BOSTON — If Thursday’s hockey game were an ice fishing competition, Boston University would look at it as The One That Got Away.
After leading and sometimes dominating New Hampshire through the first 57 minutes of play, the Terriers managed to let a 4-2 lead slip away, as a Matt Fornataro power-play goal with 2:41 left set the stage for a Sean Collins extra-attacker goal with 57 seconds left. In addition to surviving a 17-6 shot advantage by BU in the first period, UNH held off the Terriers during an intense power play with one minute left in overtime. Wildcat fans ultimately exhaled, and the teams finished with a 4-4 tie, depriving BU of an opportunity to tie UNH for first place in Hockey East in front of a sellout crowd of 6,224 at Agganis Arena.
Mike Radja, Tyson Teplitsky, and Fornataro each notched a goal and an assist for the Wildcats, while Bryan “Boomer” Ewing matched that output for the Terriers. Freshman Kevin Regan stopped 37 BU shots for the Wildcats.
“I was proud of the way the team responded, especially in the third period,” UNH Coach Dick Umile said. “That’s the kind of team we are: They never quit and stayed with it. We played a great third period to pull out the tie. Obviously, we could’ve played better in the earlier part of the game, but the fact of the matter is the second half of the game the guys played well. So it’s a big point for us, and we’ll carry it over to our place on Saturday. It was a good hockey game-two good teams going at it.”
For BU Coach Jack Parker, it was a rather bitter ending to a sweet day. Prior to the game, the rink was officially named after him, as the crowd enjoyed a video presentation as well as a speech from BU President ad interim Dr. Aram Chobanian. Parker’s wife, one of his daughters, his son-in-law — former Terrier Scott Lachance — and his two young grandsons were on hand to enjoy the festivities at center ice. In the end, though, his strongest thoughts were concerning the disappointing ending to an admittedly exciting game.
“I thought we played a terrific game for about 54 minutes, and then we were back on our heels late in the third period-playing too much in our own zone, playing cautious,” Parker said. “We just didn’t end things in our zone. That wasn’t how they got the goal [that made it 4-3]: They got the goal on a long shot that went off the shaft of our defenseman’s stick and by our goaltender.
“We just absolutely butchered it on the tying goal. We should have everybody accounted for, and we’re just puck watching and leave a guy behind us. Puck trickles over to them, and they score.”
The tie left BU two points behind UNH going into Saturday night’s regular-season finale. The Terriers are tied with Boston College in second place and two points ahead of Maine for third place for the moment, but the Eagles and Black Bears face each other for a pair of games this weekend, so each has a game in hand on BU.
“Giving a point away like that-and we did give it away-really hurts, just in a psychological way.” Parker said. “It doesn’t really hurt anywhere else, because we’d still have to go up to UNH and win to have a chance at first place.
“It was a hell of a game to watch, obviously.”
The first period was one of the most free-wheeling 20 minutes that the Terriers have played this season–somewhat surprisingly, given the absence of top offensive defenseman Bryan Miller (groin strain). They dominated territorially for the most part and took a 1-0 lead just nine seconds into their first power play. Ewing teed up the puck for Dan Spang at the left point, and the junior fired a slapshot that captain Brian McConnell redirected past Regan.
Terrier Kenny Roche and Wildcat Brian Yandle each undressed defenders to set up scoring bids in the eighth and tenth minutes of the period, then UNH tied it at 11:47. Josh Ciocco raced in on the right wing for a shot, and Terrier goalie John Curry left a fat rebound in the slot. Mike Radja flipped it over him for the goal.
Given BU’s play, the crowd was shocked to see UNH take the lead at 15:08. High in the slot, Tyson Teplitsky collected a pass from the left-wing boards and blasted a slapper past Curry.
Just 45 seconds later, BU got the equalizer. With the first line of Brad Zancanaro, David Van der Gulik, and John Laliberte attacking with a vengeance, BU pressed until the puck ended up with Kevin Schaeffer at the right point. His 50-foot slapshot went in for his second goal of the season.
Less than three minutes later, BU took the lead when Eric Thomassian scored his first goal of the season, collecting a botched clearing attempt and unleashing a great shot from the right-wing faceoff circle.
Play calmed down in the second period after a Brett Hemingway and Sean Collins two-on-one in the opening minute was denied by a Curry glove snare. On a power play at 15:32, though, BU freshman Chris Bourque pulled off an end-to-end rush in which he casually sauntered up the ice, beating a few defenders before getting a backhanded shot on net. Ewing easily buried the rebound to make it 4-2.
“He can put people to sleep like that,” Parker said of Bourque’s rush. “It just looks like he’s walking, and then he beats one guy and then another guy. He had a heck of a night, played very, very well.”
The game appeared to be in hand for the Terriers, although some close calls for Peter MacArthur and Thomassian in third period could’ve ended it early in the third. UNH threatened with another Collins/Hemingway two-on-one halfway through the period.
“They like to do that TD pass a lot, so I tried to jump it,” Collins said. “We were talking the whole game about how Curry likes to come out of the net a lot to cut down the angle, so I tried to get him to drop his shoulder and go around him, but he held his ground pretty well.”
The gods finally smiled on the Wildcats at 17:19, when Fornataro’s shot hit a BU defender’s stick and fluttered past Curry. Then-just 11 seconds after Regan was pulled for the extra attacker-UNH tied it in the final minute with another serendipitous bounce.
“They won the faceoff clean, but Winnik did a great job of getting to their d-man to cut him off,” Collins said. “Hemingway just threw it out front; I think it went off about three skates, and it just went to my stick, and I tapped it in.”
Kenny Roche had a great chance to win it 40 seconds into OT, then the teams traded nominal chances until referee Conrad Hache made a call on UNH with exactly one minute to go. In a frenetic series of chances, MacArthur and Laliberte had the best chances to light the lamp, but Regan and the Wildcats held them off. Nonetheless, Umile screamed at Hache after the final buzzer, and a linesman escorted him off the ice.
Given that UNH (22-8-5, 15-4-4 HEA) was 0-1-2 against BC this season, a BC sweep still could prevent them from finishing first. BU (20-11-4, 14-5-4) could end up tied with UNH for first or as low as fourth, but they are guaranteed home ice in the league quarterfinals.