BOSTON — Boston University may have been the preseason favorite in Hockey East, but the reality is the Terriers have been surviving on borrowed time.
And BU will survive for at least one more day thanks to a 4-3 overtime victory on Friday against Commonwealth Avenue rival Boston College.
The Terriers can earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament if they can capture the Hockey East title on Saturday.
“We have not mentioned that once,” said BU coach David Quinn when asked about his team’s prospects of making the NCAA tournament. “That has nothing to do with [Saturday] night. It has had nothing to do with our preparation going into the playoffs.
“You’ve got to block that stuff out. You have to focus on getting ready for your opponent. You can’t let [the NCAAs] creep in because all of a sudden you start getting distracted.
“We have not mentioned it once and I promise I won’t mention it [to the team] between now and 7 o’clock tomorrow night.”
What Quinn may mention is his team’s play late in Friday’s game, one in which the Terriers fell behind, rallied to tie the game but still found itself sucking air in the overtime period. The Eagles dominated the extra frame, at one point holding a 10-1 advantage in shots. But one perfect forecheck that forced a turnover was everything Boston University needed.
The play came in the final five minutes of the extra session. One of BU’s heroes through the season, Bobo Carpenter, made a perfect read on a breakout pass by the Eagles. Stealing the puck, he dumped it below the goal line where Shane Bowers made a quick stop and turn, attempting to wrap the puck around on BC netminder Joe Woll (41 saves).
Bowers had the puck come off his stick but Patrick Curry, a third line forward with just five career goals in two seasons, watched the puck slip to his stick where he promptly buried the game-winning goal, sending the Terriers to the title game.
“I was coming off the bench,” said Curry. “I decided to support Bowers on his cycle. I decided to jump to the back side of the net. He tried to stuff. Luckily it landed on my stick.”
That was the positive for the Terriers on a night where there were a lot of tumultuous moments. BU fell behind in the opening minute, trailed by two goals and allowed what seemed like it might have been the game-winning goal with 5:19 remaining in regulation.
But this Terriers team has become one that never seems to say die.
Knowing they need to win the Hockey East tournament to earn an NCAA bid, BU rallied a weekend ago against a plucky Connecticut team, posting one-goal wins on back-to-back nights to get to the Garden. Then Friday, BU’s collective backs were against the wall almost the entire night.
“We don’t want it to end, that’s for sure,” said Quinn. “We understand the situation we put ourselves in.
“If you told me we’d be 20-13 and looking on the outside looking in to the national tournament, I’d have laughed. That’s not what we expected.
“But college hockey is hard. That’s the situation we were in since January 6th. Since then, we’ve righted the ship.”
The game certainly didn’t start the Terriers’ way as goaltender Jake Oettinger (36 saves) allowed a long wrister to beat him just 46 seconds into play. BU then fell behind further when Julius Mattila finished tic-tac-toe passing at 3:16 of the second, spotting the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
BU rallied, though, scoring twice in 1:37 midway through the game, with Ty Amonte and David Farrance finding the net.
It appeared Jordan Greenway gave BU the lead midway through the third but a goaltender interference call negated the goal.
That set up a trade of goals between Chris Brown for BC at 14:41 and Drew Melanson for BU at 15:26 that sent the game to overtime.
Boston College never trailed until the end on Friday, but losing likely dashed their NCAA hopes. After the game, knowing there was still a slight chance of eking into the national tournament field, BC coach Jerry York wasn’t ready to say die.
“There’s still a lot to shake out here,” said York. “There’s still an opportunity for us to continue to play here, which I’d love to. I wasn’t willing to shake anybody’s hand tonight. There’s still a lot of stuff going on.”