BOSTON — In an exciting contest featuring a five-goal second period, Boston University earned its 18th trip to the Beanpot finals in the last 19 years, as a Brian Collins hat trick keyed a 6-4 Terrier victory over Northeastern in front of a crowd of 17,728 at the FleetCenter.
The Terriers erupted in the second period and led the game 4-1, then held on for dear life in the third as the relentless Huskies clawed their way back into the game and nearly tied it in the closing minutes.
On an evening that evoked flashbacks of the Blizzard of ’78, Terrier coach Jack Parker was flashing back to a blizzard of goals in ’83.
“I just remember years ago playing Northeastern in a first-round game, playing late,” Parker said, referring to the 1983 Beanpot. “And we were winning three-nothing, and the crowd went home. The place was like a ghost town. All of a sudden Northeastern chipped away and beat us four to three.
“That’s all I kept thinking of during the game: ‘I hope this crowd sticks around.’ They stuck around enough considering the weather outside, but I also thought Jason Tapp stuck around too. He really stood tall in the third period when we needed him most.”
“Obviously, things didn’t go the way we wanted,” Huskies coach Bruce Crowder said. “Overall, I thought we played a decent game. We made a couple mistakes that they ended up capitalizing on.
“Basically, a tip of the hat to them: They found a way to win.”
Crowder was asked to explain why the Huskies have shown they can beat BU but consistently struggle against them in the Beanpot.
“It’s tough to explain, but at the same time, if you think about it, over the last six and a half years they have not lost a game in this tournament,” Crowder said. “All you can do is give credit where credit is due, and that’s a phenomenal run. Now it’s up to BC next Monday night to see if they can make a difference.”
The anticipated dogfight between the Terriers and Huskies started off as advertised, as the teams traded goals in an exciting and physical first period.
The Terriers’ first great scoring bid came at 4:30, when Mike Gilhooly sprawled to stop a Mark Mullen shot. Brian Collins had the upper half of the net to shoot at on the rebound, only to flip the puck over the net.
Collins didn’t have to wait long for redemption. Just 19 seconds into a power play less than four minutes later, defenseman Pat Aufiero crossed the puck from the corner into the slot, just beyond Gilhooly’s reach. Collins one-timed the pass home for a 1-0 lead.
The goal was a good example of why the Terriers lead Hockey East with a 25 percent power-play success rate.
A Terrier penalty gave Northeastern its first real chance of the game at 9:40. BU goalie Jason Tapp left a fat rebound of a Fahey slapshot from the point, and the loose puck tantalized the Huskies, who couldn’t get to the puck fast enough.
Tapp didn’t get away with leaving rebounds during the next NU rush, and the Huskies got the equalizer at 13:01. Tapp came well out of the net to cut down the angle on a Mike Ryan slapshot, as the sophomore broke into the zone on the left wing. The goalie made the initial save, but one of his defenseman whiffed on clearing the rebound. Mischler got a second shot off, and that one caromed over to Willie Levesque on the opposite wing. Tapp had not quite returned to his cage, and Levesque converted the shot easily.
The Terriers took time to regain momentum but finally came close with 1:15 left in the period, as freshman Steve Greeley scooted in on the right wing and shot one off of Gilhooly’s pads. There was a mad scramble — Dan Cavanaugh dove in a bid to knock it home — but the Huskies eventually got the whistle.
The Huntington Hounds were not so fortunate shortly after. Jack Baker intercepted a clearing attempt and flipped the puck toward the slot, and Mullen flipped a nifty little pass to Corazzini crashing the net. The Terrier captain beat Gilhooly low for a goal that would test the Huskies’ mettle.
Sure enough, BU got another power play in the first minute of the second period and made the conversion look easy. Dan Cavanaugh slipped the puck to Brian Collins just off of Gilhooly’s stick side, and the sophomore stickhandled toward the crease before slipping a backhander in for the 3-1 lead.
BU had struck fast again, requiring just 26 seconds to capitalize on the power play.
After surviving a five-on-three, BU wasted little time in counterpunching. Dan Cavanaugh raced up the right wing and almost lost the puck as he slipped by two defenders, resorting to kicking the puck back onto his stick and crossing to Collins. The sophomore knocked it home for a hat trick and a 4-1 lead.
“All three of the goals were just tap-ins,” Collins said. “They probably were the easiest goals of my college career.”
The Huskies refused to buckle. Captain Jim Fahey’s power-play shot from the right point ricocheted off of Terrier Colin Sheen, and the deflection beat Tapp five-hole to keep NU in it halfway through the period.
NU pressure forced a Terrier penalty at 15:45, when Kenny Magowan knocked down Brian Cummings just outside the crease to thwart a scoring chance. Twenty seconds later, the Huskies pulled within one, thanks again to rebounds. Tapp made a save on a Mike Jozefowicz slapshot, and Willie Levesque batted at the rebound twice until the puck popped up in the air and through the crease, where Mischler knocked it home to make it a 4-3 barnburner.
Again, though, the Terriers slowly regained momentum and regained their two-goal cushion with 1:22 left in the period. After cycling the puck effectively along the boards, the Terriers got the puck back in the hands of the dangerous Collins. Gilhooly stopped him that time, but Nick Gillis tapped the rebound home to make it 5-3.
Tapp made his best save of the night with 26.8 seconds left in the period, when a blueline-to-blueline pass sprang Scott Selig for a breakaway. Tapp flopped on his side and snared the shot with a big glove to preserve the two-goal margin going into the third.
Perhaps the offensive players exhausted themselves in the frenetic second period: there were few good chances in the early going in the third. Tapp dove to pokecheck away the rebound of a Mike Jozefowicz slapshot two minutes in, and Collins had a chance for a fourth goal at 6:27, but that was about it through the first half of the period.
A Husky power play yielded a few chances shortly thereafter. Once again, the rebound of a Jozefowicz shot lingered in the crease, but it only led to a second Terrier penalty and a crucial five-on-three for 30 seconds with 9:23 remaining. Recognizing the moment, Crowder called a timeout.
Ten seconds after play resumed, Crowder looked like a genius. Fahey teed up yet another Jozefowicz slapshot, and this time the senior unleashed a laser that slipped by a Levesque screen and into the corner of net. All of a sudden it was 5-4 with ample time left on the second penalty and in the game.
The Huskies absolutely teed off on Tapp for the rest of the power play but couldn’t tie the game.
The Huskies were dominating the period in terms of shots but struggled to get the equalizer. Gilhooly was pulled in the last minute, and the Huskies had their chances, but Corazzini ended it with an empty-netter with 16 ticks left on the clock.
The Terriers — who are at .500 for the first time since November 4 with a record of 12-12-2 — now set their sights on a rematch final with archrival Boston College next Monday night, though they first must contend with UMass-Lowell in a road game Friday.
The Terriers seem to relish the role of underdog in the Beanpot — No. 2 BC has been a popular pick to win the tournament this year.
“Actually, this will be my third final, and I think we’ve been an underdog all three times,” Cavanaugh said. “That doesn’t bother us at all.”
Meanwhile, Northeastern (10-12-4) travels to UNH on Friday before facing Harvard in the Beanpot consolation next Monday.