It might’ve felt like an eternity. In fact, it was 1,093 days.
But at long last, the losing streak is over.
The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team overcame a two-goal deficit and record-breaking goaltending performance to dispatch No. 4/6 Harvard University, 4-3, in double overtime in the Beanpot semifinal at TD Garden.
Sixty-seven shots later, the Terriers (17-4-4, 11-2-2 Hockey East) won it on a goal from junior forward Danny O’Regan 2:18 into the second overtime period. Down by two in the middle of the second, freshman forward Nikolas Olsson and junior winger Ahti Oksanen tied the game up, which set up a dramatic third and overtime periods.
BU dominated for large portions of the game, but it wasn’t perfect. As always, things went right and wrong for the Terriers. Here’s the Beanpot semifinal edition of Pluses and Minuses.
The final play
It seemed at just about every turn, Harvard (12-6-2) netminder Stephen Michalek bailed out his defense. With 63 saves, a new Beanpot record, he at times looked impenetrable. One Crimson turnover changed everything.
As Harvard attempted to clear its own defensive zone, senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues got in the way of the exit pass. O’Regan saw this, and immediately charged toward the crease. Rodrigues made a crisp centering pass to the Needham native, who finished off the play with a wrister into an almost-open net.
Michalek had no chance to make that 64th save.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play with Evan [Rodrigues] for awhile now,” O’Regan said. “He’s a great player, so I just kind of put my head down and went to the net and knew he would find me — he did just that.”
Cason Hohmann’s resurgence
BU’s other senior assistant captain went all the way from Nov. 22 to Jan 23 without scoring a goal. At certain points over the last month-and-half, BU coach David Quinn even moved the center to the third line at points.
Over the last few games, including Tuesday night’s, Hohmann looks to be back in form. He opened up the scoring at the 16:50 mark of the first, as he found himself perfectly positioned in the crease to finish off a good passing play from Rodrigues.
Arguably even bigger was assist he made to Oksanen that tied the game in the waning seconds of the second period.
Believe it or not, but the Terriers were actually getting outshot and outplayed by the Crimson at the end of the first and beginning of the second. Harvard capitalized on sloppy in-zone defense and went up 3-1 in the first 10 minutes of the second frame, but more on that in the minus section.
After awhile, though, BU found its groove and fought back.
What initially looked to be a failed BU opportunity actually led to the first goal of the comeback. Olsson sprang Nick Roberto on a long lead pass through the neutral zone, all but giving Roberto a 1-on-1 showdown with Michalek. But on the ensuing breakway, Roberto shot well high of goal.
Undeterred, the third line kept the puck in the zone and created another opportunity. This time, the unit cashed in.
Roberto worked his way open in the slot and fired off a shot that created a big rebound. Olsson, as he’s done so many times this season, crashed the front of the net and picked up the loose change for his fifth goal.
Four minutes later, Oksanen connected on his 17th of the year off a nice feed from Hohmann. And like that, the tide of the game turned.
“I thought there was a point early in the second where it looked like a pond hockey game — we were giving up way too many odd-man rushes,” Quinn said. “And then I thought there was a point where we kind of settled down and started playing more responsible.”
Scoring chances … many scoring chances
After a little bit of a lull at the end of the first period and start of the second period, the Terriers kicked it into high gear and amped up the pressure on Michalek. In the third period and first overtime, the Terriers generated 72 total shots, 32 of which hit net.
By the time O’Regan scored, the Terriers had attempted 123 shots — more than double Harvard’s shot attempts. It took some stellar goaltending, a few key blocks and some puck luck for Harvard to force the game as far as it did.
Bad defensive lapse and a sloppy start of the second
The Terriers already let the Crimson back into the game after they let Harvard rush the net at the end of the second period. Another misplay in the defensive zone at the start of the second period was, as Quinn put it, “deflating.”
The aforementioned second goal came off a bad exchange behind junior netminder Matt O’Connor. Freshman defenseman John MacLeod fed junior captain Matt Grzelcyk behind the net, who in turn gave the puck right to Harvard. The turnover all but set up forward Alexander Kerfoot’s goal 22 seconds into the frame.
It didn’t end up costing the Terriers in the long run, but it, and some other bad defensive plays later, put the team in bad position to start the second frame.
Not exactly a clear-cut minus for BU, but Michalek’s performance for Harvard is worth at least a mention. Admittedly battling cramps, the backstop made a combined 32 saves in the third period and first overtime. A few times he was bailed out on some blocks, though for the most part, Michalek was impressive during his career-best day.
This time, in overtime, the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team couldn’t get it done.
Against the University of Maine on Friday, freshman forward Jack Eichel scored an overtime goal to give the Terriers a 3-2 victory. But against No. 18 Harvard University on Tuesday, BU couldn’t do it again in overtime, dropping a 3-2 contest to the Crimson by allowing a goal to captain Kyle Criscuolo.
As per usual, there’s plenty to nitpick from this game. Here’s some of the good, bad and ugly that we noticed:
Time to panic, everyone — for the first time this season, Eichel didn’t end up on the score sheet. Season’s over, guys. Pack it in. Eichel’s scoreless-ness on Tuesday snapped a 10-game streak of at least one point in each game. In that stretch, Eichel tallied a total of 19 points, including 12 assists.
Harvard’s crew said it knew coming in that Eichel would pose a threat, but the team’s head coach said he was pleased with how the Crimson matched up against him.
“I had a rosary bead in my coat pocket,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “It certainly didn’t feel like he didn’t have points tonight. He’s dynamic. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jack since he was probably 12 years old. His skill level, his ability to control the tempo of the game — he’s a tough matchup, but I think our guys tried to be aggressive, tried to angle him when we could.”
The Terriers are in the midst of a five-game, 10-day stretch. Playing a Tuesday game after wins on Friday and Saturday is certainly a daunting task, and BU head coach David Quinn noted his team looked sluggish at times, and was unable to adapt as a result.
“They caught us a little bit tired there in overtime,” Quinn said. “I thought we had control and a chance to change. They were able to change. We couldn’t get the puck deep and get off. We’re still learning how to change, they get a breakaway early in overtime because we make a right change and our guy stumbles getting on the ice and they get a breakaway.”
BU outshot the Crimson in every period, including three shots on goal to Harvard’s two in overtime. The Terriers, in total, had a 42-24 shots-on-goal advantage.
Harvard’s defense kept BU’s offensive attempts in check, blocking 33 of the Terriers’ 87 total shots attempted. BU also sent 12 shots wide. Additionally, Crimson goaltender Steve Michalek recorded 40 saves in the matchup.
“I thought there were good chances, but a lot of loose pucks lying around at the net front,” Quinn said. “We just couldn’t get a stick on it. One of the things that we talked about, we were at the net front, but I didn’t think that we were physical enough around the net.
“A lot of times, you get at that net front and there’s a 50/50 puck and you start fishing for it instead of leaning into somebody and throw them off-balance — it gives you better chance to possess it. Obviously, you would like better chances than we did tonight, but I thought we had some good ones. That’s a good team.”
Quality start, well-rounded effort
Quinn noted that the Terriers had their best start to a game in quite some time on Tuesday. BU has been noticeably sluggish out of the gates in many of its games this season — in its last game, against the University of Connecticut on Saturday, it took BU five minutes to record a shot on net.
Not on Tuesday. The Terriers jumped out to an early shot advantage, ending the first period with a 13-5 advantage. Quinn said he was pleased with his team’s effort not just in the first period, but also through the entire game, in which BU saw a number of shots.
“I thought that was the best game we played from start to finish in a while,” Quinn said. “I really did. Our guys were disappointed, but I really liked our effort, our focus, I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought our transition was good, I thought we defended well tonight.”
Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey has quietly become an effective player for the BU squad, and showed some of his skill against the Crimson on Tuesday. In the game, Hickey had seven shots on net and assisted on junior forward Ahti Oksanen’s game-tying goal at 6:43 in the second period.
“I thought he played very well tonight,” Quinn said about the Calgary Flames prospect. “I thought he defended well, he moves the puck quickly, he skates so well, and he’s got a cannon for a shot, he was active offensively. He’s really coming on, he’s a very good player now and he’s got a great future for us.”