El Nino Strikes BC

El Nino, a meteorological phenomenon caused by temperature fluctuations in the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean, has been blamed for droughts, floods, and various other climate disturbances across the world.

Friday night, however, was the first time that those temperature anomalies have been associated with the outcome of a college hockey game.

Boston University scored its only three goals of Friday’s Hockey East semifinal battle with Boston College in a 44-second span. “Three goals in a New York minute, as they say, was something I’ve never seen before,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “But I’m glad I saw it tonight.

The goals were a Hockey East tournament record for the three quickest by a team, breaking the mark of 1:01 set by Maine against Lowell in the 1990 quarterfinals. Asked to explain how his team could score so quickly and yet only score three goals all game, Parker had a quick quip in reply. “El Nino? You think I could explain that?”

Even more improbably, the first goal was scored with a dazzling display of stickhandling by Zach Cohen, who is more in the power-forward mold, while the second was notched by stay-at-home defenseman Brian Strait for just his second goal of the season and his fifth in 106 collegiate games.

For good measure, it was Strait’s first game back after missing several weeks with a knee injury. Strait fluttered a shot from the left point through a Nick Bonino screen to beat John Muse. Hobey Baker finalist Colin Wilson capped off the outburst with a goal that mirrored Cohen’s tally, as both goals were the result of players pulling pucks out of a corner and driving to the net.

Weirder still, BU scored its three goals on just four third-period shots. Go figure.

“We had just decided to go to three lines and put Zach Cohen out there on the left wing, and he went out and scored,” Parker said. “Then Straity scored, and then Willy scored, and then it was just a matter of seeing if we could manage this game the rest of the way.”

It was an opportune time for fireworks. The Terriers had struggled through the adversity of killing a five-minute major early in the game, and shot totals were low both ways. After surrendering a late second-period goal, the team’s leaders rallied the troops before the final frame.

“We kind of fell asleep offensively the first two periods,” Terrier co-captain and Hobey finalist Matt Gilroy said. “We were playing okay, pretty sound, not taking any chances. Before the third period, John [McCarthy, Terrier co-captain] and Straity and myself in the seniors just got in each other’s faces and everyone started chatting in the locker room.

“We came out and killed the penalty and started rolling. Zach made an unbelievable effort out of the corner. He’s been doing it all year for us, and it’s great to see him score. And then to see Straity get a goal for us after he’s been out hurt and come back, and then Willy come out on the next shift …

“That’s what we can do if we’re playing the right way, and playing hard,” Gilroy added. “We have the offensive power to do that, and it was a lot of fun in the third period.”

It wasn’t much fun for Boston College coach Jerry York and his Eagles.

“Zach Cohen must’ve beat one of our guys coming out of the corner deep on the side there,” York said of the first goal. “We almost got off the ice. It was an icing situation. We were trying to make a change, so we were a little tired off that faceoff. Then the second one was a seeing-eye. From the bench I could see it drifting far side, top. And the other play was out of the other corner.

“If you take out that 40 seconds, I thought we played well. … That was a tough blow for us. But we then came back and really recovered from it, closed it to 3-2 and had a couple pretty good chances to tie the hockey game. We got off the mat and competed really hard and almost tied the game.”

So we end up with a sudden rise in pressure, a flood of scoring, and a drought when it comes to BC’s postseason chances.

Sure sounds like something we can blame on El Nino.

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