BOSTON — This game was a real chess match … and about as interesting to watch.
In a generally listless game in which each team could count their scoring chances on one hand, No. 13 Boston University tied Northeastern 0-0 in front of 5,625 fans at Agganis Arena. It was the first scoreless tie for the Terriers since February 19, 1994, when Maine tied BU at Walter Brown Arena.
When it came time for the media to pick the three stars for the contest, the two goalies were no-brainers. Husky freshman Brad Thiessen made 26 saves for first-star honors, while Terrier senior John Curry stopped all 20 shots that he faced. Picking a third star was quite a challenge, but BU forward Kenny Roche got the nod as his six shots stood out in a mediocre field.
“It was kind of like watching tennis,” Husky coach Greg Cronin said. “The puck kept going from one end to the other end, and there wasn’t a lot of activity inside the blue lines; there wasn’t a lot of pretty rushes. Both team were obviously very strong defensively, and both teams probably were very disappointed with the power play. It was one of those games where there was no sustained energy from either side. I wouldn’t want to call it a very entertaining game for spectators.”
Terrier coach Jack Parker was even less pleased with the showing. “We fell into the same problems we’ve had all year long,” Parker said. “We’re very easily satisfied. We played a real sharp game last night — offensively moved the puck real well and went to the puck. I thought we beat Providence in their building to pucks all night long. And then we came out tonight and did just the opposite. Some of the guys who played great last night we’re absolutely horrible tonight. There was almost disinterest tonight in the way we played, especially on the power play. The only thing we did well was killed penalties well.”
There were about three chances in the first period. On a power play, Terrier forward Peter MacArthur — playing left wing this weekend as opposed his usual role as centerman — had Jason Lawrence open for a back-door pass with plenty of net open but put into his skates. Four minutes later, MacArthur made a good pass to Ryan Weston, who almost jammed one home, only to be denied by Thiessen. For NU, Randy Guzior had a chance on the doorstep before the backchecking of John McCarthy kept him from getting to a rebound of his shot.
With the exception of a Roche shot that Thiessen gloved at 7:36 , there was little offense to speak of in the first 13 minutes of the second period. Parker finally called a timeout at 13:19 .
“I said, ‘Are you guys kidding? You’ve got to change this now because what we’re doing is awful.’ And they didn’t.” Parker tried to rally the troops by reminding them that good teams found ways to gut out a win when all cylinders are not firing, but the speech had little impact.
The next good chance, in fact, was for the Huskies when Jimmy Russo set up Dennis McCauley on a power play at 16:40, only to have Curry make his best save of the night. For BU, Chris Higgins followed up with a partial breakaway while still shorthanded, but Thiessen was equal to the challenge.
Northeastern played their best in the third period. Steve Birnstill set up Joe Santilli for a chance at 6:40 , but Curry was in position for the chest save. Parker went nuts at 14:31 when Roche was called for charging into the goalie — especially as the video scoreboard showed repeated replays of Birnstill cross-checking Roche into the goalie.
Shortly thereafter, referee John Gravallese almost got nailed by a couple of Terrier clears off the boards. The fans saw no coincidence there and cheered.
The Huskies had more chances with a Birnstill slapper at 16:20 and another bid by Santilli at 17:55 , as the forward pulled the puck from behind the goal line and almost stuffed it in.
In the overtime, Kyle Kraemer had one chance for NU, but otherwise the Terriers finally showed some real life. With Roche, Bryan Ewing, and Luke Popko on the ice for the last shift, BU finally threw a ton of shots on the net but couldn’t put one home — by far their most impressive offensive showing of the night.
“It was a little bit of a nailbiter for the coach — particularly for our bench,” Cronin said. “The last minute we got running around like chickens with their heads cut off. That was painful to watch.
“I was really disappointed with the last shift. That bothered me. My blood is still racing after that shift. It was a fairly methodical game … but that last shift left a sour taste in my mouth. I’d be sitting here very disappointed if we lost that game one-nothing with less than a minute to go in overtime.”
Cronin was not the only one left with a sour taste in his mouth. “The only time we played well was the last minute of the overtime — the only time we looked like we were hungry to score a goal or get a W,” Parker said. “So we get our sixth tie. I’m sure that Northeastern is a lot happier with their three-point weekend than we are. John Curry played great; their goaltender played well. But I thought their goaltender didn’t have to play as well as Curry did. John didn’t have as many saves, but he had tougher shots.
“We didn’t get enough grade ‘A’ shots; we didn’t get near their goaltender. We didn’t give up any either, but it was a lack of being intense enough and tough enough. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my club after playing as well as we did last night.”
Even the silver lining for BU was a bit cloudy. While they did kill off all ten power plays they faced, “we had to play an entire period shorthanded tonight,” Parker said.
“We seem like a team that’s really close to be good,” Curry said. “But we seem like we’ve been at that stage for months, and we haven’t quite turned the corner. As far as from last night to tonight; we’ve just got to be more focused. It’s almost like our team has a little ADD. We have such great performances, and you ride those and forget about how important the next game is … Our mental approach to games is not cutting it.”
BU (8-4-6, 5-3-5) goes to Orono next weekend for a pair against Maine, while Northeastern (6-10-3, 3-8-3) hosts Vermont for a pair.