PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Neither Boston University nor Providence seemed eager to take off their uniforms and begin their summer vacations.
With the Terriers and Friars both needing victories to keep their seasons alive and advance to the Hockey East Semifinals, the two teams played the longest game in Hockey East history — an exhausting and physical thriller in the rubber match of their three-game quarterfinal series.
After 96 minutes and 26 seconds, the Friars finally emerged victorious when Marc Suderman redirected a left-point slapshot by Regan Kelly through the five-hole of freshman goaltender Sean Fields, setting off a celebration at Schneider Arena.
“Honestly, all I can remember is the puck getting back to Kelly, and Reegs took a shot,” Suderman said. “I was kind of coming across in front of the net. He put it about a foot off the ice — great spot to tip it — and I put my stick there and hoped for the best.
“I hit it and saw the puck go through Fields’ legs, and after that, pandemonium.”
Friar Coach Paul Pooley had some words before the second overtime that proved to be prophetic.
“I told them it was a battle of wills,” Pooley said. “We do a drill called the Hose Drill, where we do a lot of one-on-ones; we do a lot of cycling down low; we do a lot of faceoffs.
“I told them we were going to win the game because of the Hose Drill. And it was off a faceoff that won it, on a chip to the net.”
The Friars do one-on-ones, three-on-threes, and other scenarios: The players who lose a faceoff have to skate down-and-backs as punishment.
“I said, ‘You’re sick of down-and-backs, but a faceoff wins you a hockey game,” Pooley said. “It’s the simple things.”
The win keeps the Friars’ NCAA tournament hopes alive. They probably still need at least a win over Maine in the Hockey East semifinals on Friday, but a loss tonight would have ended their dream of playing in the tournament for the first time since 1996.
As for BU, it was a tough ending for Fields. His heroics kept the Terriers in it despite being outshot by the lopsided total of 52-27. Fields had a career-high 48 saves, topping his previous high of 37, which was his total in last night’s game.
Ending the season with an overtime loss was an all too recurring theme for Terrier Coach Jack Parker. Three years ago, UNH beat the Terriers to keep BU from advancing to the Frozen Four. Last year, the Terriers lost a quadruple overtime marathon — the second longest game in NCAA history — to St. Lawrence, again denying them a Final Four berth.
“I think what happened to us tonight is exactly what happened to us against St. Lawrence,” Parker said. “After a while, the game deteriorated and we didn’t have any legs. Playing five defensemen the whole game [due to a Pat Aufiero concussion in game one] really took its wear and tear.
“It was a real physical weekend for us, but I loved how we competed. I loved what we did after we lost the first game, how we came back and played as hard as we did in the next two. I also loved how our goaltender played: That’s real bright promise for next year. He played with such poise over the last two nights.”
With both teams’ fourth lines on the ice, the Friars first goal came on a counterattack following BU’s first scoring chance. Freshman Peter Zingoni got the puck just inside the left-wing blue line and dished a backhanded pass to Cole Gendreau streaking into the zone. The senior released a 20-foot wrister that beat Fields high, glove side.
It was a timely first goal of the season for Gendreau, whose previous goal came two seasons ago during his sophomore year.
A minute later on a power play, Providence had a great chance to go up by two when Matt Libby took a slapshot from the point, and Jon DiSalavatore got the rebound on the doorstep with Fields down, but the winger couldn’t hit it home.
Halfway though the period, DiSalvatore had a second, third, and fourth opportunity, as he whacked at a rebound three times in a row without managing to score.
The biggest difference between the two teams in the period was power-play performance. Although each team enjoyed a pair of man advantages, Providence piled up shots and chances, while BU only managed one shot in goal. The Friars outshot BU by a margin of 10-3 in the period.
The Terriers came to life with a shorthanded goal at 3:20 of the second. Terrier Captain Carl Corazzini took the puck away from Regan Kelly at the point and raced down the ice, only to have Kelly’s defensive partner Jay Leach make a nice poke check to deny the shot. Corazzini regained control of the puck behind the net and passed to Mike Pandolfo in the right-wing face-off circle. Pandolfo beat Schaefer low for a 1-1 deadlock.
Soon it was Providence’s turn for a momentum-boosting shorthanded goal. A BU turnover triggered a three-on-one breakout for the Friars, with freshman Cody Loughlean leading the rush on the right wing. With Fields staying deep in the net, Loughean opted for a quick, hard shot, which cleanly beat Fields on the far side.
Just over a minute later, the Terriers evened it up again with a two-man advantage. Once again, it was Pandolfo from the right-wing face-off circle off of a feed from John Cronin at the point.
Pandolfo had five of BU’s eight goals in the quarterfinal series.
With 1:51 left in the period, on a critical power play, Providence picked up a big goal when Kelly passed to Leach on the left point, and Leach’s slapshot avoided traffic in the slot and got by Fields.
That made it 3-2. Coming into the game, Providence held an unusually strong record of 17-0-4 in games in which they had scored at least three goals.
With the Terriers down a man early in the third, it looked as if Terrier Captain Carl Corazzini and his fellow seniors might be facing the last 20 minutes of their collegiate careers. Instead, the Terriers caught a big break when freshman Mark Mullen stole the puck on the shorthanded forecheck and threw the puck at Schaefer. Mullen was almost on the goal line but apparently banked it off the goalie for a stunning bad-angle goal and a 3-3 tie with plenty of time remaining.
Both teams had nominal chances as the period progressed but few golden opportunities. At 13:20, the Terriers threatened when John Sabo crossed into the slot: Corazzini dove in a great effort to poke one home, but the shot went wide.
With 4:10 remaining, the Friars came close when Peter Fregoe camped out behind the goal line and hit Devin Rask cutting toward the net for a dangerous one-timer, but Fields stacked the pads for the save. Twenty-five seconds later, Shawn Weiman came in uncontested from the left point and almost had Fields dead to rights. The rebound came to close to the goal line, but the netminder lunged to glove it.
The crowd of 1,520 at Schneider Arena began to go ballistic, and some great end-to-end action ensued. Both teams rushed the puck — playing to win — but eventually time ran out, setting the stage for the third overtime game between the two teams this season. It also marked the tenth period of physical hockey in three nights for the rivals.
There weren’t too many scoring chances in the opening minutes of overtime. Eight minutes in, DiSalvatore was set up nicely just outside the crease but couldn’t sweep the puck past the recalcitrant Fields.
Fregoe had a clear shot from the left wing 12 minutes in, but Fields knocked that one aside as well.
The teams finished the first overtime with shot totals reflecting the cautious, tight-checking action, as Providence outshot BU 6-3.
Providence continued to get the better of the opportunities in double overtime. Four minutes in, Rask set up Loughlean for a shot in tight, but Fields came up with his 44th save. Two minutes later, DiSalvatore brought the puck in the zone and crossed to Fregoe breaking in alone. It looked like the moment was at hand, but Fregoe struggled with the puck on edge, and Fields made a terrific extended leg save.
Fregoe really had to be feeling snakebitten at 11:40 when he had a good initial chance, then a great chance to put in a blind, backhanded rebound with Fields out of the net, but he shot it just wide, evoking a great groan from the dwindling crowd.
That set the stage for Suderman’s winner. Before tonight, the longest Hockey East game ever happened in 1994, when UNH required 90 minutes and 28 seconds to beat BC 6-5.
The series was quite a contrast to the quarterfinal matchup between the two teams at the end of the 1998-99 season. In that series, all three games were lopsided: Providence won games one and three by scores of 8-2 and 5-1, with BU picking up an 8-2 victory in game two. This year’s series featured two games decided by one goal and a 6-3 Providence win in game one.
While Providence (21-11-5) advances to face Maine on Friday, BU’s season has come to an end. Coincidentally, their final record of 14-20-3 matches their record of that 1998-99 season, when Providence also ended their season at Schneider Arena.