BOSTON — A word to the wise for any coach that plays Boston University from here on out: don’t take a single minute of the game off.
The top-seeded Terriers, after playing lackluster hockey for 51 minutes in Friday’s second Hockey East semifinal against No. 6 seed and archrival Boston College, scored a Hockey East tournament record three goals in 44 seconds to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead.
Though the Eagles responded with a Joe Whitney goal with 5:42 remaining, it was too little too late, as the Terriers earned a 3-2 victory to advance to the Hockey East title game for the ninth time in school history.
BU will be in search of its seventh Hockey East title when they face Cinderella story Mass.-Lowell, in Saturday’s championship game.
When asked how to explain the offensive outburst that pulled victory from defeat for the Terriers, Jack Parker was nearly at a loss for words.
“El Nino?” quipped Parker. “You think I can explain that?
“It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before, but I’m glad I saw it.”
The BU bomb exploded near the midway point of the third period. With the Terriers finally sustaining a continued attack, BC was whistled for icing. Not able to make a line change before the ensuing faceoff, the Terriers took advantage of BC’s tiring legs.
After winning the draw, BU forward Zach Cohen battled his way out of the left corner, attacked the net and made a nifty move around Boston College goaltender John Muse (18 saves). That goal brought to life the BU faithful at 11:01, but was hardly the end for the Terriers.
Just 21 seconds later, John McCarthy sent a pass to the point that defenseman Brian Strait one-timed. The seeing-eye shot beat Muse over the glove to give the Terriers their first lead of the night.
Only 23 seconds after that, Hobey Baker finalist Colin Wilson capped off the record streak with a mirror image play to Cohen’s goal. Wilson came from the right corner, moved straight to the net and fired a shot far post.
Only 44 seconds and a game’s complexion had entirely changed.
“We kind of fell asleep for the first two periods,” said BU senior co-captain Matt Gilroy. “Coming into the third period, we got in each other’s faces. We have enough talent and if you go out there and have fun, it’s going to happen. The first goal put [BC] on their heels and then we scored more.”
The fact that the Terriers were even in position to turn the game around the way they did was surprising, given the lack of offense for the first 40 minutes. The only reason that BU wasn’t in more of a hole might have been because BC, itself, wasn’t exactly playing offensively inspiring hockey.
“I don’t know what was going on for the first two periods,” said Parker. “It wasn’t a typical BC-BU game. It was too close checking, too conservative. There wasn’t a lot of emotion, there wasn’t a lot of hits.”
That, though, played into the hands of the Eagles, who have been playing their best hockey down the stretch and been able to rely on goaltender John Muse to make saves.
Thus, when Ben Smith scored his sixth goal of the season, bunting a loose puck out of the air and past BU netminder Kieran Millan (21 saves), many including BC coach Jerry York, might have believed that goal could be sufficient.
“I’d love to have that forty seconds back,” said York. “If you take away 40 seconds or so, I thought we really played well. No question that was a tough blow for us. We were pretty stunned there.”
Over the first 40 minutes, and even in the early portion of the third before BU got its offense going, BC was able to stifle the Terriers’ offense, sacrificing the body and blocking shots. That was completely in line with the team’s game plan entering the night, but was missing on all three of BU’s goals.
“Against BU, you’ve got to block shots,” said York. “I was pretty proud of the guys who sold out their bodies to block shots. That was probably the highlight of the game.”
Also missing was BC’s ability to convert on the power play, which was unable to score in five attempts, including a five-minute power play early in the first when Brandon Yip was whistled for hitting from behind.
That certainly came back to haunt the Eagles, which saw their season come to an end having entered the tournament needing to at least advance to the title game if not win the title to advance to advance to the NCAA tournament and defend their title.
BU, which has locked up not only an NCAA bid but most likely the number one overall seed in the tournament, will face possibly the hottest team in the country in Mass.-Lowell on Saturday. Though Parker will hope for a better start, he’s not overly concerned about his team being able to get up for the title game.
“I’m not too concerned if we’re playing at the top of our game or not,” said Parker. “I like to think that any time we beat BC we get a lot of momentum, so this might boost us.”