BOSTON, Mass. — After a positively bizarre display on Friday night — a 9-6 win by the Black Bears — Boston University rebounded tonight to show an excellent demonstration of playoff form.
Maine rallied to tie BU three times before taking its first lead with 5:40 to go in the third, but Terrier co-captain Mike Pandolfo came up with a look-what-I-found tip-in with 2:43 left to tie a brutally physical, topsy-turvy game 4-4, as BU clinched the two seed in Hockey East and avoided a quarterfinal matchup with archrival Boston College.
“I was just in front of the net; the guy actually tied me up,” Pandolfo said. “I didn’t even see it. It just hit my stick and went in, so, a lucky one. Knocked the stick out of my hands because I didn’t see it coming.”
Terrier netminder Sean Fields made 30 saves — including 15 during a lackluster Terrier second period in which Maine outshot the hosts 16-3. Maine forward Niko Dimitrakos notched two goals.
Although the Terriers (23-8-3; 15-6-3 Hockey East) and Black Bears (20-9-7; 14-5-5 Hockey East) finished the regular season tied with 33 points, the tiebreaker is determined by BU having one more win than Maine. The Terriers will host seventh seed Providence, while Maine draws the dangerous Eagles.
Terrier coach Jack Parker was happier after giving a decisive thumbs-down to the film from the previous night’s showing. Parker and Maine interim coach Tim Whitehead had traded their film reviews before Saturday’s game.
“I talked to Timmy before the game,” Parker said. “He said he watched the game film — thought it was bizarre. I thought it was horrendous on our part last night. It was worse when I watched the game film.
“We played a lot harder tonight,” Parker added. “We almost self-destructed again with stupid penalties … I’m real disappointed in that. Other than that I thought we competed hard — we got a great second period out of Fieldsy when were back on our heels taking the penalties and not playing real well.”
“Great hockey game — definitely a lot of swings of momentum,” Whitehead said. “A lot like last night’s game in that respect but a very different game. Goals were tougher to come by.
“Both teams played really hard,” added Whitehead. “Both teams had to battle back at different points in the game, but I liked the way our team competed. The best thing I can say is that we’re ready for the playoffs. That was playoff hockey all the way.”
After only two nominal scoring chances for BU and none for Maine in the opening 15 minutes, the Terriers took the lead.
John Cronin’s slapshot caromed off the boards behind the net and kicked out to Freddy Meyer at the opposite point. Meyer skated in and suddenly found that the Maine defenders were preoccupied with tussles in front of the net, so he came toward the post before flipping the puck into the crease. Amidst the chaos of bodies, Maine defenseman Prestin Ryan appeared to knock the puck into his own net. Meyer was credited with the goal.
Maine tied it up in the waning moments of the period with some nifty one-touch passing circumventing the Terrier defense. Colin Shields passed the puck across the point to Peter Metcalf, who pushed the puck to Niko Dimitrakos near the glove-side post. Dimo had his back to the net but cleverly redirected the puck to beat Fields.
Maine started to get more shots and more chances than the home team as the second period progressed. Dimitrakos had a few good opportunities, but Fields remained solid.
Finally BU took the lead again on a highlight-reel goal by Jack Baker, who undressed two defenders before flipping a backhander past Yeats.
The rest of the period belonged to Maine, though, as they outshot the Terriers by a 16-3 margin. The Black Bears knotted the game for a second time when Todd Jackson intercepted a pass near the goal line and patiently held the puck before slipping the puck around Fields, who had come out to cut off the angle.
What appeared to be the game’s fateful twist came in the opening minutes of the third, when Colin Shields was called for a five-minute major and game misconduct after his hit from behind resulted in Frantisek Skladany taking a frightening header into the side boards — drawing a hush from the crowd of 3,623 at Walter Brown Arena. It was by no means an intent to injure: Skladany was stumbling before he was hit, amplifying the danger of the situation, but referee Tim Benedetto really had no choice given the outcome. Fortunately, the Slovakian returned to action minutes later.
Maine handled the pivotal penalty kill effectively until a second penalty gave BU a five-on-three advantage. That proved to be too much, and Jack Baker notched his second goal of the night to give the Terriers a 3-2 lead.
Just when it looked like the Terriers had it in hand, outshooting Maine 11-6 in the period with eight minutes left, Maine tied the game for a third time with a sudden strike. Martin Kariya came across the blue line and backhanded a pass to tee up the puck for a blast by Lucas Lawson. From the top of the left-wing faceoff circle, his 30-foot slapshot beat Fields glove side to make it 3-3.
Then Maine stunned the crowd by getting their first lead of the night. Lawson and Dimitrakos executed a nice give-and-go culminating in the latter beating Fields with a 15-foot wrister for the lead.
After Pandolfo’s tying goal, things got pretty crazy after that — Benedetto swallowed his whistle, as players from both teams were run dangerously into the boards.
“I thought it was a pretty dirty game,” Parker said. “We got a lot of retaliation penalties, and we got away with a few too that we should have gotten penalties for, and so did they … It was tough game to referee, too; it was a real war out there.”
Yeats made a great leg save on Meyer with 1:52 left to preserve the tie, then Robert Liscak countered with a chance that appeared to catch the crossbar behind Fields.
Brian Collins almost set up Mark Mullen for a tip-in with seven seconds left, but Mullen was tripped. There was no call at that stage of the game.
Collins and Mullen also teamed up for the best chance of overtime, 15 seconds in.
Whitehead said he considered pulling the goalie in the waning moments but decided that the potential cost in the Pairwise Rankings was not worth the chance to move up in the Hockey East seedings.