One by one, the Providence College hockey team skated through the postgame handshake line at center-ice following Saturday night’s 4-3 victory over Boston University in the Frozen Four title game at TD Garden .
And, one by one, each member of the Friars spent a little extra time trying to offer more than just a word of consolation to BU goaltender Matt O’Connor. Even Providence goalie Jon Gillies, who was named the Frozen Four’s most outstanding player after making a championship game-record 49 saves, sympathized with his BU counterpart, patting O’Connor twice on the chest and giving him a hug.
“A lot of it was just a way to make me feel better,’’ said O’Connor, who made 39 saves. “I think I deserved to play a little bit better in the third in that game. We had a lot of chances to score, but Gillies played well, they were coached by a great coach and Providence worked hard all year.
“They deserve it. It’s great for their program.’’
BU’s junior goaltender, who backstopped the team to 25 of its 28 victories this year, cut an inconsolable figure on the Terrier bench after he gave up a pair third-period goals.
The first was on a miscue that tied the game, 3-3. O’Connor dropped the puck after making a routine glove save on Tom Parisi’s long dump-in and allowed it to fall between his legs and trickle across the goal line at 11:24.
“I couldn’t really see it in my glove,’’ O’Connor said. “I thought it had rolled out a bit. So I tried to drop and throw it to Jack [Eichel], but it was too late.’’
Once O’Connor dropped the puck, he immediately dropped to his knees to try and cover it up, but wound up propelling it across the goal with his pads.
“It was kind of like a weird, indecisive bounce,’’ O’Connor said.
He was asked if he had a nightmarish flashback to the third period of Thursday night’s 5-3 victory over North Dakota in the semifinals, when O’Connor allowed Troy Stecher to score a shorthanded goal after misplaying a puck off the boards.
“Definitely not,’’ O’Connor said. “I thought it was completely different. That one, it hit the boards, bounced off over my stick and was a definitely a different situation completely.
“I thought in that game I had played well enough to create a little bit of room for error,” O’Connor added. “I felt great on all shots, getting my spots, great rebound control and it was just a really weird and indecisive moment that cost us the national championship, I guess you could say.’’
Brandon Tanev then scored the winning goal at 13:43, just two seconds after BU had come out of a timeout.
BU coach David Quinn pulled O’Connor with 1:49 remaining to go with an extra attacker. It relegated the junior from Toronto to an anguished spectator for the remainder of the game.
When the final horn sounded, it triggered a wild on-ice celebration by the Friars. It was in stark contrast to the scene on BU’s bench where O’Connor buried his head in his chest and was doubled over in agony.
“He was really broken up,’’ said freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey, who attempted to console O’Connor.
“You see a teammate hurting like that, you can’t really have that happen,’’ Hickey said. “He’s the reason we really got here. Without him in net, playing the way he did, there was no way we could get this far. I told him that bounces happen. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t.’’
To illustrate his point, Hickey pointed to the fortuitous bounce the puck took for Gillies in the final minute of the game when he denied Cason Hohmann’s backhanded swat at a tying goal, but left the puck unprotected in a wide-open crease for a moment before Anthony Florentino cleared it.
O’Connor appreciated his teammates’ effort to pick him up, but he knew better. He knew things might have turned out differently for the Terriers were it not for his miscue.
“I think we deserved a better result,’’ O’Connor said, as he sat in his locker, a forlorn figure still dressed in his No. 29 BU sweater, pads, and skates. “Everyone in this locker room deserves a national championship. I think Coach Quinn, the program, and all the fans deserve a lot better than what happened out there.
“If we had a three-game series against this team, maybe things would be different. But Providence is a great team, [has] a great coach, and they worked hard all throughout the game and they kind of got lucky on the weird bounces, I guess.’’