WORCESTER, Mass. — Three was the magic number for Boston University.
Early in the third period, BU broke open a 3-3 game with three goals in less than three minutes, as the Terriers beat the Crimson 6-4 in the NCAA Northeast Regional opener at the Centrum Centre.
All four forward lines tallied for BU, and Sean Fields made 34 saves — including several critical gems in the second and third periods — to lead the Terriers into the regional final. Frantisek Skladany and Bryan Miller each potted a goal and an assist for the victors, while Crimson right wing Tyler Kolarik did the same in a losing effort. Tim Pettit added three helpers for Harvard.
In its matchups with Boston University this season, the third time was not the charm for Harvard. After losing two closely contested games with their rivals from across the river earlier this season — including a 2-1 classic in the Beanpot opener — the Crimson once again came up short against the Terriers.
“It was a typical Harvard-BU game,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “We’ve had three great games with them, and we’ve got to consider ourselves very, very fortunate to win all three games against that hockey team. They put a lot of pressure on you; they’ve got a lot of talent; they’re well-coached. For us to win three games against them is really fabulous.”
Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni was frustrated to come close and lose once again to the Terriers.
“From our perspective, I have to give credit to them, but I don’t think we had the defensive intensity that we needed to have,” Mazzoleni said. “[It was] the greatest number of goals we’ve given up this year. You don’t win many games giving up six goals. I thought we had some great individual efforts on our team, but not collectively tonight.”
“I think the story of the game was that we were a little bit sloppy defensively at times, and I think we were a little undisciplined at times,” Harvard captain Dominic Moore said.
The teams played an even first period, with BU owning a slight edge in shots and scoring chances — several courtesy of the Terriers’ third line of Frantisek Skladany, Brad Zancanaro, and Kenny Magowan.
Just 22 seconds into its first power play, BU took the lead on some nice tic-tac-toe passing. David VanderGulik slid the puck across the zone to Bryan Miller low in the right-wing faceoff circle. Miller spied Brian Collins cruising toward the far post and rifled a pass over for an easy tap-in goal at 3:39.
Harvard answered within a half-minute. Right wing Tim Pettit stole the puck behind the Terrier net and passed to Brendan Bernakevitch at the top of the crease; the sophomore converted it to make it a 1-1 game.
Harvard had an excellent bid at the 12-minute mark when Brett Nowak drew a man to himself before nicely slipping a pass through to Dennis Packard, allowing the left winger to walk on Fields’ stick side. Fields made the save before getting clobbered by traffic; he was fortunate to cover the puck with his legs while lying on his back.
The Terriers’ fourth line picked an opportune time to make some noise on the scoresheet, notching the go-ahead goal at 14:57. Off a Ryan Priem shot, Matt Radoslovich gathered the rebound and patiently held the puck until he saw an opening, taking a shot that glanced off Dov Grumet-Morris on the way in for his third goal of the season.
It took Harvard just a little longer to get the equalizer this time. On a power play at 17:06, Pettit took a shot from the right point. The puck appeared to carom off of Tyler Kolarik’s left side, and BU goalie Sean Fields had no chance on the unexpected deflection. It was Kolarik’s 15th goal of the season and probably the most accidental one of the lot.
With the teams playing four-on-four late in the period, the game appeared to take an ominous twist for the Crimson at 19:49, when Harvard blueliner Ryan Lannon was whistled for butt-ending. Lannon drew a five-minute major and a game disqualification, giving the Terriers an extended power play to open the second period.
“I think anyone who follows our program knows that Ryan Lannon is probably our best defensive defenseman,” Mazzoleni said, acknowledging that losing Lannon meant more than simply going down to five blueliners.
However, BU struggled mightily with the man advantage, garnering only a pair of nominal scoring chances. Surviving the major predictably gave the Crimson momentum, and Harvard took its first lead of the night at 8:33. After Tyler Kolarik had a good bid from close quarters, Brett Nowak chipped the rebound from the crease into the net. Twelve seconds later, Harvard almost got another one off a Charlie Johnson shot.
Two minutes after that, Harvard freshman Dan Murphy had a terrific opportunity, skating in all alone on Fields’ glove side after getting the puck low in the zone, but Fields made a fantastic save. Then, at 12:22, Dominic Moore stripped the puck from Bryan Miller for another scary moment for BU — followed by a pair of chances within the next ten seconds by Pettit and Kolarik.
“Sean’s been playing great for us all year; we didn’t expect any less out of him tonight,” Terrier captain Freddy Meyer said. “He really stood on his head for us tonight.”
“We won that game tonight because we got absolutely fabulous goaltending,” added Parker. “He made some big saves; he’s turned things around for us a number of times this year.”
Buoyed by their netminder’s heroics, the Terriers tied the game at 14:44 — scoring on their first chance after the Harvard flurry. Skladany and Magowan brought the puck into the Crimson zone before feeding it to Zancanaro on the left-wing side. The freshman whistled a powerful 25-foot wrister that nipped the top-shelf corner on Grumet-Morris’ glove side.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the Zancanaro goal was the biggest goal of the game,” Parker said. “It’s 3-2; they got a couple of power-play chances; we’re struggling to get the puck out of our zone; we’re giving up shot after shot off of faceoffs. I was just hoping to get out of the period 3-2. ”
Nowak set up Kolarik yet again at 19:00, but Fields acrobatically wheeled his legs, and the shot went over the net. For BU, Freddy Meyer countered off a long Zancanaro pass, barreling into the Harvard goalie hard without much of a shot. Grumet-Morris shook it off quickly, and the teams looked to see if a third period could decide it.
It did. Just 45 seconds in, Terrier forward Brian McConnell walked around Peter Hafner along the left-wing boards and then fired a pass across to Mark Mullen on the right wing, and Mullen buried the one-timer.
Seventy seconds later — just eight seconds into a power play — the Terriers got the backbreaker. Bryan Miller got the puck at the left point and flipped the puck toward the net. It found its way through traffic and slipped past the screened goalie into the corner of the net for a true seeing-eye goal and a 5-3 Terrier lead.
The deflated Crimson looked flat-footed two minutes later, and Skladany capitalized to give BU a three-goal cushion. Realizing that no one was bothering to cover him after getting his own rebound, Skladany skated around a few defenders like they were pylons and flipped the puck in the net for a 6-3 lead at 3:34.
“We had some breakdowns,” admitted Mazzoleni. “You can’t dig a hole like that against a team like Boston University. They’re a tournament-tested team and extremely well-coached.”
The Crimson showed heart the rest of the way, getting one back on a power play at 7:53 when Dominic Moore’s slapper slipped through a crowd and beat Fields. Moore had a shorthanded breakaway at 11:05, but his against-the-grain backhander went just wide. Fields made a nice glove snare on Pettit at 13:00 and kept it a two-goal game the rest of the way despite significant Crimson pressure.
BU (25-13-3) faces the winner of Friday night’s UNH-St. Cloud State matchup, looking to advance to its first Frozen Four since 1997. Harvard (22-10-12) must look to next season without star forwards Dominic Moore and Brett Nowak but otherwise intact.