BOSTON — You only get one timeout in hockey, but Terrier coach Jack Parker made the most of his.
With BU down 2-0 after two quick goals just eight minutes into tonight’s decisive game three of the Hockey East quarterfinals, the Terriers were facing an ignominious end to their season. So Parker called time. “I just said, ‘Boys, we’ve got to relax here,’” Parker said. “We gave up another power-play goal because we misread it — made a mess out of that — and then gave up a second goal right off the bat. So I called a time out just to calm them down and say ‘Hey guys, there’s plenty of time left to go; all we’ve got to do is play hockey. We were panicking once they got the first goal and panicked on the second goal.”
Perhaps more importantly, Parker also opted for a tactical adjustment during the same timeout. “Then we changed the forecheck right then and there, too, because they wouldn’t let us forecheck” Parker added. “They would just turn and fire the puck right up the ice all night long, so we decided, okay, we’ll take away the walls and not let them fire up the ice.”
Sixty-one seconds after play resumed, River Hawk defenseman Chris Capraro got the puck behind the net, wheeled, and fired it up the wall. This time Terrier freshman Nick Bonino was in position to intercept the pass before going in to beat UML goalie Carter Hutton for “the biggest goal of the game” according to Parker.
The Terriers proceeded to score two more goals before the period was over en route to a 4-2 victory in front of 3,631 at Agganis Arena. Playing in his last home game, co-captain Pete MacAthur scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season, while Bonino had a goal and an assist. Brett Bennett made 24 saves for BU, while Kory Falite and Scott Campbell scored for the River Hawks.
“Great win for us,” Parker said. “We needed to bounce back from last night and we did. Didn’t look like we were going to when they jumped out 2-0.”
“First, I’d like to congratulate BU,” River Hawk coach Blaise MacDonald said. “Their backs were against the wall tonight, especially being down 2-0. Their program plays the right way with a lot of class and integrity and a lot of grit.
“Unfortunately for our side, after having a 2-0 lead, we kind of gift-wrapped a couple of goals for them.”
Everything went UML’s way early. First, referee Scott Hansen blew the whistle when he lost sight of the puck just before MacArthur put one in the net, negating BU’s hope of getting the first goal of the game for the first time this series. Then the River Hawks took the lead at 7:43, as the UML power play continued to plague BU this weekend. Falite buried a slapper through traffic from the right-wing faceoff circle.
Just 20 seconds later, UML struck again with a soft one. Right wing Mike Potacco got the puck in the corner and drove toward the net, but Bennett deflected it away. But then Scott Campbell got the puck behind the goal line and managed to bank it off of Bennett’s skate and into the net through what must’ve been a very small opening. That was when Parker called the timeout, setting the stage for Bonino’s big goal.
“The first thing that popped in to my head is this cannot be happening right now,” MacArthur recalled. “There’s no way my last game is going to be on home ice in the quarterfinals. Coach did a great job of settling us down with the timeout, and the game was over in my mind from that point on. Got a great goal from Bonino and took off from there.”
Just 2:40 after that first goal, BU tied it up at 11:44. Thirteen seconds into a five-on-three advantage, BU capitalized when Chris Higgins teed up a 25-footer by MacArthur that beat Hutton high on the glove side.
Less than three minutes after that, the Terriers got what proved to be the game-winner. Off of a draw in the offensive end, senior defenseman Kevin Kielt shot the puck from the left point toward the slot, where Bonino received it before wheeling to find Jason Lawrence all alone at the far post for an easy goal to make it 3-2. Luke Popko almost made it 4-2 at 18:40 when his high shot went off the top of Hutton’s glove and plopped down behind him in the crease before a defenseman cleared it.
The second period featured just one goal but was one of the most entertaining periods of the season at Agganis. BU got their fourth goal at 7:56 with a helpful bounce. Bryan Ewing dropped it for MacArthur in the right-wing circle, and the centerman spied defenseman Brian Strait crashing the far post. He rifled a pass, only to have it carom off of UML’s Chris Auger and go in the net.
Midway through the period, a slew of River Hawk penalties set the stage for the wildest sequence of events of the evening. Already shorthanded, Lowell was called for a delayed penalty that gave BU a six-on-four advantage with skaters. Then one and then another River Hawk defender broke their sticks, and BU proceeded to control the puck for about 80 seconds in the Lowell zone while the River Hawks desperately tried to get a clear. Oddly, though, BU failed to get the puck over to the side of the ice that featured two players without sticks and couldn’t capitalize.
“It was a little bit of a debacle,” MacArthur said. “I didn’t even realize that they’d lost their sticks. We were just a little too excited to get the fifth goal.”
Finally Ryan Blair got a whistle, but he did so by picking up the puck and throwing it out of the zone, leading to yet another penalty for delay of game.
“In my 22 years of coaching, I’ve never seen a period like the second period,” MacDonald said. “We’re the least penalized team in Hockey East, and we’re killing a five-on-three and two guys don’t have sticks. We blocked shots — a ton of courage there, a ton of tenacity. It was the most disjointed 11 minutes ever, and we got back on track and finished the game well.”
Parker shook his head over it all. “We had a five-on-three and made a mess out of that, and they got all kinds of momentum.”
Indeed, Potacco ended up getting two great chances just two minutes after UML finally got back to even strength, but Bennett came up with the saves on him and another good one on Capraro a few minutes later.
After all that excitement, BU battened down the hatches in the third period, yielding a significant shot advantage but no goals. The closest bid was an extra-attacker shot by Potacco with 1:05 left, but Bennett made the glove.
While UMass-Lowell (16-17-4) is now done for the season, the Terriers (19-16-4) now face Vermont in the second semifinal on Friday night at the TD Banknorth Garden. They must win that game and may need to win on Saturday as well to make the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve been in a hole all year, had our backs against the wall all year, and we’ve fought out of it.” MacArthur said. “It was the same thing tonight.”