Best offense beats best defense, but Boston University’s advantage is slim

Boston University got three shots past Yale’s Alex Lyon (photo: Melissa Wade).

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The irresistible force met the immovable object.

Boston University’s offense, tops in the nation at 3.89 goals per game, faced Yale, whose defense, at a microscopic 1.59 goals allowed per game, was similarly the country’s best.

It was not the matchup BU had been hoping for. The Terriers were the youngest team in the country, while the Bulldogs dressed 11 players who’d been part of Yale’s national championship two years ago. Add in their off-the-charts defensive capability and it didn’t make the top-seeded Terriers happy.

“You get your draw in the NCAA tournament and you think, ‘Why are we playing that team? We got screwed,'” BU coach David Quinn said.

“I could hear some of the mumblings after the selection show. Our guys are no different. Eighteen-year-olds always think someone’s trying to screw them.

“But you’ve just got to play.”

The pregame consensus was that if the contest became a shootout, BU would prevail, tough matchup or not. In fact, Yale would have no chance in such a game. But a 1-0 or 2-1 contest would play right into the Bulldogs’ hands.

Well, not exactly.

The Yale defense immediately showed that it was as good as advertised with tight-gap coverage that left BU little time and space.

And after a Nate Repensky power-play goal at 13:19 gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead to take into the second intermission, it appeared that the immovable object of Yale’s stifling defense just might prevail.

“It was the kind of game we thought it would be,” Yale coach Keith Allain said. “We felt it was to our advantage to have them chasing us instead of us chasing them.”

It made perfect sense. After all, the Bulldogs’ record when leading after two periods was 17-1-1.

Immovable object, meet irresistible force. While Boston University’s first-period results had been mediocre at best this season, the Terriers had outscored opponents in the third period this year a mind-boggling 65-24.

Sure enough, BU turned on the pressure and by the time Ahti Oksanen scored at 8:21, the Terriers had outshot Yale 10-1 for the period.

“We never think we’re out of it,” Quinn said. “It was eerie the way the feeling changed on the bench when we got down 1-0. Everyone got looser and we started doing the things we need to do to generate offense and have the success we’ve had this season.”

And when Evan Rodrigues scored from the left wing three minutes later — an uncharacteristically soft goal allowed by Alex Lyon — the conventional wisdom said, “Game over.” Yale just wouldn’t have the offensive firepower to come back; it had lost its best chance at an upset.

So much for conventional knowledge.

Frankie DiChiara, who had provided a pivotal screen on Repensky’s goal, delivered the equalizer at 13:12 on only the second shot for Yale in the period.

Game even.

Little more than a minute later, BU superstar Jack Eichel and Lyon provided the personification of the irresistible force vs. immovable object. Eichel, college hockey’s ultimate irresistible force, broke in on Lyon all alone. Eichel had only a half step on his defender, but when Eichel has half a step, he’s gone.

College hockey’s runaway top scorer deked and …

… the immovable object made the save.

The game went into overtime.

BU provided almost all the offensive pressure, eventually outshooting Yale 20-4 from the start of the third period.

And at the 7:27 mark, Eichel, the personification of the irresistible force, covered the right point during a strong Doyle Somerby pinch, and fired a slap shot on net. Lyon made the stop, but the puck caromed to Danny O’Regan, who has seemingly trademarked the rebound goal this year.

With an opening he could have driven the proverbial Mack truck through, O’Regan bested Yale’s immovable object.

The win was BU’s sixth in overtime, a school record. It might have been the most difficult, but it was without question, the sweetest.