BOSTON — With a career-high 44 saves, Dartmouth goaltender Dan Yacey may have seen his share of shots against Boston University tonight, but he missed seeing the most exciting goal of all-the one that the Big Green scored when Yacey was pulled for the extra attacker to tie the game 2-2 with 14.7 seconds left in regulation.
“I went to the bench, and I was saying my prayers with my head buried between my legs,” said Yacey. “It’s the weirdest thing: I had a weird feeling that we were going to do it. The chips were stacked against us, but I had this weird feeling. We’ll take it; it was a good effort by our guys.”
Even those who were attempting to watch the play had trouble figuring out what happened. Clearly, Dartmouth defensemen Brian Van Abel threw the puck from the left point into a scrum of players, but after that neither Terrier defenseman Ryan Whitney, nor Big Green Coach Bob Gaudet, nor the press corps could figure out what happened.
After two scoring changes, Mike Ouellette ended up getting credit for it, and he knew what happened. Sort of. “It started out that No. 24 [Grant] Lewis kept it in on the blue line, kind of took it on his backhand, and I thought he was going to take it to the net like that, but he made the pass over to Abes, No. 23,” Ouellette said.
“Abes took a shot,” added Ouellette. “It looked to me like he aimed right for my stick; I’m not sure if he meant to do it or not, but I had my stick on the ice and lost track of it after that. There was a huge crowd in front of the net. No one else said they touched it, so… .”
So Dartmouth managed to sneak out of Walter Brown Arena with a point, although all 2,720 in attendance probably would have agreed that it was a better fate than they deserved. The snake-bitten Terriers piled up a season high of 46 shots, outshooting their ECAC opponents 18-6 in the first period alone. They also received very good goaltending from Stephan Siwiec (25 saves), who replaced Sean Fields between the pipes after the latter had a mediocre game against Harvard on Tuesday. The Terriers hit harder than they have all year and played an extremely thorough game, doing everything but get the W.
“I loved the way we played tonight,” BU Coach Jack Parker said. “I like everything about our game. I told our guys that one of our goals should be that when the game is over, when you come into the dressing room you want to be able to say you deserved to win, and we deserved to win tonight.
“We gave them two goals on really bad turnovers, then we almost gave them the winner on a turnover,” added Parker. “Other than that, I don’t remember turning the puck over once. I don’t remember making a bad play.”
“They’re obviously a very good team,” Gaudet said of his opponent. They play hard. I like the style that BU plays: They’re physical; they get after it, and I obviously have a lot of respect for their program. But I thought our kids played hard.
“Dan played super in goal and gave us a chance, and we got our feet under ourselves a bit,” said Gaudet. “We’ve got a young team, and I think this is a good learning experience for our guys–to hang in there and play hard and play against a physical team and try to give it back a little bit. I thought we got better as the game progressed, but I thought BU played a really good game.”
“It’s weird; it’s always a blur,” Yacey said of his performance. “Until I watch the tape, I can only remember four or five saves to be honest with you; I don’t know why. I just zone out or something. ”
BU almost had a lead less than four minutes, but referee John Gravallese appeared to blow a quick whistle just before Matt Radoslovich popped the puck into the net over Yacey. Of the Terriers’ 18 first-period shots, the best chance came at the 11-minute mark when Mark Mullen set up shot behind the goal and set up freshman defenseman Sean Sullivan crashing the net, only to have Yacey take the shot off the mask with the rebound going out of play.
The Terriers survived a five-on-three that carried over into period two but almost surrendered a shorthanded goal when Eric Przepiorka broke in on Siwiec at 3:50, only to be denied by the sophomore netminder. Less than a minute later, the Terriers finally scored just after the power play expired. Ryan Whitney fired a puck from the left point with John Laliberte screening Yacey, and the puck found a lane and went in for the 1-0 lead.
Big Green star Lee Stempniak tied it up at 11:14. Trying to keep the puck in the Dartmouth zone, Gregg Johnson tried to make a blind pass to Sean Sullivan at the left point, but Stempniak intercepted it and was off to the races. Sullivan did a terrific job of catching up to the forward and tying him up, but the puck ended up bouncing off Siwiec, then off a skate before trickling in for a surprising 1-1 score.
The Terriers regained the lead less than two minutes later. On another power play, Dan Spang’s left point shot was nicely redirected in by freshman Kenny Roche on the right side of the slot.
Frantisek Skladany had several good chances in the third period, making several great individual efforts. Yet he was skunked once again and remains without a goal all season.
“He absolutely could have had four tonight,” Parker said. “We’ll take his ties and belts away from him; that’s for sure. He had one goal at the break last year, and then he caught on fire. He’s playing much better than he was at this time last year, so sooner or later it will go in for him. Same with McConnell, same with Mullen.”
“They’re going to start bouncing in, and when they do, we’re going to be real dangerous,” Whitney said. “We just have to get through this time right now.”
The Terriers had many chances to put the game away but couldn’t manage to do so, and they paid the price in the waning seconds. Both teams had some good chances in overtime, but it ended tied.
BU (3-4-4) hosts Yale on Sunday, and Siwiec’s very strong play means that BU has a tough decision to make about whether regular No. 1 goalie Sean Fields will be back in or not. “I don’t know,” Parker said. “[Stephan] played well tonight, so we’ll see. Sean struggled against Harvard I thought, but we want to get him straightened out, so we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, Dartmouth (4-1-4) enjoys over two weeks off before continuing their long stretch on the road against Maine on December 13.
“We’re just playing a lot of road games; we’ve played a boatload, and we’re going to Maine, [Minnesota] State, and UMass-Amherst, and UNH in Manchester, so we’ve got some really tough non-league games, but I think it’s going to make us better, and that’s why we play them,” Gaudet said. “We’re playing to make our team better down the stretch in our league. We’re really young. You’re talking to a goalie who played maybe less than half a dozen games behind Nick Boucher. He’s played great.”