BOSTON, Mass. — In what has to be considered the most bizarre game in the young history of Agganis Arena, Boston University overcame a horrific first period and some equally bad officiating by referee Conrad Hache to tie the game with an unlikely pair of extra-attacker goals-only to lose 52 seconds into overtime on Brett Sterling’s hat-trick goal off of a face off.
Terrier senior John Laliberte set up two goals with exactly 90 and 60 seconds left to play to give BU a 5-5 tie and added a third assist to lead the scoring for the home team, which had looked completely hapless in the early going as numerous giveaways led to scoring chances galore for the Tigers.
However, the post-game press conference yielded the most eyebrow-raising news of the evening.
“There were two things that were bizarre-absolutely bizarre-in that game that have to be stopped,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said in closing his general comments. “The first is our team’s play in the first period. Any questions?”
Inevitably, this led to a question about the officiating, which had been a head scratcher for much of the game. Hache made several odd calls against both teams, and one elbowing call at 3:10 of the third period came just as Laliberte slipped the puck past Tiger goalie Matt Zaba-a goal that would’ve cut CC’s lead to 4-3. Parker went ballistic on the bench, and it was easy to assume that this resulted in the bench minor, a five-on-three, and a critical power-play goal to make it 5-3. However, this assumption proved incorrect.
“Like I say, there were two things that had to be stopped and one of them is we have to stop our play in the first period,” Parker said. “And something else has to be stopped. The referee gave my assistant coach a bench minor for clapping his hands and smiling at him. That’s what he told me. He told me ‘That is a travesty.’
“After they disallowed the goal because of a penalty, my assistant coach was standing in his normal spot and looked at him and caught his eye and clapped his hands and smiled at him. And the referee-that’s exactly what he said he did and what my assistant coach told me he did-and I asked him, I said ‘You gave him a bench minor for that?’ And he said, ‘Yes: That’s a travesty.” Well, he’s correct: It was a travesty out there, but he didn’t get the right one.”
All the same, Colorado College played tough and shrugged off a hard loss at Massachusetts. In particular, Sterling showed why he is the nation’s leading goal scorer with his hat trick, including two shots that left many jaws dropped.
“When you’ve got the leading goal scorer in the nation, you just let him do what he wants to do and try not to screw it up,” Tiger coach Scott Owens said.
“We had it set up as a stack with myself in the shooting spot,” Sterling said when asked to describe his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it game-winning goal. “Freshman center Chad Rau made an unbelievable faceoff play-won it pretty much as clean you’re going to win it, right onto my stick. Our other wing, Joey Crabb, stepped inside, gave me a great hole-about a three-foot lane-and I was able to get it five-hole. It came out really quick; we had no idea it even went in, but luckily the red light went on.”
Just 52 seconds into the game, BU found itself attempting to fend off a five-on-three that led to a goal at just 1:31. Brian Salcido notched two assists in the game to increase his team-leading total to 19, and his first came on this opening goal. His point slap shot caromed off the boards behind the net and bounced back out by the far post, where Rau tapped it in for an easy one.
At 12:05, Joey Crabb took the puck right off of Sean Sullivan’s stick and flipped it in the slot for another easy goal-this time by Sterling. BU played a bit better after Parker burned his timeout at that point, but CC still outshot BU by a 15-4 margin in the period.
“The first period was pathetic on our part,” Parker said. “We’ve looked bad in first periods before, but this was as bad as I’ve seen. It was bizarre to me that we could come out and play like we did. Granted, that’s a hell of a hockey team, and they can skate like (heck). But we didn’t skate.”
CC made it 3-0 early in period two when Curry went down in anticipation of a wraparound by Jimmy Kilpatrick. Instead the puck went high in the slot, where Jack Hillen astutely shot it high over the fallen goalie. BU finally got on the board when Laliberte kept the puck in the zone on the power play before unleashing the shot, with freshman Jason Lawrence flipping the rebound in.
“We were so bad that we might’ve fooled Colorado College into thinking ‘Oh, they’re this bad; we don’t have to try anymore,’” Parker said.
Despite its awful start, BU really made a game of it with another power-play goal with just 17.3 seconds left in the period. Sullivan set up Peter MacArthur for a sharp-angle shot and goal that was a momentum boost.
Still, the Tigers kept their composure and made it 4-2 on an amazing shot by Sterling off of a two-on-one after Sterling won a battle for the puck against Kevin Schaeffer in the neutral zone.
This preceded the controversial elbowing call and the additional bench minor given due to smiling and clapping. Scott McCulloch scored on the five-on-three, and it looked like the fat lady was about to sing for the Terriers.
Instead, they played their most inspired hockey of the night. Parked near the right-wing goal line on both occasions, Laliberte made a great pass to Kenny Roche for a goal to make it 5-4 with 90 seconds left, then set up Brad Zancanaro for a 15-footer to tie it with exactly one minute left. The crowd was still celebrating when Sterling summarily ended it early in overtime.
“Well, we worked harder; we played harder,” Parker said of his team’s tenacity late in the game. “It’s hard for me to give my team credit after what they did in the first period I can’t do it.”
BU (4-5-2) plays a home-and-home series against archrival Boston College next weekend, while Colorado College (12-3-1) also faces their biggest rival in the University of Denver in another home-and-home.