Long list of firsts ends BU’s magical season in championship

Danny O'Regan gets knocked down.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Danny O’Regan gets knocked down.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

For the last game of the year, there sure were a lot of firsts occurring Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Boston University men’s hockey team, none of those firsts went its way.

In 19 games where the Terriers held a lead after two periods, the Terriers were winners of all 19.

In five games at TD Garden, BU was undefeated.

In games where the Terriers took at least 50 shots, they never lost.

In title clinching, playoff-elimination and tournament games, BU boasted an unblemished 8-0 record.

In the National Championship Game, those streaks came to a crashing end.

The season that had been filled with many trophy ceremonies, new hats and smiles ended only in heartbreak and disbelief. BU did not win its first championship in six years. Providence College celebrated its first national title. The smiles, trophy and new hats were on the other side.

For a team that seemed to have endless magic, one last miracle never happened.

But even in tough moments throughout Saturday’s final game, it didn’t initially seem like the luck would run out.

Like when BU fell down early 1-0, the Terriers answered back with a quick, albeit unusual, goal from junior winger Ahti Oksanen that snuck in between the post and goaltender Jon Gillies’ right pad. By the smallest of margins, the game was tied.

BU’s first line then came out for a faceoff, won the draw and skated it down the ice, with junior forward Danny O’Regan scoring a goal. In four seconds, the Terriers had taken the lead and set an NCAA Tournament record for fastest consecutive goals. In the blink of an eye, BU was back in control.

Even when forward Mark Jankowski tied things up 4:29 in the second, there was no panic. BU peppered Gillies with 22 shots in the period, finally breaking the tie when senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann wristed one in halfway through the period. That all but ensured a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

It looked as if everything was all coming to fruition, and it would culminate in one last championship. But everything was not as it seemed.

Providence pushed hard, as one would expect, in the opening ticks of the third. Just like they had against University of North Dakota the game before, BU hung on through the initial storm. At the 11:24 mark, though, everything changed.

Defenseman’s Tom Parisi’s simple chip-in from center ice was flubbed by an indecisive junior goaltender Matt O’Connor, and with the unluckiest of plays, the game was tied. The Terriers had overcome weak goals given up by O’Connor before, including one in each of the two previous games. This time that didn’t happen.

Brandon Tanev celebrates his goal.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Tanev celebrates his goal.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Even after a timeout that looked like it might settle the Terriers down, Providence’s Kevin Rooney won a faceoff against freshman center Jack Eichel in the BU zone, winger Brandon Tanev corralled the puck and roofed it high over O’Connor’s left shoulder. With 6:17 left, Providence, not BU, had the lead.

But that’s when BU’s top-six forwards were supposed to step in. That’s when the formidable line of senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues-Eichel-O’Regan was supposed will its way to a tying goal. That’s what happened all season. But it’s not what happened Saturday night.

Rodrigues, who had been so integral to this season’s late run, was held off the score sheet. And although O’Regan and Eichel worked to score BU’s second goal, they were held in check by Rooney’s line. The trio had 11 shots on goal, but none hit twine in the third period.

And in the final push with an extra attacker, Gillies, who had been unshaken throughout the third, left one open opportunity with one minute remaining, one BU had cashed in on time and time again. A diving attempt by both Hohmann and sophomore forward Nick Roberto looked like it would have eyes and head into the gaping net. It looked to be enough to at least force overtime.

Like every other play in the third period, it wasn’t enough. Gillies made a sprawling save, stunning the BU bench. The Terriers wouldn’t get a better chance in the following 60 seconds.

In such a special season, BU came up just short for the first time.

Odds and Ends: Prepping for the Frozen Four

Happy Frozen Four, everybody! Here are some stories from us and from around the internet to distract you from any impending nerves for tonight:

-Conor and Andrew’s game preview.

-Conor and I wrote a feature on BU’s four freshman defensemen.

-Conor and I also did a Q&A with Ahti Oksanen and Matt O’Connor. We got a lot of laughs out of that one.

-From Andrew, a look back at BU’s history in the Frozen Four.

-Conor previewing Jack Eichel’s Hobey chances — that’ll be announced Friday night, and we’ll be at Matthews for the announcement.

-A story from our pals over in the news section of the FreeP, about ticket availability (or lack thereof) to students.

-Conor and I hopped on the FreeP’s new sports podcast to talk about the Frozen Four. We start talking about hockey around 6:00.

College Hockey News’ picks for who will advance and win the Frozen Four.

-Frozen Four preview from our pal Scott McLaughlin over at WEEI.

-The team had some fun at Media Day on Wednesday:

-In case you missed it, there’s a new video for Eichel, courtesy of BU Athletics:

-Good stuff from the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver on Providence head coach Nate Leaman.

Pluses and Minuses: Terriers punch ticket to Frozen Four

Game Photos 

Matt Lane. MAYA DEVEREAUX/DFP STAFF
Matt Lane. MAYA DEVEREAUX/DFP STAFF

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — The No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team has had its fair share of success at TD Garden this season, posting a record of 4-0 while taking both the Beanpot championship and the Hockey East title.

Now, it’ll try to win a national title on Causeway Street.

The Terriers (27-7-5) defeated No. 7 University of Minnesota Duluth, 3-2, Saturday night in the NCAA Northeast Regional final at Verizon Wireless Arena, clinching the Icedogs’ 22nd Frozen Four appearance and their first visit since the 2009.

Facing off against a physical Bulldogs (21-16-3) squad, BU relied on two goals from senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues to help secure its bid back to TD Garden.

As with every game, there was a fair share of good and bad takeaways from BU’s performance out on the ice. Here’s a look:

Pluses:

Terrier depth shines

Looking at the big picture, it appeared that Duluth accomplished its goal of shutting down freshman center Jack Eichel — holding the North Chelmsford native off the scoresheet for the first time since the Beanpot semifinal game against Harvard on Feb. 3.

While Rodrigues picked up the slack on the first line with two tallies in the contest, BU received a big boost throughout the game from its deep roster.

With the game tied at 1-1 in the second period, freshman forwards Chase Phelps and J.J. Piccinich — BU’s fourth-line wingers — created space around the Bulldogs’ net, generating an opportunity for junior forward Matt Lane.

Piccinich dished the puck to Lane, who promptly snuck the puck past Duluth goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo at 3:32 to hand BU a 2-1 lead.

BU’s versatile group of players also came up big on the defensive end, especially after freshman defenseman John MacLeod went down with an injury just about halfway through the game.

BU coach David Quinn was forced to roll out five blueliners for the remainder of the tilt, but scarlet and white D-corps stood firm, keeping the Bulldogs off the board through the final 32 minutes of play.

Somerby leaves his mark

He might not have registered a point over the weekend, but sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby was a huge presence (literally) for the Terriers out on the ice.

While the New York Islanders prospect used his 6-foot-5 frame to impact Saturday’s game — including a bone-crushing hit on UMD forward Tony Cameranesi at center ice in the second period — he also impressed with both his offensive and defensive awareness.

On multiple shifts, Somerby pinched up on the ice, using his size to win puck battles along the boards while keeping the pressure on the Bulldogs. Later, Quinn noted that Somerby was one of the few skaters unfazed when UMD pulled Kaskisuo in the closing minutes of the game.

“He was immense,” Quinn said. “Very active on the forecheck. Did a great job the last 20 seconds with the goalie pulled. You have a tendency when the other team has six and you have five to kind of sit back and watch. We did that when they almost scored. I thought after that, ‘OK, the guy’s got the puck let’s go defend him.’

“Everybody else has to protect, but don’t give him time. He did a great job jumping. The guy had the puck down by the left of our goalie with about eight or nine seconds to go and people were indecisive and Doyle took charge.”

Evan almighty

He might have been snubbed from the Hockey East First Team earlier this month, but Evan Rodrigues just keeps producing out on the ice.

The Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Northeast Regional, Rodrigues once again came up big for the Terriers, scoring twice — including the game winning goal with just under 2:30 left in the match.

For more on Rodrigues’s performance, check out Andrew’s sider.

Minuses:

Terriers falter in middle frame

Coming out of first intermission, it appeared that the Terriers had the Bulldogs right where they wanted them — jumping out to a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.

Ultimately, though, Lane’s second-period strike proved to be the one bright part of the stanza, as the Bulldogs out-muscled and out-hustled the Terriers throughout the period. UMD bested BU goaltender Matt O’Connor twice in the period, first off of a slapshot goal from defenseman Willie Raskob just 37 seconds into play to tie the game.

Just under four minutes after Lane’s goal, Duluth capitalized again, with forward Kyle Osterberg firing a wrister from outside the blue line that bounced off O’Connor’s glove and trickled into the Terrier cage, once again knotting the game at two goals a piece. Minnesota outshot the Terriers by a 13-6 margin in the period.

“I wasn’t surprised how that game unfolded,” Quinn said. “It was kind of like a heavyweight fight. We controlled the first few rounds. Almost had a couple of opportunities to deliver a knockout punch. Then they’d come back and dominate for about 10 or 12 minutes. Then we’d come back and dominate for about 10 or 12 minutes.”  

Hohmann takes a tumble

Lost in the scrum at BU’s net following the win was senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann, who wiped out while skating out to his teammates. Hohmann was a good sport about it, however, posting a replay of his slip on Twitter.