MANCHESTER, N.H. — Boston University had a statement it wanted to make in Saturday’s Northeast Regional semifinal and it did so loudly and decisively: The Terriers aren’t ready to end their season yet.
Unlike Michigan and Denver, both number-one seeds that fell on Friday, and Notre Dame, also a number-one seed that lost Saturday, the Terriers dominated fourth-seeded Ohio State from the drop of the puck, scoring the first six goals of the game on the way to an 8-3 rout of the Buckeyes.
The victory sets up an all-Hockey East regional final as the Terriers will square off against New Hampshire, which won a dramatic 6-5 overtime game against North Dakota in Saturday’s opener.
To say that the losses for Michigan and Denver on Friday was a bit of a wakeup call for the Terriers might be an overstatement. Both captain Matt Gilroy and head coach Jack Parker said that the topic of upsets came up in the team’s preparation.
“It hit home yesterday watching those games,” said Gilroy. “That helped us refocus and we came with the right focus.”
“We got together around 10 o’clock last night for a snack and at that point Michigan had lost,” said Parker. “It seemed like Michigan really outplayed [Air Force]. They were getting a lot of opportunities but they weren’t making sure of them. We have a tendency to [do that] sometimes.”
Those “sometimes” were not Saturday night. The Terriers buried their chances early and often, scoring three times in the first, three more times in the second and then potting two empty-net goals in the third.
Eleven different Terriers scored on the evening, including seven players with multiple-point games. Both Jason Lawrence and Zach Cohen had two-goal games while Nick Bonino potted a goal and two assists and Hobey Baker finalist Matt Gilroy finished the night with four assists.
Though scoring chances were limited in the opening frame — BU held a 9-6 advantage in shots — the Terriers were opportunistic, burying three goals in less than five minutes.
Bonino got BU on the board, firing a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot on the power play that beat Ohio State goaltender Dustin Carlson (nine saves) over the glove at 8:49.
Just 45 seconds later, the Terriers extended the lead. This time Bonino was the setup man, feeding Lawrence on a two-on-one that the senior winger poked five-hole for the 2-0 BU lead.
At 13:16, Zach Cohen gave BU a three-goal lead. He took a feed from Eric Gryba, walked from the right corner and fired a shot over Carlson’s glove to give the Terriers a 3-0 lead through one.
“The puck just jumped in the net for us tonight,” said Parker. “The game was over pretty quickly [once we scored the three goals].”
In the second, BU continued to pile it on. Rookie Corey Trevino buried his fifth goal of the season, working the give-and-go with Brian Strait at 5:57. And 1:04 later, Brandon Yip finished off a three-on-two, pushing the rebound of John McCarthy’s shot past Carlson.
That spelled the end of the night for Carlson, who was replaced by rookie Cal Heeter (10 saves), making just his fifth appearance of the season.
The goalie switch didn’t stop the Terriers’ scoring machine. At 13:34 of the second, BU opened up a six-goal lead when Lawrence was left alone to push home a Colin Wilson pass.
Ohio State did everything it could to make it a game late in the second.
The Buckeyes got on the board at15:12 when Hunter Bishop skated two-on-zero with Corey Elkins and fired a shot over BU goaltender Kieran Millan’s (22 saves) left shoulder to make it a 6-1 lead for the Terriers. And with 1:15 remaining co-captain Zach Pelletier beat Millan off a faceoff to pull the Buckeyes within four at 6-2.
In the third, Ohio State’s Matt Bartkowski raised the blood pressure of the Terrier faithful when he pulled the Buckeyes within three, scoring on the power play with 8:48 remaining.
But when Markell took the chance and pulled his goalie with 6:43 remaining, it took just 23 seconds for Zach Cohen to score his second of the game. When the Buckeyes got a late power play, Markell again gambled with the empty net and lost as Chris Higgins scored the Terriers’ second empty-netter of the game to account for the 8-3 final.
BU advances to the regional final for the second time in four years. In 2006, BU played a similar opening game, beating Nebraska-Omaha, 9-3. That year, though, BU played Boston College in the regional final and got blown out, 5-0.
Parker is hoping the memory of that game will keep his team from a similar fate on Sunday when the Terriers face New Hampshire.
“Henry Ford once said experience is one of the greatest things in life,” said Parker. “We have that experience.”
Ohio State, the last team to make the NCAA field on an at-large bid, will put this experience in the bank, particularly given that 16 players in the Buckeyes’ lineup on Saturday night were underclassmen.
“That’s a pretty young team that now has the knowledge and foundation to know how to get into the NCAA tournament,” said Ohio State coach John Markell. “It’s a tremendous foundation for us. It’s a tremendous learning experience as long as we use it the right way.”