DURHAM, N.H. — Twenty years of Hockey East history remained intact with a bounce of the puck and an overtime goal for the Boston University Terriers Saturday.
David Van der Gulik’s goal at 2:30 of overtime gave the Terriers a 4-3 victory over No. 8 New Hampshire, salvaging their playoff lives by finishing eighth in Hockey East, one point ahead of Northeastern, a 3-2 winner over Massachusetts.
The goal came in a do-or-die overtime for the Terriers. After BU, which remains alongside Boston College and Providence as the only Hockey East teams never to miss the playoffs, got the puck below the goal line, a random shot by Van der Gulik deflected off sticks and skates in front of UNH goaltender Mike Ayers (30 saves) and finally trickled back to him at the left post.
Van der Gulik banged home the rebound, sending Terrier nation into a frenzy.
“I think I had three whacks at it,” said Van der Gulik, the hottest Terrier heading into the playoffs with five goals in his last five games, including three versus New Hampshire this weekend. “I finally got a shot that hit the defenseman’s leg and went in.”
The celebration that ensued for the Terriers looked like the kind generally accompanied by a skate around the ice with a championship trophy. As Van der Gulik explained, the season dictated such frivolity.
“After the year we’ve had, that was the biggest game of the year for us,” said Van der Gulik, whose Terriers’ eighth-place finish is their lowest in the 20-year history of the league. “So winning the way we did felt like it was the Stanley Cup for us.”
“This was a playoff game for us,” said BU head coach Jack Parker, whose Terriers needed one win in the final two games of the season to make the playoffs, but managed only a tie in Thursday’s opener against UNH. “I’m pleased that we could live another day. The guys were saying down in the locker room that we’re 1-0 in the playoffs.”
The game featured solid playmaking and most importantly excellent goaltending, despite the fact that there were seven goals. BU goaltender Sean Fields (28 saves) matched Ayers save for save through the opening two periods, and picked up his 60th win, tying him with Scott Cashman for the most all-time for a BU netminder.
The goaltending duel began in a first period dominated by special teams. New Hampshire had two power plays, overlapping for a 53-second five-on-three man advantage. The BU penalty kill, though, stood strong, backed by Fields’ six saves throughout the kills.
Boston University was the beneficiary of three power plays in the first and made good on the third to take a 1-0 lead. Ryan Whitney blasted home the rebound of a blocked shot, catching Ayers moving right to left, firing the shot to the upper right corner for the 1-0 lead.
The second period, though scoreless, featured plenty of end-to-end action. BU’s penalty kill generated the best opportunities, as Brian McConnell was stopped on a two-on-one shorthanded bid at 14:06, and Brad Zancanaro took a shorthanded home run pass from Fields at 18:09 but was denied by Ayers on the breakaway bid.
That laid the groundwork for one of the season’s wildest third periods.
BU opened the scoring in the frame extending its lead to 2-0 when John Laliberte finished off a pass from Frantisek Skladany at 2:32.
But 55 seconds later, UNH got on the scoreboard, when Preston Callander put home a centering feed from Jason Micflikier, beating Fields over the right shoulder.
The Wildcats pulled even at 6:42, as Mick Mounsey scored his second goal of the year, collecting a pass from the left-wing half boards to the point, and putting a hard wrist shot on net that beat Fields and escalated the already loud Whittemore Center crowd.
BU, though, found a quick silencer when Skladany took a pass in the slot from Dan Spang and snapped it past the blocker of Ayers for the 3-2 lead.
UNH answered on the power play at 10:36. Justin Aikins kept at clearing pass in at the blueline and fed Nathan Martz. Martz quickly cycled the puck behind the net to Brett Hemingway, who snapped a centering pass to Brian Yandle. His shot snapped off of Fields’ glove into the net.
With the remaining minutes scoreless, the game headed to overtime and Parker informed his players of their destiny.
“With four minutes left [in regulation], we found out that Northeastern won,” said Parker, “so I told the guys before overtime that we either had to score or we’d have to pull the goalie.
“Some teams might have wilted but their demeanor was fabulous, and that paid off because they got the goal.”
With the win, Parker’s Terriers meet archrival BC, only the second time in league history the two clubs have faced one another in the quarterfinals (BU won the first series as the number-two seed in 1993).
Though one might like BU’s chances compared to the rest of the league against the No. 2 Eagles, Parker won’t show too much optimism.
“We’ve played them four times and have never seen both Eaves brothers,” said Parker, referring to Ben and Patrick Eaves’ injuries and the fact both are anticipated to be in the lineup next weekend. “In the Beanpot final, if it wasn’t for our goaltender, we could’ve lost 10-1.”
UNH, on the other hand, drops into the fourth seed in the playoffs and will face Providence.
“Anytime the four and five seeds play it’s going to be even hockey,” said New Hampshire coach Dick Umile. “It’s disappointing going into the playoffs with a loss. But it’s over and done with now. Now we’ll focus on the playoffs.”
Playoffs that the Terriers are simply happy to see.