BOSTON — Given that the Hockey East playoff seedings were already decided well before the puck was dropped Sunday night, a casual college hockey fan could be forgiven for assuming that the Boston College-Boston University matchup would be a friendly exhibition.
In a game that featured several punishing hits, four two-man advantages and moments when one wondered if the Terriers were more interested in picking up penalties than goals, BC blitzed BU with two five-on-three goals in 32 seconds on the way to winning the “meaningless” last game on the Division I regular-season schedule, 4-1 in front of 3,378 at Walter Brown Arena.
Jeff Giuliano scored two goals for the victors, while Tim Kelleher made 20 saves for the Eagles.
“I thought our emotion was good; we channeled it in the right direction,” Eagles coach Jerry York said. “We have not had real good success here over recent years, and part of it is we just get away from hockey when we come.
“The crowd’s on you and there’s a lot of distractions, but tonight we stayed focused and played well.”
The sophomore was playing just his fifth game of the season due to a bout with mononucleosis as well as the strong play of senior Scott Clemmensen, who was sidelined on Sunday with what York described as a “balky knee.” For Kelleher, it was especially satisfying to earn his first-ever win over the Terriers, as his older brother Chris was the Terriers’ co-captain in 1997-98.
“Aw, it’s great,” Kelleher said of the victory. “There’s been a lot of argument between us going back and forth kidding around about it. I lost in the Beanpot [championship] last year, which was probably one of the worst days of my life. But now this is great.”
Meanwhile, Terriers coach Jack Parker was none too pleased with his team’s play over the last 40 minutes.
“I thought we had a real solid first period and then we self-destructed,” Parker said. “Took stupid penalty after stupid penalty. Gave up two five-on-three goals, then watched BC roll us in the third period.
“It was a pathetic exhibition of discipline in the second period and effort in the third,” Parker added bitterly. “Other than that it was OK. Other than that, how did you like the show, Mrs. Lincoln?”
The two teams came out skating and hitting hard, as the first period featured a fast pace and a considerable amount of chippiness.
BU had a good chance on a rush one minute into the game, as the second line of Mike Pandolfo, Brian Collins, and Frantisek Skladany raced into the zone with some nifty playmaking, only to have Skladany miss wide.
Brooks Orpik punished Collins with a huge hit seconds later, and the forward was flat on the ice for a few minutes but soon returned to play.
The Terriers built confidence with some chances on a power play, then scored the game’s first goal at 7:34 thanks to the persistence of Kenny Magowan. Magowan picked up a pass at center ice, raced in on the right wing, and shot on Tim Kelleher.
Kelleher made the initial save, but Magowan took three or four whacks at the rebound before knocking it home as a BC defender finally wrestled him to the ground.
BU held a significant advantage in shots and scoring opportunities but had to be disappointed to maintain the slimmest of leads despite their fine play.
The second period featured a rather dramatic turning of the tables.
The middle stanza has been the Terriers’ albatross for much of the season: Although they have outscored the opposition in the first and third, they finished the regular season on the short end of a 41-27 margin in the second.
“We’ve had horrible second periods all year,” Parker said. “I have no idea why. It’s been our bugaboo all year long. It’s been an unbelievable recurring theme.”
Amazingly, the Terriers found themselves battling off five-on-three advantages three times in the first eight minutes of the period.
At 5:41, with just four seconds left on the first two-man advantage and a delayed penalty awaiting the Terriers, freshman Ben Eaves crossed the puck from the left-wing face-off circle to Jeff Giuliano near the opposite dot. The beleaguered Tapp was down and easily beaten.
“Gionta took out the goalie for me, so it was a wide-open net,” Giuliano said with a smile.
Thirty-two seconds later, the Eagles picked up another five-on-three goal when Krys Kolanos buried the rebound of a Marty Hughes shot.
The Terriers survived the third two-man deficit and actually picked up a five-on-three of their own for a full two minutes, only to accomplish next to nothing. Though leading Hockey East in power-play percentage, the Terriers’ miserable two-man advantage left them with just four goals in their last 38 power-play attempts over eight games. Not coincidentally, the Terriers are just 1-6-1 during that stretch.
The Terriers continued to chalk up mostly gratuitous penalties. After outshooting BC 12-6 in the first, BU was dominated by a 13-4 margin in the second.
In the third period, the Eagles scored their third goal just seconds after Freddy Meyer’s late second-period penalty expired. Freshman Tony Voce knocked home the rebound of a Bobby Allen’s left point slap shot for a 3-1 lead at 1:35.
At 5:50, Giuliano got his second of the night on a great effort. After scrapping for the puck behind the net, Giuliano held off a defender with one arm and shoveled a 7-footer past Tapp with the other.
The floodgates were officially open, and the Eagles added insult to injury when Mike Lephart broke in shorthanded and beat Tapp high to make it 5-1 at 7:02.
Top-seeded Boston College (26-8-2, 17-5-2 Hockey East) hosts Merrimack next weekend in the Hockey East quarterfinals, while sixth-seed BU (13-18-3, 9-12-3 Hockey East) travels to face No. 3 Providence College.
“We’ll try to put this behind us and get ready for the new season,” Parker said. “But this past season ended on a sour note, I can tell you that.”