Perhaps they will meet again, be it in the Hockey East playoffs or maybe even in a Frozen Four title redux, but Boston University and Providence College staged two nights of emotional and gritty playoff-like hockey over the weekend, and Saturday night they again battled to a tie, 3-3, before 5,508 at Agganis Arena.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, a Bruins draft pick, potted a pair of goals, including the go-ahead (3-2) strike for BU at 12:32 of the third period. But the top-ranked Friars, who took a 2-0 lead into the third, knotted it for good at 13:49 with Blues prospect Jake Walman's second goal of the night.
Friday night in Providence, the sides battled to a 1-1 tie — their first matchup since April, when the Friars roared back to beat the Terriers in the national championship game.
"I learned that we can compete with the best of them,'' said BU coach David Quinn, summing up the home-and-home series that lifted his Terriers to 5-3-2 on the season (3-2-2 Hockey East). "That's a big, strong, well-balanced team. We showed a lot of resiliency. We showed mental toughness. We showed great team camaraderie."
Above all, the No. 11 Terriers displayed a ferocious third-period push, a frame in which they outshot (20-8) and outscored (3-1) the Friars. The Terriers on both nights battled back from deficits, and were particularly rabid after goalie Connor LaCouvee turned back Kevin Rooney on a breakaway that would have bumped the Friar lead to 3-0 at 6:35 of the middle period.
The Terriers then rattled off three quick goals in a span of 5:20, making the Friars pay repeatedly for penalties. Ahti Oksanen, who had BU's lone goal Friday, started it off at 7:12, followed by Forsbacka Karlsson's pair (9:40, 12:32).
"I am a little disappointed that we didn't finish both games,'' said Friars coach Nate Leaman, whose club (6-0-3, 0-0-2) allowed the Terriers a mere 1:17 of lead time over the two nights. "But you are still growing at this time of year, still learning, and it's not like I feel we didn't play well enough to extend leads — we just didn't finish.''
BU entered the third period down by a pair, but pulled even on goals only 2:28 apart, first with Oksanen's power-play goal from low in the right circle off a dish from Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk.
Forsbacka Karlsson knotted it at 9:40, just as the Friars returned to even strength. With few options as he held the puck along the right-wing board, JFK flipped a half-speed wrister into the slot and watched it snake its way by Nick Ellis (34 saves) for the tie.
For the second time in as many games, the Friars were first on the board, with sophomore pivot Brian Pinho popping home a point-blank wrister at 17:13 of the first period. Right winger Nick Saracino set it up, retrieving a loose puck off the wall after a faceoff in the left-wing circle. Saracino relayed a laser to the slot and LaCouvee (32 saves) had little chance of stopping Pinho.
The Friars built on their lead in the second period, again outshooting the Terriers for a lopsided 23-15 advantage after 40 minutes. Terrier penalites, which twice led to 5-on-3 opportunities for the national champs, fueled some of those Friar opportunities.
It was during their first 5-on-3 advantage, with 12:36 gone in the second, that the Friars bumped their lead to 2-0 on Walman's one-time blast. Isolated above the right-wing circle with the Terriers two men short, the sophomore blue liner put the hammer down. His equalizer in the third left him with nine goals in nine games this season.
"I think he has worked a lot on his shot,'' said Leaman, explaining Walman's improved offensive prowess this season. "I think last year his shot was very average. I think now his shot is much better. It's not only accuracy, it's how quick you get it off. That's the big thing, he's getting it off quicker and he is a lot more accurate. Last year, he struggled getting it on the net.''
Quinn, his Terriers next to host Michigan on Friday and Saturday, felt the weekend provided an encouraging read.
"There's a checklist of things you need if you are going to win championships, starting with talent,'' he said. "If you have enough talent, then there's about 7-8 other things you need if you are going to have success. I think we keep checking the boxes, which is a good sign.
"There's a lot to like about where we're at right now, and by no means are we satisfied, but I like the direction we are going."
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The Terriers sported their throwback white sweaters, with "BOSTON UNIVERSITY'' in simple red capital letters across the chest. The same sweaters were first worn in December 1949, when Hall of Famer-to-be Jack Garrity was a 23-year-old frosh on Comm. Ave. Garrity recently died at age 89. Quinn was the motivating force behind the retro sweaters, having seen a picture of Garrity in the original iteration.
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A moment of silence was observed prior to puck drop, the crowd at Agganis Arena honoring those killed and wounded the night before in the Paris terrorist attacks.