There’s nothing like looking into one’s open grave to provide a sense of urgency to remain on the upside of the turf. Boston College’s hockey team cheated death by sweeping last weekend’s Hockey East quarterfinal series against Vermont. On Friday night, with their season hanging in the balance again, the Eagles finally knocked off archrival Boston University for the first time and got to keep their sticks for at least one more night. Not to mention a chance to play for another championship.
“We mark our seasons by how many trophies we win and it’s a chance for us to get our second trophy of the year,” said BC coach Jerry York after his varsity held off the desperate Terriers, 3-2, before 10,979 at TD Garden to advance to Saturday night’s championship game against UMass-Lowell for the first time in five years. “That’s a driving force for us. We’re not as concerned about the NCAAs. We’re locked in tonight and tomorrow on the pursuit of the Lamoriello Trophy.”
BU, which won the previous three meetings between the archrivals this season, already has clinched a berth in the national tournament and likely a No. 2 seed. But BC, which has qualified for the nationals in seven consecutive years and 17 of the last 19, was fighting for its life, needing to win the title here to earn the automatic berth.
“We knew that they were coming out with a vengeance, that they’d come out firing with their season on the line,” said BU captain Doyle Somerby, whose mates fell behind, 3-0, before scoring two goals in 62 seconds with their cage empty as the clock was ticking down.
With three minutes to go the Eagles seemed to have this one wrapped up on second-period goals by Julius Mattila and Ryan Fitzgerald’s shorthander, plus what seemed to be a killer thrust by Fitzgerald early in the third.
“The shorthanded goal really changed the complexion of the game,” said BU coach David Quinn. “We give up a goal we’d all like to have back and then the backbreaker was the second goal. It’s 1-0 and you have a chance to make it 1-1 and get some momentum off the power play and the complete opposite happened.”
The Terriers had fallen behind, 2-0, in both of their quarterfinal victories over Northeastern, coming back to win both on power plays, the first in overtime, the second with 25 seconds to play. This time, they couldn’t quite crawl out of the hole.
“I mentioned the last few weeks about playing with fire,” Quinn observed. “We played with an inferno tonight.”
BU had a chance to take a first-period lead but failed to convert on consecutive BC penalties at 14:27 and 16:04 that gave BU a 5-on-3 advantage for 23 seconds. On the night the Terriers were 0 for 5 on the power play — and a painful minus-one.
“Our power play let us down tonight,” said Quinn.
While BC was 0 for 4 a man up, it got the job done 5 on 5 with freshman goalie Joe Woll (42 saves) standing tall. When Mattila whipped a wrist shot past goalie Jake Oettinger (32 saves) from beyond the right circle at 1:58 of the second period it marked the first time that BC had led BU in any of their encounters.
Then Fitzgerald hit the Terriers with a double shot with his shorthander at 13:21 and one on the rebound after just 58 seconds of the third period and BU was in deep trouble.
“We just didn’t pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off as we have in the past,” said Somerby.
Yet the Terriers had one final scramble in them once they pulled Oettinger and began buzzing. Jordan Greenway got one at 17:36 and Clayton Keller another at 18:38 and for a few crazy moments it seemed that BU might force overtime and possibly finish off the Eagles’ season.
But Fitzgerald won a key faceoff and when the bouncing puck somehow ended up beneath him he managed to keep it out of reach.
“It just so happened I ended up on the ice and the puck was underneath me,” he said. “So I just hovered over it and tried to protect it for as long as possible.”
Long enough to help his colleagues live for at least one more night — and play for another trophy.