These Terriers are like your dog that likes to hurl himself against the electric fence to jolt himself awake and then get down to business. Boston University’s hockey team went down by two goals to Boston College after less than 24 minutes. They fell behind, 3-2, with just over five minutes to play in regulation. They couldn’t cash a power play in overtime.
And yet BU found a way to keep its season alive for another day, squelching the top-seeded Eagles, 4-3, on Patrick Curry’s rebound off a Shane Bowers wraparound bid after 15:40 of overtime to win their Hockey East semifinal at TD Garden and a berth in Saturday’s championship game against Providence.
“Certainly an incredible hockey game,” said BU coach David Quinn, whose fourth-seeded squad (20-13-4) needs to win the title in order to reach the national tournament for the fourth straight time. “Not surprised it went to overtime. Two teams, obviously your season’s on the line, archrivals, everybody leaving everything out there.”
Unlike last year’s semifinal showdown, when BU already was assured of an NCAA berth despite losing, a loss on Friday would have been fatal. Last year when BC needed to win out, a loss to UMass-Lowell ended its campaign.
This year the Eagles (20-14-3) had a tiny bit of wiggle room but needed North Dakota to lose to St. Cloud State (which it did) and for Harvard and Princeton to lose to Clarkson.
“A little different than last year when we knew we could not go on to the NCAA Tournament with a loss,” observed coach Jerry York. “Still a lot to shake out here.”
The Eagles didn’t win five national titles by hoping that other people did their work for them. So they threw an immediate haymaker at the Terriers, scoring on their first shot after just 46 seconds when defenseman Connor Moore launched a slapper from the left point past goalie Jake Oettinger (36 saves). When Julius Mattila slammed home David Cotton’s pass from behind the cage at 3:16 of the second period the Eagles appeared to be in command.
But their lead disappeared quickly after a defensive giveaway in the left circle led to a goal by uncovered Ty Amonte at 8:57. Then, after BC couldn’t clear its zone, BU defenseman Chad Krys sent a cross-ice pass to unmarked freshman defenseman David Farrance, who put the puck past goalie Joe Woll (41 saves) to draw his mates even at 10:34.
“So proud of our team coming back down 2-0,” said Quinn. “Dig yourself a hole against that team with that goalie. We got a little bit demoralized but we never quit. We kept coming.”
The Terriers appeared to have taken the lead at 5:15 of the third period on Jordan Greenway’s wrister from between the circles but the goal was disallowed upon review after Brady Tkachuk was ruled to have been in the crease, even though he was pushed in by defenseman Kevin Lohan.
When Christopher Brown put the Eagles ahead, 3-2, at 14:41 he did it by ripping a shot through a massive goalmouth scrum that survived a review. But BU countered after only 45 seconds when Drew Melanson scored from the doorstep at 15:26 and the proceedings went to an extra session.
Both varsities were recently familiar with having to go beyond regulation. BU had to come from behind three times before beating Connecticut in overtime in the opener of their quarterfinal series at Agganis Arena. And BC needed a shorthanded goal in the extra session to complete its sweep of 10th-seeded Merrimack at Conte Forum.
For a couple of minutes the Eagles had appeared to weather the storm, killing off a slashing penalty on Logan Hutsko. But the Terriers, as is their custom, kept swooping and swarming. Over the dasher came Curry, who’d scored only twice all season, both against UConn in October.
What he wanted to do was support Bowers. When he saw him come out from behind the net with the puck, he was parked properly.
“I decided to jump off to the back end of the net,” Curry said. “He tried to stuff it and luckily it went onto my stick and in the back of the net.”
These two Commonwealth Avenue denizens have been playing this game for a century.
“A classic rivalry game,” mused York. “BC-BU, played for high stakes in a major venue.”
It has gone BC’s way before and will again. Last night belonged to a bunch of canines that enjoy making the game a near-death experience but have a canny knack for survival.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.