BOSTON — In Game 2 of the Hockey East quarterfinals against Boston University on Friday night, Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings was pulled after yielding three goals on just six shots. Freshman Clay Witt played great in relief and had beaten the Terriers a week before in the regular season finale.
Regardless, BU coach Jack Parker said he would’ve bet the mortgage of his house that the Huskies would opt to put their goaltending mainstay back between the pipes for the decisive third game.
It’s a bet that he would’ve come close to losing. Coach Greg Cronin overruled his goalie coach to start Rawlings, who made 32 saves as Northeastern beat BU 5-4 to move on to the TD Garden while in all likelihood ending the Terriers’ season. Freshman Brodie Reid scored two goals, including a goal to make it 4-2 when BU had all the momentum.
“We kicked it around for a while,” Cronin said about the choice of goalies. “Clay played well enough to deserve a start, but I’ll give you the inside scoop: Chris has played about four really bad games over two years — games where he’s been really poor technically with his body language in the net. All four times — this will be the fifth now — he’s come back and played really well. That’s what I hinged it on. Our goalie coach wanted to go with Clay, and I trumped him on it. Who knows? Maybe Clay would’ve done well, but Chris was terrific.”
While the Huskies move on to face Boston College Friday night in what one can only hope will be as good a game as their Beanpot championship classic last month, BU’s loss leaves them in 17th in the PairWise Rankings.
“In general, I thought the team that competed the hardest all the time won this game,” Parker said. “I thought that they played extremely hard from start to finish in all three games. The better team moved on. They have a nice mix of younger guys and older guys, and they played hard.”
Northeastern opened the scoring at 9:30 of the first on a power-play goal, when freshman Cody Ferriero got the puck from around 18 feet out and nailed a great wrist shot high into the glove-side corner. Just over two minutes later, the Huskies made it 2-0 on an ordinary looking rush. Reid’s wrist shot caught Kieran Millan shifting the wrong way, and the Terriers goalie uncharacteristically smashed the ice with his stick in frustration after the goal.
“I thought that we were tentative to start the game — trying not to lose, not really sure of themselves, and I don’t think we’ve been sure of ourselves lately,” Parker said. “It shows that we play harder when we get behind.”
BU got one back at 15:37 when Matt Nieto redirected Adam Clendening’s wrist shot into the net on a power play. The Terriers avoided a backbreaker in the period’s last minute, as Wade MacLeod made a great move in tight to beat Millan, only to have his shot bounce off Max Nicastro’s leg on the goal line.
The Terriers looked better in the second, clamping down defensively, but neither team had many chances. BU looked strong in the third, but Northeastern made it 3-1 with one second left on a power play at 6:48. Steve Silva tipped in a Reid slap shot.
Rawlings made a terrific save when Joe Pereira set up Wade Megan at the far post at 7:22, but he couldn’t stop an Alex Chiasson goal off a power-play scrum at 8:49. In a wild scramble, Huskies defenseman Jamie Oleksiak attempted to glove the loose puck out of the slot but put it onto Chiasson’s stick. His backhander went in high.
With BU gaining momentum, the press box consensus was that the next goal wins, and that proved to be the case. Reid got robbed by Millan once, but then buried a great wrist shot seconds later. “I got more open the second time, and I wasn’t going to miss it,” Reid said.
“When we made it 3-2, I thought we were going to win that game because we had them back on their heels,” Parker said. “The fourth goal was the backbreaker.”
“When we got that goal to make it 4-2, I think our bench settled down,” Cronin said.
When MacLeod scored an empty-net goal with 2:14 remaining to make it 5-2, many BU fans started heading for the exits, missing much of what Cronin described as “one of the most stressful three minutes I’ve ever had in coaching.”
Justin Courtnall scored to make it 5-3 with 1:22 left, then Wade Megan got another with under 13 seconds remaining. It was too little too late for BU, though, just as it had been in Game 1.
Some minor controversy ensued after the final buzzer, mainly due to an odd decision by the officials as well as some miscommunication. With some relatively minor tussling going on, the referees ordered Northeastern to leave the ice without shaking hands. This led BU to assume that it was Cronin’s decision, and BU players started jawing about it being a classless move.
Cronin said he completely understood why the Terrier players felt that way. Parker visited the Northeastern locker room afterward to congratulate them, and all was well. Much ado about little.
Northeastern (14-15-8) plays in the 5 p.m. EDT game on Friday, while BU (19-12-8) bids adieu to seniors Joe Pereira and Adam Kraus. After a promising 10-game unbeaten streak to start the season, BU’s performance against several ECAC Hockey teams proved to be its undoing — just as Parker had predicted after losing to Harvard in the Beanpot consolation game.