Boston University has collected nine of these trophies now but few if any of them required as much anxiety and exertion and relentlessness as did this one. The Terriers had to run the table and win the Hockey East tournament in order to keep their season going. And so they did what they had to do Saturday night, shutting out Providence, 2-0, before an announced crowd of 10,169 at TD Garden to collect an automatic NCAA berth.
“It was the first time that we had to win this thing to get in the national tournament,” observed coach David Quinn after his squad had scored two third-period goals to subdue the Friars. “I think that makes this one a little bit more special than the others. What had to go into it, the adversity we faced and the path that we created for ourselves just says an awful lot about the guys in the locker room.”
BU’s triumph, which wasn’t sealed until Bobo Carpenter potted an empty netter with 1:22 to play, was sweet payback for the seniors, who won the 2015 crown but then were beaten by the Friars for the national title on the same patch of ice.
“It definitely feels like a little bit of redemption,” said defenseman Brandon Hickey. “We kind of slayed our demons a little bit for the seniors.”
Though Providence already had locked up a national spot, the Friars, who were playing in the final for the first time since 2001, were keen to collect their third crown after a 22-year gap. But they ran into a pack of Terriers who clamped their jaws on their ankles and couldn’t be shaken loose.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to them,” said PC coach Nate Leaman. “They’re a desperate hungry animal right now. They were playing for their lives to play next week.”
BU was a losing team when it drew with Providence at Agganis Arena in mid-January. “It looked like there was not a lot of hope,” Quinn acknowledged. The Terriers had to scramble to earn a quarterfinal bye and home ice. They beat Connecticut twice by one goal in the opening series and went to overtime in Friday’s semifinals against top-seeded Boston College.
All that got them was one more guaranteed night of life. “Obviously everyone in the room knew what position we were in,” observed goaltender Jake Oettinger, who made 30 saves, 18 of them in the first period. “It was do or die for our team. I know not one guy in that room wanted our season to end tonight and we showed it. We were the more desperate team.”
After falling two goals behind BC in the first two dozen minutes the night before, BU was content to be locked in a scoreless battle with the Friars after two periods. The last time either team had been in that situation was when the teams met at Agganis on Nov. 3 and the Terriers also prevailed, 2-0, on goals by defenseman Chad Krys.
BU was carrying the play, though, attacking a weary PC group that hadn’t left the ice until 12:30 Saturday morning after beating Northeastern in overtime. “It’s a factor, it’s not an excuse,” said Leaman. “They took advantage of that by getting pucks deep and wearing us down.”
The Terriers’ doggedness paid off after 56 seconds of the third period when Jordan Greenway won a scuffle behind the PC cage and fed the puck to Drew Melanson, who put it past goalie Hayden Hawkey (27 saves) from the left circle.
“I don’t think I did anything special,” said Melanson, who’d scored the tying goal that set up the BC victory. “Jordan obviously saw me and made a great play. Bang, bang.”
Still it wasn’t until after Carpenter’s clincher that BU finally could exhale and exult. The Terriers are going national for the fourth straight year and they got there by cheating death for two weekends. “I can’t really put into words how good I feel for our players and our school,” said Quinn.John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.