third, as the Friars would once again find their stride as the period wore on.
“As the game wore on, we wore down,” O’Connell said.
After 53 minutes of flawless defense, Oettinger and the Terrier blueliners would finally cave in. On a break into the attacking zone, Greg Printz found forward Jack Dugan streaking towards the BU net. With quick hands, Dugan slipped the puck through the five hole, netting his tenth goal of the season for Providence and levelling the game at one.
“They made a really nice play on the goal,” said O’Connell of the Printz-Dugan link-up.
After an unsuccessful final push from both sides to end regulation, the teams would move on to overtime. It was the second game in BU’s last three that would require an additional frame.
In the extra five minutes, it was Oettinger again who played the role of hero for BU, stoning back-to-back chances from Kasper Bjorkqvist and defenseman Vincent Desharnais to keep the Terriers alive. With mere seconds left, Oettinger made one final save against Tyce Thompson, bringing his total to 45 on the night.
“Jake was there, and he was able to get us a point,” Coach O’Connell said.
The deadlock would not be broken, and the game would finish 1-1.
With the Friars tallying a whopping 82 shots with 46 on goal compared to BU’s 41 shots with 20 on goal, Oettinger’s efforts were essential to the Terrier cause.
In the words of O’Connell, “[Oettinger] was lights out.”
While Oettinger and his defensemen have been rock-solid as of late, the Terrier attack has been kept to low totals by opposing defenses, as BU has scored just a single goal in each of their previous three games. Knowing the current scoring drought his team is suffering from, O’Connell recognized the importance of the early energy from his team.
“[Providence] seemed a little flat, we weren’t, and it allowed us to get a point,” said the first-year head coach of the game’s opening minutes.
The full two points would have been advantageous for BU in terms of the Hockey East standings, but O’Connell voiced his satisfaction with the results his team gained in their trips this season to Providence’s Schneider Arena.
“We took 3 of 4 points off Providence in their own building, so that’s pretty good,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Friars clinched a home playoff game with the point, leaving just the positions currently occupied by Northeastern and UMass Lowell as the only spots to host a playoff game that are still undetermined.
“That’s a really good hockey team,” said Coach O’Connell of Providence. “They’re going to be a tough out for anyone.”
BU will look to keep their unbeaten run going and the home-ice hopes alive when they return to Agganis Arena against Merrimack on Saturday, March 2 at 7pm.