BOSTON — No. 6 Boston University knew that it wouldn’t be easy to end the season for New Hampshire, but this was ridiculous.
To oust the Wildcats from the Hockey East tournament, the Terriers needed to come back from a three-goal deficit. They needed another career high in saves from Kieran Millan, and he made 68 of them. And they had to set a new record for the longest game played at Agganis Arena – for the second time in three nights – before they eliminated a stubborn, persistent UNH team in a thrill-packed battle in the decisive third game of the Hockey East quarterfinals.
At 6:42 of the second overtime period, Alex Chiasson crashed the net to bury a rebound of a Wade Megan shot to give BU a 5-4 win and a trip to the Hockey East semifinals.
In addition to Millan’s heroics, defenseman Garrett Noonan scored two goals for the Terriers and is now tied for the lead nationally in defenseman goal-scoring.
The Terriers had trailed 4-1 well into the second period.
Freshman Casey Trush doubled his career total in goals by scoring twice for the Wildcats, who also received a 50-save effort from freshman goalie Casey DeSmith.
It was a great win for the Terriers, but for the first 30 minutes or so the game was an unhappy birthday present for BU coach Jack Parker, who turned 67 today. It also was distressingly similar to Friday’s game: Millan was playing great, but the rest of the team hadn’t shown up.
“We looked like we didn’t care; we looked like we were inept,” Parker said. “I called a timeout and I’m thinking, ‘Boys, we could’ve went out to eat instead of showing up here – could’ve had a dinner somewhere.’ But once we got the second goal, we really thought that we had a chance.
“Once we made it 4-4, I thought, ‘This will be easy [and] we should be able to roll them now. No such luck.’”
New Hampshire battled hard and had any number of chances to win, making it a heartbreaking finish to the season.
“I congratulate BU; they’re moving on,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “It was a heck of a game, obviously. We could’ve played all night. I was very, very proud of the way my team played. I told them in the locker room that I’ve had some teams that went a lot further, but never had the grit and determination this team has had. That makes this a tough one to take because of how hard they played and the chances they had.”
At 3:19 of the first period, a UNH shot from the left point hit Millan and popped up in the air. With an overhand motion, freshman Grayson Downing knocked the puck down to the ice and then put it in the net for an apparent goal. Parker immediately demanded a video review and eventually, the goal was waved off because of the high stick. Umile exploded on the UNH bench in response, screaming at the officials.
Buoyed by the call, BU scored 52 seconds later. Inside the blue line, Matt Nieto slipped the puck to freshman Evan Rodrigues breaking in on the left-wing side. Rodrigues attacked the stick side of DeSmith before pulling the puck back and maneuvering it around him to score on the glove side.
After that, it was all UNH for a long while. At 8:09, UNH attacked a loose puck in the BU crease, jabbing at it several times in a scrum until Thrush knocked it in. Thrush, who had only scored two collegiate goals coming into the game, scored again six minutes later. Linemate Matt Willows slipped the puck to Thrush on the left wing and Thrush’s long wrist shot sailed in past Millan.
UNH outshot BU by a startling 16-4 margin in the first period and picked up where they left off early in period two. At 1:42, just 10 seconds into a power play, the Wildcats made it 3-1 when Downing got the puck behind the goal line and centered it to Greg Burke for the short one-timer and score.
The wheels really fell off on a BU power play a few minutes later. Shorthanded, Kevin McCarey got the puck on his own blue line and passed to Mike Borisenok, who was 10 feet behind the nearest BU defender. With a clean breakaway, he went in and beat Millan.
Parker used his timeout at that point.
Afterward, UNH piled up shots for a while longer, but the Terriers finally started getting it going about 10 minutes later. The line of Nieto, Sahir Gill and Rodrigues got the momentum going and BU scored shortly after their shift. At 16:11, Chris Connolly made a pass from the right point to Noonan crashing the far post for the shot and score.
The Terriers really got the crowd the going when they scored again with 1:02 left in the period to make it 4-3. From behind the net, Ryan Ruikka threw it in the crease, where Justin Courtnall and Noonan jabbed it until Noonan knocked it in.
“They kind of do all the work,” Noonan said of his teammates regarding his goal-scoring this season. “I just camp out and score goals.”
BU tied it just 30 seconds into the third. Noonan dropped the puck to Megan high in the slot and Megan beat DeSmith with a high wrist shot to get the small crowd roaring.
The Terriers kept the pedal down as the period wore on and DeSmith made some great saves on Rodrigues and Alexx Privitera to keep it tied through the first half of the period.
On a two-on-one break at 12:20, Ross Gaudet pinged the post, giving UNH another reprieve.
Gradually, the Wildcats seemed to stop the bleeding, and they ended up getting a great chance on a two on one of their own at 16:28, only to have Millan make a terrific glove save on a Scott Pavelski shot that was ticketed for the net.
So we were on to overtime.
Each team had a great chance in the opening half-minute of the fourth period. With Millan down and out after an initial save, Downing briefing had a gaping net to shoot at, only to have Millan get his leg across for the stop. BU countered immediately, with Connolly setting up Chiasson for a great shot from the slot. DeSmith was right there and held it.
Noonan almost got a hat trick as well as the game winner six minutes in, redirecting a pass off the post.
Then the teams had great chances both ways – many heart-stopping moments for both teams – but the puck stayed out of the net somehow through the first 10 minutes of overtime. UNH had several fantastic opportunities the rest of the period, but Millan made some amazing saves – perhaps none better than a point-blank glove save on top scorer Stevie Moses at 16:15.
“When it goes to overtime, you don’t want to be the scapegoat,” Millan said.
The game went on to double overtime.
On the game winner, Megan put a high shot off of DeSmith’s chest and Chiasson beat a defender to the rebound to knock it in.
“It was probably one of the biggest goals of my career,” Chiasson said.
UNH (15-19-3) ends up with their first losing season since 1995-1996, the longest streak in Hockey East. BU (23-13-1) faces off against Maine in the Hockey East semifinals at 8 p.m. next Friday night.