BOSTON — It might not have been pretty for Boston University, but Saturday’s 3-3 at home with New Hampshire was a point with which BU head coach Jack Parker was quite happy.
“I didn’t think we played nearly as well tonight as we did last night [a 4-2 BU win],” said Parker, whose Terriers overcame a 3-0 deficit early in the second period, scoring the game’s final three goals to earn the tie. “But in general when you go down 3-0 and come back and get a point out of it, it’s a pretty good turnaround.”
The point, indeed, was a good one for the Terriers, particularly considering that in the five-minute overtime BU barely got the puck out of the defensive zone and didn’t muster a single shot, allowing the Wildcats a 7-0 margin in shots in the extra frame.
That, combined with a relatively solid performance throughout the game, might explain UNH head coach Dick Umile’s ability to also call the tie a good point.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get the win,” said Umile. “But we played as well as we have all year against a good team.”
The tie draws UNH, which holds a four-point lead over BU for first place in the Hockey East standings, a step closer to the regular-season title. The Wildcats would have clinched at least a share of the championship with a win on Saturday.
“I think it’s important that we get the point,” Umile said. “In the scheme of things it might be a huge point. [BU] didn’t gain on us as far as where we stand in our league.”
“Any point is a good point,” said UNH sophomore Trevor Smith, who chipped in two goals on the night to extended his team lead in that category to 19. “It’s always tough to win a championship, but we have to take it weekend by weekend and game by game.”
Thought it’s almost become a broken record to state, BU netminder John Curry was once again the story of the game. The senior finished the evening with a career-high 43 stops, including 19 when UNH was on the power play.
“John Curry keeps showing everybody why he’s the best goalie around,” said Parker. “He’s amazed me that he keeps getting better and better. He was really poised tonight.”
Despite his coach’s praise, Curry himself didn’t feel that, despite the save total, Saturday night’s outing was anywhere near a career game.
“I probably gave 15 of those shots,” said Curry of the fact that his trouble controlling rebounds throughout the game helped inflate his save total.
Though each team mustered 11 shots in the games opening period, many came from the outside with grade ‘A’ chances limited among the two clubs. Still, UNH was able to jump out to a 1-0 lead on Smith’s late goal.
On the power play, Brad Flaishans blast from the right faceoff dot trickled from Curry’s glove, leaving just enough room for Smith to poke the puck into the empty net with 1:24 remaining in the first for a 1-0 UNH lead.
In the second, UNH scored twice early to take a three-goal lead. Smith buried his second of the night on a hard wrister at 2:57 for a 2-0 lead and then Kevin Kapstad fired home his fourth of the season from the left point at 4:43 for the 3-0 advantage.
With matters heading south quickly, Parker said that what brought things around for his team was the game being broadcast on television.
“I really think the fact that it was a TV game really helped us,” said Parker. “I was going to take a timeout but a TV timeout came right [after UNH's third goal] and that really helped us.”
Able to regroup, BU rallied.
At 7:59, Pete MacArthur fired home a loose puck through the legs of Regan to close the gap to 3-1. Making the most of the momentum, the Terriers pulled within a goal before the period’s close. Ken Roche quickly fired a rebound back at Regan, the puck squeaking between the netminder’s arm and body into the net to close the gap to 3-2 through two.
Early in the third BU drew even when MacArthur’s second of the night, this one from the left point, beat Regan through a screen and landed in the top corner at 3:52 to knot the game at three.
The goal, according to Parker, was a set play from a faceoff.
“It was a planned play off the faceoff we call the ‘adjusted BC,’” said Parker of the switch that saw MacArthur and defenseman Matt Gilroy swap positions and work a give-and-go on the left wing.
With the game knotted, each team had plenty of chances to break the deadlock. Jacob Micflikier got behind the BU defense for a breakaway at 6:26 but missed wide right on the backhand. BU’s Matt Gilroy did the same, firing a backhand rebound bid wide of the right post at 12:26.
Just before the regulation buzzer, BU had possibly the best chance. After MacArthur’s bone-crushing check on Micflikier at BU’s offensive blueline, BU skated back on a 4-on-1 rush only to have Chris Higgins fire well wide of the net with three seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, it was all UNH. The Wildcats had multiple chances to put the game away, most notably a Brett Hemingway bid at the left post with 3:30 remaining, but as he did all game, Curry again came up big.
The tie translates to no change in the battle for the Hockey East regular-season title. With a four-point lead over the Terriers and a game in hand, UNH still needs a single win in its final four games to guarantee at least a share of the title.
That quest will begin next weekend in a home-and-home with Providence that begins Friday in Durham.
BU will host Vermont for a Friday-Saturday weekend series with dim hopes for the regular-season championship still alive.