CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — There are two ways to use the word epic to describe a hockey games.
For almost all of the prior 255 games in the Boston College and Boston University rivalry, the definition of epic translates to be that of a level above all others. Friday night though, epic translated to an event that most thought would never end.
When the buzzer finally sounded, Boston University walked away with a 5-3 victory in a disjointed and lackluster game before a sellout crowd of 7,844 at BC’s Kelley Rink. Both coaches, regardless of which side their club fell, were extremely disappointed by the play in the game.
“We let the game deteriorate,” said BU coach Jack Parker, who complained vehemently after the game about what he felt was constant diving by the opposition. “They were diving all over the place. It’s pathetic that stuff that’s going on out there.
“Then we tried to give the game away. It’s a recurring theme with this club that they won’t finish people off.”
BU had three separate three-goal leads, and each time let the Eagles grow closer. Even after Corey Trivino scored an empty-net goal with 3:03 remaining to spot BU a 5-2 lead, BC’s Barry Almeida scored 19 seconds later to pull within two. BU then took two late penalties to continue to inject life into the Eagles.
The ultimate difference was goaltending. While BC’s Parker Milner struggled, stopping just 10 of the 14 shots he faced, BU’s Kieran Millan was outstanding, making 42 saves, a season high.
The Eagles statistically dominated the game in every facet except the scoreboard. BC outshot BU, 45-15, had 11 attempts on the power play, and dominated overall time of possession. In fact, the biggest statistical anomaly was the fact that the BU had more penalties (17) than shots (15).
Still it was the Terriers who were incredibly opportunistic.
In the first, BC held a slight 11-8 advantage on shots, and didn’t allow BU its first crack at the net until after the eight-minute mark. Still, the Terriers struck twice late when Charlie Coyle buried a feed at 10:15 and Yasin Cisse scored on a breakaway at 17:03.
The middle frame was worse for the Eagles. They held a massively lopsided 23-1 advantage in shots, but allowed the Terriers to score on their only opportunity, a Garrett Noonan wrister through traffic at 13:21 for a 3-0 lead advantage.
“We can’t count shots on net,” said a disheartened BC coach Jerry York. “It’s like yardage in football. You’ve got to get touchdowns. We can look at the stat sheet and say this and that, but you’ve got to score goals.”
BC’s Bill Arnold finally broke the deadlock at 16:39, redirecting a Tommy Cross shot on a power play. The Eagles thought they pulled within a goal 33 seconds later when Johnny Gaudreau roofed a loose puck. Referee Kevin Keenan was quick on the whistle, though, disallowing the goal.
“Kevin Keenan was talking about that his intent was to blow the whistle,” said York of the explanation he received. “I’m not sure if he lost sight of the puck. I didn’t take the next step there [and ask] why his intent was to blow the whistle. It certainly was a key part of the game.”
In the third period, the game turned strange. Penalty after penalty — 16 in all — slowed the game. BU was the beneficiary of three power plays, including a five-minute major, and BC had four cracks of its own at the man advantage.
Cason Hohmann scored his first collegiate goal during the five-minute major to seemingly put the Eagles away. But Chris Kreider injected a second life with his 11th of the year at 14:34. Another trade of goals — Trivino’s empty-netter and Almedia’s late power-play tally — again kept BC breathing, but the final buzzer finally took away the Eagles final breath, 2 hours and 56 minutes after the game’s opening faceoff.
Both coaches hope for a better, at least more entertaining, hockey game on Saturday’s back end of the home-and-home. The Terriers are looking for their first season sweep of the Hockey East season series since 1994-95. Friday’s wins marked the first time that BU (8-4-1, 6-3-1 Hockey East) has won back-to-back road games against BC (10-5-0, 7-3-0 Hockey East) since the 1993-94 season.