BOSTON — Boston University came into tonight’s game with a nine-game winless streak and a scoring drought that had gone over 172 minutes.
On top of that, Terriers’ coach David Quinn benched four players – Nick Roberto, Matt Lane, Mike Moran and Jake Moscatel – for violating team rules.
That left the team with only nine forwards and six defensemen.
And then T.J. Ryan got hurt when he was slammed into the boards in the first period, forcing Quinn to shift Matt Ronan from defense to forward.
It certainly didn’t sound like a promising night.
However, the Terriers had an emotionally uplifting night.
Recently-retired coach Jack Parker had his No. 6 retired and the team watched as it was raised to the rafters during the first period.
The team’s seniors were playing their final game in Agganis Arena.
And the mass benchings seemed to spur the few good men remaining to play a smart and spirited game.
The upshot was a stirring 4-1 victory over No. 9 Northeastern in front of 5,577 spectators.
Sophomore Sean Maguire had a stellar night in net, making 31 saves, including a crucial stop of a Mike Szmatula breakaway in the second period. The scoreless streak stretched to 183 minutes, only to have the Terriers come up with two goals in just 25 seconds.
Go figure, eh?
“First of all, an exciting night,” Quinn said. “When you retire Jack’s number and you’re able to go out to the bench and our team was able to watch it… For me, it was special because I played for him and coached with him. Everybody knows what he’s meant to this university and I guess it’s just karma that we were able to win tonight on the night we retired Jack’s jersey.”
Asked what had the biggest impact on his team’s play with all sorts of emotions in play tonight, Quinn said, “That’s a good question. We had a very, very difficult week of practice. Wednesday was the low point, but yesterday, there was a whole new energy in practice.
“We talked about moving forward with the guys who were going to have sit out – team issues that we addressed – and yesterday, I could feel the excitement. Usually when you have to sit guys, it’s amazing what the guys who are playing do. They all rally around each other.”
Meanwhile, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan’s comments were unsurprisingly terse, given that the Huskies’ loss rules out second place for the team and leaves them in a tight scrum in the standings. A win would have clinched at least third place, but now Northeastern could finish as high as third, but as low as fifth.
“BU was the better team, start to finish,” Madigan said. “They outworked us [and] they wanted it more – better effort, better determination. From the goal out, our worst effort of the year. Disappointed in how we responded in a big game.”
Early in the game, the biggest challenge was figuring out who really wasn’t playing for BU. Roberto was not dressed, but Moran, Moscatel and Lane were listed as the fourth line, only to sit on the bench for the whole game.
Regardless, the Terriers came out strong and were rewarded with an overdue goal at 10:59. Low in the right-wing circle, freshman Kevin Duane attempted a crossing pass to classmate Brendan Collier crashing the far post. Instead, the puck caromed in off a defender for the 1-0 lead.
Just 35 seconds later, Danny O’Regan broke in and fired a shot that got through Northeastern goalie Clay Witt through the five-hole.
After Maguire made the great save on Szmatula’s breakaway at the six-minute mark of the second period, BU scored again.
Evan Rodrigues attempted to set up O’Regan crashing the net, but O’Regan couldn’t get a piece of the puck, which bounced off of Witt. Robbie Baillargeon was following the play and flipped the rebound in.
With their depleted corps looking understandably tired as the period wore on, the Terriers yielded a second breakaway on an O’Regan turnover during a power play. This time, Braden Pimm raced in and made a furious series of dekes before getting it by Maguire. It was the 11th shorthanded goal BU has given up this year.
That’s the way the game stayed until the last few minutes.
“I thought we played a really smart game, especially in the third period.” Quinn said. “We did a really good job of making them go 200 feet if they were going to get a scoring chance.”
Although the Huskies had a handful of great chances, Madigan fumed about his team’s general inability to make things difficult in grade ‘A’ territory.
“Did you see any black jerseys in front of the net?” Madigan asked. “I didn’t either.”
With Northeastern on a power play with a few minutes left, Madigan pulled the goalie, only to have Ahti Oksanen find the net from deep in his own end.
After giving up so many shorthanded goals this season, including a few empty-netters, the Terriers finally got their first shorthanded goal of the year.
“Every guy who was playing tonight showed a lot of heart, I thought,” BU senior co-captain Patrick MacGregor said. “A lot of guys were fired up before the game.”
MacGregor went on to say how fortunate he felt to play in both the Parker Era and the Quinn Era.
For his part, Parker appears to be enjoying his retirement. Before the game, he told USCHO.com that “I’m amazed at how easy it’s been for me to turn the page.”
He added that he enjoyed sailing through October and early November. No doubt this win put a little more wind in his sails.
Meanwhile, rumors abound that BU will bench a different group of players tomorrow night for breaking the same team rules. It seems plausible that the team spread the suspensions over two nights so they could muster a reasonably full lineup.
However, Quinn would not confirm the rumors.
“We’ll find out tomorrow, won’t we?” he said.