Jack Parker’s coaching career isn’t over yet. The veteran Boston University bench boss extended his and the Terriers’ season with a 6-3 come-from-behind victory against archrival Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals Friday night at TD Garden. The Terriers scored five straight goals, rallying from a two-goal deficit on the way to the victory.
Parker, who announced his retirement after 40 seasons, has at least one game remaining on his impressive resume (897 wins and counting) as the No. 3 seed Terriers will take on No. 1 seed UMass-Lowell on Saturday night with the league tournament title on the line as well as an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. BU advances to the league title game for the first time since 2009, the last time the Terriers won the NCAA championship.
BC’s senior class suffered its first blemish with the only tournament loss at the Garden after 14 consecutive victories. The Eagles will sit and wait until Sunday night to see where and whom they play in the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.
“I thought the game was so out of hand the first half,’’ said Parker. “I thought my guys were uptight. We were struggling to move the puck, we were getting outskated. I thought our goaltender really stood tall. We were tentative. Then we got the goal to make it 2-1 and the opposite happened, we got after them pretty good. I was so pleased at how hard we competed even when we were down 2-0. We were fortunate we had everybody going the right way the second half of that game. We came back from the dead, I thought.’’
BC started off very well. With defenseman Sean Escobedo in the box for tripping, the Eagles raced in on a 3-on-2. Bill Arnold fired the puck at the net from the right circle and it caromed off the stick of Garrett Noonan and past freshman Sean Maguire (44 saves) at 18:33 for the 1-0 lead.
The Terriers had a chance to pull even when Patrick Brown was whistled off for slashing at 6:34 of the second. But instead, BC killed it off and just 12 seconds later, doubled the lead to 2-0.
Pat Mullane, who was positioned in the far left circle, threw the puck at the net and Quinn Smith redirected it underneath the crossbar at 8:46. Maguire didn’t have a chance and BC appeared to be in command.
But that all changed in a big hurry. On just their fourth shot of the period, the Terriers closed to within one. Sophomore right wing Evan Rodrigues, who along with junior left wing Matt Nieto and freshman center Danny O’Regan comprise the hottest line in the country, scored a spectacular goal at 12:17.
Rodrigues beat Patrick Wey down the right circle. He executed a toe drag as Smith slid by and snapped a shot underneath the right arm of Parker Milner (21 saves).
The Terriers came all the way back, 2-2, just 2:04 later on a terrific individual effort by freshman left wing Matt Lane. BC actually won the faceoff in the right circle of the BU zone. The puck kicked back and a pass to Danny Linell went astray. The puck rolled away from Linell at the blue line and Lane was off to the races.
He charged in on Milner and beat him on a backhand shot at 14:21 for his fourth goal of the year.
BU scored its third straight goal at 17:59, taking its first lead of the game. During a power play, Matt Grzelcyk showed poise and patience as he looked to pass the puck. He found Noonan in the right circle and Noonan, who was back in the lineup after missing three games because of a separated shoulder, one-timed a shot from the right circle to put BU ahead, 3-2. It was the Terriers’ third goal on five shots in a span of 5:42.
The real turning point of the game was at 1:08 of the third when Johnny Gaudreau was assessed a five-minute major for cross-checking Escobedo, shifting the penalty trouble from the Terriers to the Eagles.
At 1:42, O’Regan boosted BU’s lead to a pair when he scored a power-play goal. His shot from the slot through a screen beat Milner to the glove side.
O’Regan put the game out of reach at 8:57 when he scored on another power play. The deft center beat Milner on a rebound from the slot for his 16th of the season. O’Regan is riding an eight-game scoring streak with 12 points in that span.
BC senior right wing Steven Whitney got one back at 13:43 but Rodrigues closed it out on a shorthanded, empty-net goal with 2:29 remaining.
“I thought for the first 30, 35 minutes, we played as well as we have played all year long,’’ said BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh. “Then, Rodrigues got a goal and it got them energized a little bit. Probably the biggest thing in the third period is we just didn’t kill penalties well. I was proud of the way we kept playing. We had some great chances to make it 5-4. If we can play like we did those first 30 minutes, I like the way we’ll enter the regionals.’’