BOSTON — It took Boston University all of nine seconds of overtime to match their offensive output for the first 60 minutes.
After batting to a hard-fought 1-1 tie through regulation against Yale, the Terriers top line of Chris Higgins, Jason Lawrence, and Matt Gilroy won the opening draw in overtime and went in and scored on series of great individual efforts to give No. 11 BU a 2-1 win over No. 17 in this non-conference game in front of 5,087 at Agganis Arena.
“Off the faceoff I got a lucky bounce toward their net,” Gilroy said. “I tried to move around the guy and got laid out, got it to Jay. Jay got bear-hugged, got it to Higgy. Higgy had it, and I was screaming his name. He found me back door, and I put it away.”
The scarlet-and-white Terriers celebrated along the boards, breathing a sigh of relief in avoiding their fifth tie in just 11 games this year.
Besides the walk-off goal, the big story of the night was BU goalie Karson Gillespie, who stopped 23 of 24 Bulldog shots in his first start of the year.
“I liked our effort,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “I liked how hard we played; I thought some guys had great nights. But the guy who had a [particularly] great night was Gillespie; he had a terrific night — stopping the breakaway in the third period, a couple of big saves on the second five-on-three — just a real solid performance.”
For first-year coach Keith Allain, it was a disappointing loss. “I thought it was a really well-played hockey game,” Allain said. “There were a couple of mistakes made on both sides; both teams competed well. Obviously BU is a terrific hockey team, and this is a tough place to play. But I’m proud of the way our guys came out and battled.”
As recently as yesterday, Parker and his coaching staff struggled to decide who would play goal. Giving Curry rest was a tough decision in light of how well he has played, and Parker said it was practically a coin toss to decide between Gillespie and highly touted freshman Brett Bennett.
Shortly after the decision had been to go with Gillespie before yesterday’s practice, Bennett suffered a groin pull and would not have been able to start in any event.
Despite the low score — a characteristic of most BU games this season — this game featured many more chances for both teams than the result would lead one to believe. BU got the better of the play early on, Eric Thomassian, Ryan Weston, and Sean Sullivan all having opportunities to score on redirections or tip-ins in the first ten minutes.
The Terriers went ahead at 9:42 when Gilroy passed from the left point to freshman centerman Luke Popko low in the right-wing faceoff circle. Popko attempted to pass across the slot to Lawrence at the far post, but the puck went off a defender’s skate and in past Eli goalie Alec Richards.
Enjoying a five-on-three advantage several minutes later, Yale tied it up. Bill LeClerc passed the puck to Robert Page at the point, and Patrick Brosnihan got a piece of Page’s shot before it went in the net at 14:56 .
Bryan Ewing fanned on the rebound of an Eric Gryba shot less than two minutes later for the Terriers. “I thought that reuniting [Peter] MacArthur, [Kenny] Roche, and Ewing had an awful lot of chances and a lot of opportunities that they just were missing on,” Parker said. “The timing’s a little off, but I thought they played real well.”
Yale played better in the second period, as left winger Robert Burns had a pair of chances in the first six minutes followed by good bids for Jean-Francois Boucher and Mark Arcobello minutes later.
Then the Bulldogs very nearly went ahead on their second five-on-three of the night. Freshman Sean Backman had a great shot that was on its way to pinpoint the vacated corner of the net, only to have Gillespie slide over for the last-second save.
“In the first period, I had trouble seeing around my defenseman and the forward they were setting up there,” Gillespie said. “So I guess in the second period on the five-on-three I played a little deeper in the net and started perching a little bit. I made a big push and was lucky to make the save.”
Two minutes later, Roche went into the zone and leveled Michael Karowski, stealing the puck and going in for the breakaway, only to hit the post. Teammate Brian Strait hit another post at the five-minute mark of the third period.
Then Yale had a terrific shorthanded chance at 8:00, when freshman Chris Cahill threaded a gorgeous pass past two defensemen to set up a breakaway for Burns. “I was expecting a shot that late in the game,” Gillespie said. “Most players will take a shot instead of trying to lose the puck on the deke or whatnot. So I was out a little further than I might’ve been earlier in the game, but luckily he didn’t get all he wanted on it, and it floated off my shoulder.”
That set the stage for the great effort by Gilroy and his linemates in the shortest overtime in recent memory. ” Gilroy making the play, well, it gives us something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving,” Parker said.
BU (5-2-4) hosts Massachusetts on Tuesday night, while Yale (6-2-1) is visited by travel partners Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend.