BOSTON — Now this was a weird one.
Boston University, with everything to fight for, playing at Northeastern, with seemingly nothing to play for. The No. 4 Terriers, the ice tilted in their favor all night, peppered the Northeastern net for a 28-12 edge in shots after two periods Friday night.
And trailed, 2-1.
The only thing that stood between BU and an absolutle blowout was freshman goalie Jake Thaler. A rookie who had only dressed in two games, let alone played in any this year.
In the end, though, order was restored. Boston University scored four times in the third period to win, 5-3, thwarting Thaler’s 39-save debut and leaving Matthews Arena with Hockey East home ice clinched for the first round and a good shot at either first or second place depending on Saturday’s outcomes.
“Give him credit, first time he ever played,” BU coach Jack Parker said of Thaler. “Mike Bavis kept saying to me, ‘I hope this guy isn’t the John Curry of their club.’ He certainly played very well against us tonight.
With the victory, BU (20-9-4, 16-7-3 Hockey East) keeps its spot behind Boston College in the Hockey East standings. The Terriers are one point ahead of Maine for third and one point behind BC for the regular season title. BU holds the tiebreaker against both clubs.
“I told our guys before we came over here I wasn’t worried so much about what the outcome was, I wanted to be sure we deserved to win the game – that we didn’t go over here and take them lightly,” said Parker. “I knew Northeastern would give us everything they had. If the game was over, and if we deserved to win the game, I thought we’d be happy. I thought we deserved to win the game.”
Northeastern (3-23-7, 3-16-7) took leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but both times the Huskies were answered by senior defenseman Dan Spang. In the first period, he skated into the NU zone and let a wrist shot fly that beat Thaler to his right. Early in the third period he put a soft wrist shot from the point on net that beat Thaler for a power-play goal and his sixth tally of the year.
“I thought Danny Spang was immense as well, not just because of the goals but he played very, very well throughout. If he’s not an All-American defenseman this year…” Parker said. “He’s had one heck of a year for us and he’s gotta be one of the best defensemen in the nation. I’m very pleased for him for having such a great senior year.
“He’s had a heck of a season but he keeps just pouring it on here at the end; he keeps getting better and better. He certainly has been a stalwart for us for a long time. He’s having a fabulous senior year.”
A minute later, BU took the lead on a Brian Ewing goal, but Northeastern tied it again with 10 minutes to play when sophomore Ray Ortiz chopped a rebound past BU goalie John Curry (14 saves) just nine seconds into a power play.
Still, with 2:14 to play, BU’s Kenny Roche corralled a loose puck near the right post and easily sent it home for the game winner.
Thus ruining Thaler’s superb effort.
“We’re very excited for him,” said Northeastern senior captain Chuck Tomes after his last game in Matthews Arena. “He played great, kept us in it in the first period. He played great all game. He’s been working hard all year, no one could be happier for him. I wish we could have gotten the win for him in his debut, but he played great and he did well with this chance that he was given.”
With a minute left in regulation, BU senior David Van der Gulik scored an empty netter to finish scoring.
The teams move across town tomorrow night to wrap up the Hockey East regular season.