MILWAUKEE — Boston University’s rebound continued Friday night, thanks to a bunch of rebounds and an unlikely hero.
The Terriers’ Gregg Johnson scored his second goal of the game and just his third of the season with 37.6 seconds left to cap a wild third period and give BU a 4-3 victory over No. 3 North Dakota in the opening round of the Bank One Badger Hockey Showdown at the Bradley Center.
The Terriers scored their first three goals on rebounds of shots on North Dakota goaltender Karl Goehring — two of them on the second rebound — and shrugged off losing the lead with 2:20 left to remain undefeated (5-0) at the Showdown and win their fourth straight game.
They’ll play Wisconsin for the championship on Saturday.
For as big a goal the winner was for the Terriers, it may have been bigger for Johnson. The freshman top-liner had just three points (a goal and two assists) in 14 games this season.
“Tonight, maybe I got the monkey off my back,” Johnson said. “In a way it was a little frustrating, but I tried not to think about it and just keep playing hockey.”
The same could be said for the Terriers (6-8-1) as a whole. They endured a six-game losing streak but have come back strong.
“It was a little frustrating at the beginning of the year; we weren’t scoring a lot,” Johnson said. “Now we’re scoring a lot, which is good. We’ll take it.”
Johnson’s goal created a jumbled end to a game in which North Dakota (13-4-4) uncharacteristically lost a third-period lead to lose for just the second time in their last nine games.
And it was a strange 24 hours for the Sioux, who didn’t arrive in Milwaukee in time for their scheduled practice time on Thursday because of bad weather.
Plus, coach Dean Blais left Milwaukee early Friday morning to be with his daughter at a hospital in Rochester, Minn.
“We really didn’t want to use that as an excuse,” said UND goaltender Karl Goehring, who made 23 saves. “Obviously we would have liked to practice yesterday, but sometimes the cards just aren’t dealt your way and you have to make do. We’ll learn from this and move on.”
Said Sioux assistant coach Dave Hakstol, who filled in for Blais: “I think as a whole, our guys responded very well.”
The third period was a game of its own, with a penalty shot, a Boston University player missing an easy tap-in chance, BU catching up, then taking the lead, only to lose it again and finishing with a rare North Dakota defensive miscue leading to the game-winner.
Johnson’s last-minute winner might have been a product of North Dakota being a bit overagressive in search of a winner of its own. The Sioux kept the pressure in the Terriers’ end, but it end up costing them.
Sioux defenseman Aaron Schneekloth tried to keep a clearing pass in the zone at the right point, but instead deflected it out of the zone, where Dan Cavanaugh and Johnson broke out with a two-on-one break. Cavanaugh drew the defenseman to the right side and gave Johnson a nice pass to the left post for a tap-in.
“He’s been real tenative,” BU coach Jack Parker said of Johnson, “… but I think he’s found a home with Cavanaugh.”
The Sioux left the arena wondering “What if?” mainly because of a missed penalty-shot attempt that, if converted, would have given them a 3-1 lead with less than nine minutes left.
Referee Robin Anderson called for the penalty shot when Cavanaugh covered a loose puck with his glove in the crease.
North Dakota’s Paul Murphy, who took the shot that wound up being covered in the crease, deked BU goaltender Jason Tapp to the ice with a nice move, but Tapp snared the shot with his glove while on the seat of his pants.
“Our guy Murphy went in and made a great play on goal, but their guy made a better save,” Hakstol said.
Said Parker: “Since it was a tight ballgame, they take the game away by going up by two. That was a huge save.”
Tapp (37 saves, including 15 in the second period) followed with a handful of nice saves down the stretch. But the penalty shot will be the one that’s remembered.
“I knew I had to make that save,” Tapp said. “It was going to be a lift for us if I made that save and I knew it was going to be a downer if they scored.”
A minute and a half after Tapp’s save on the penalty shot, BU tied the game when Kenny Magowan scored his second goal of the season, cutting through traffic in front of the net to poke home a loose rebound.
BU took a 3-2 lead less than three minutes later when Cavanaugh collected a rebound and backhanded it over a fallen Goehring.
But Sioux defenseman Chad Mazurak knotted the game again with 2:20 left off a faceoff on the right side of the Terriers’ zone. The Sioux won the draw to the left side of the zone, where Mazurak took it toward the net and backhanded the puck past Tapp.
North Dakota had the momentum after that point, until it pinched into the offensive zone a little too far, creating BU’s winner.
“We had an opportunity to get the winner, but [we were] maybe a little bit too greedy,” Hakstol said, “and that created an opportunity coming back in the other direction.”
The Sioux’s top line, arguably the best trio in the country at this point of the season, took charge early in the game and gave North Dakota a 1-0 lead just over six minutes into the game.
National scoring leader Jeff Panzer got behind the BU defense down the middle with Ryan Bayda carrying the puck down the left wing. Bayda threaded a pass to the net, where Panzer one-timed the puck low past Tapp.
A nice deflection and persistence in front of the net gave BU the equalizer about five minutes later. John Cronin’s shot from the right point was deflected in the right circle, and Goehring made the initial save and one on a mid-air rebound attempt by Johnson.
But the deflection and the save on the first rebound left Goehring exposed, and Johnson put home the second rebound at 11:35.
“We were doing a lot of good things in the little areas — bumping guys, getting to the net, battling for loose pucks,” Parker said. “Just going to the net, usually good things happen.”
The Sioux power play, clicking on one of every four chances thus far this season, gave North Dakota the lead again on its second chance of the night.
And it was another centering pass that provided the chance. Bryan Lundbohm passed to Panzer from behind the net. Panzer, on the right boards, put the puck onto Bayda’s stick in front of the net for a tip-in past Tapp.