BOSTON — As ‘N Sync might say, for Boston University it could be Bye Bye Bye.
Friday’s 4-3 loss to Maine reduced the chance for the Terriers to obtain a bye in the NCAA Tournament, while Maine remains in contention for a free pass to the second day of the NCAA East Regionals in Worcester next weekend.
Altogether — for two different reasons — Boston University had to question whether it indeed had “too many men” in its Hockey East semifinal.
The Terriers were playing shorthanded on the blue line with Pat Aufiero and Bryan Miller out with injuries, leaving BU to rotate five d-men for the majority of the game.
Also — perhaps more significantly — the Terriers were called for a controversial too-many-men penalty with the game tied 3-3 in the third, and the ensuing power play resulted in Niko Dimitrakos burying the game-winner to advance to the Hockey East Finals against UNH on Saturday night.
For Terrier coach Jack Parker, the critical penalty put a damper on what had otherwise been an entertaining seesaw battle between foes who previously had split the season series with a win, a loss, and a tie.
“Good college hockey game, typical of most of the games we played with them this year,” Parker said. “Not so typical in that there weren’t too many penalties called: very clean game. I thought our guys played great, the way we wanted to play. We just didn’t get the W.”
The Terrier coach’s conciliatory tone withered quickly, however, when asked what happened that resulted in the critical bench minor.
“You should have the ref and the linesman take a look at the game film,” Parker said. “Nothing happened. Unbelievable call. If the linesman looks at the game film, he’ll be pretty embarrassed about that.”
Maine interim coach Tim Whitehead did not see the play in question but believed that various missed calls balanced out. Otherwise, his comments echoed Parker’s.
“It was a great college hockey game, great for the fans, I’m sure it was very exciting,” Whitehead said. “Generally a great game to be involved in as a coach or a player. It was hard-fought, and we were fortunate to come out with one more than they did.
“It was a great team effort,” added Whitehead. “We had some stretches where we didn’t play our best, but we refocused and came out and a good third — a smart third — kept it simpler, got the puck to the net a little more.”
Brian Collins scored the game’s first two goals on the Terriers’ behalf, while Tom Reimann pitched in a goal and a helper for the Black Bears in front of 15,683 at the FleetCenter.
The Terriers got off to a strong start. After a few good bids from Mike Pandolfo, among others, Brian Collins gave BU the lead at 7:30. From the right-wing faceoff circle, Pandolfo threw a pass to his linemate high in the slot. Collins wheeled onto his forehand to fire a low shot that slipped by Matt Yeats.
Just 101 ticks later, Collins struck again with a beautiful redirect. Ryan Whitney took a low slapshot from the left point, and Collins angled his stick to lift the puck over Yeats’ glove from a good 15 feet out.
Fans who imagined the rout was on probably had not witnessed the battles between the clubs two weekends ago, when even a five-goal lead seemed tenuous. Sure enough, the Black Bears made it 2-1 within four minutes.
A Terrier tried to clear the zone, but Tom Reimann intercepted the attempt and wheeled to make a perfect feed to Colin Shields in the left circle, and the only Scottish-born player in Hockey East beat Sean Fields for his team-leading 27th goal.
Maine carried the momentum into the second period and notched two goals in just 76 seconds, both coming in the first three minutes. At 1:08, Fields made an initial save but couldn’t quite get the handle on the puck. Gray Shaneberger lofted the rebound high over the sprawling goalie.
Shortly thereafter, Shields got his second of the night on another rebound. This time around, Prestin Ryan took a shot from the left point, and Reimann took a couple whacks at the rebound before Shields finally buried it.
“I don’t think Sean was as sharp as he has been down the stretch,” Parker conceded. “We haven’t seen those type of rebounds much. There’s no question he made some great saves — he made some fabulous saves. But he wasn’t quite himself in terms of calmness and positioning.”
The Terriers settled down and began to regain momentum. They had a terrific chance at 17:30, when Chris Dyment got a puck coming out of the zone and slipped it through a bunch of Maine defenders to Brian McConnell, parked all alone on the doorstep. He patiently put the puck on his backhand and almost slipped it in low before Yeats pounced it on for the save.
Yeats’ moment of glory was short-lived, though. Gregg Johnson won the ensuing faceoff back to Dyment at the point, and his shot beat Yeats through traffic to tie it 3-3.
The first thrilling moment of the third came at 5:56, when Maine’s Michael Schutte launched Niko Dimitrakos for a clear breakaway. Dimitrakos made a nice move to his forehand, but Fields stayed with him to make the huge save.
“I was kind of rattled; I’m not going to lie,” Dimitrakos said. “I should have buried that. I just tried to focus on my next shift.”
Unfortunately for the Terriers, though, they got called for too many men at the same time, setting the stage for that “next shift.”
Before that, though, BU had a shorthanded two-on-one, and Yeats had to squeeze a good shot by Pandolfo. Then Fields had to dive behind him to cover a puck that trickled over his glove and almost in.
Ultimately the penalty proved costly for the Terriers, as Dimitrakos redeemed himself by getting the go-ahead goal at 6:59. Peter Metcalf fed it to Schutte behind the goal line, and the defenseman passed it across the slot to hit Dimitrakos crashing the net.
“It came out on a high roll, and I slipped it over to Metcalf,” Dimitrakos said “He slid it over to Michael Schutte, and I just went to the net. He made a great pass.”
Fields kept the Terriers in it with a few gems in the net, most notably stoning Lucas Lawson with a sliding save after Dimitrakos set him up two-on-one with five minutes left. But the nail started getting pounded into the Terriers’ coffin when John Sabo was called for roughing — of all things — with just 2:31 to play.
The Terriers (25-8-3) must wait until Sunday night to see who they will face in Worcester, Mass. Maine (22-9-7) is also definitely in the NCAAs and will shoot for a possible bye as well as the Hockey East Championship on Saturday night against UNH, which is currently the top team in the Pairwise Rankings.