Top Story, Men's Hockey

Eagles’ NCAA Tournament Chances Plummet With Loss to BU in Hockey East Semis

Boston College men’s hockey had woken up. After squandering an early two-goal lead and playing much of the game in their defensive zone, the Eagles had Boston University on its heels in overtime of the Hockey East Tournament Semifinals.

Then, just like that, it was over.

Terriers forward Patrick Curry scored with four minutes and 20 seconds left in the extra frame, completing a 4-3 win that not only punched BU’s (20-13-4, 12-8-4 Hockey East) ticket to the championship, but effectively ended the No. 15 Eagles’ (20-14-3, 18-5-0) season—likely keeping them out of the tournament for the second-straight year.

Curry deftly finished a feed from Shane Bowers to Joseph Woll’s right, slotting the puck past him after BC committed a turnover behind the net. The scoring play capped off a back-and-forth affair that ran long, punctuated by Northeastern fans arriving for the nightcap and heckling both teams.

“That was a classic rivalry game,” head coach Jerry York said after. “It was played for high stakes at a major venue, and I’m very proud of how our team played. We got better as the game went on.”

The Eagles had built an early 2-0 lead that lasted until midway through the second period, when the Terriers came roaring back. After knotting it up, BC’s Christopher Brown answered amid a scrum of BU skaters, flicking a wrister through a defender’s legs to take the lead.

It didn’t last: BU answered under a minute later. Drew Melanson carved out space in front of the net and was an easy target for teammate Jordan Greenway, who placed the puck at Melanson’s stick where he finished easily to tie the game up.

After that, though, the Eagles impressed in overtime. They built an early 11-1 shot advantage and kept their foot on the gas, bringing plenty of pressure on Terriers goaltender Jake Oettinger, who finished with 36 saves. However, none of BC’s shots found the back of the net, and Curry sent the Eagles faithful home disappointed.

It spoiled an impressive effort from Woll, who turned away 41 shots and kept his team in the game for much of what could’ve been a blowout—BC was outshot by its opponents for the third-straight game.

“He’s had some terrific games,” York said. “He’s been very hot down the stretch. The other player, Oettinger, was also good. We’ve got two of the premier goaltenders in the country.”

After the opening goal from Connor Moore just 46 seconds into the game, BC was on its heels for much of the first period, struggling to get the puck out of its own defensive third. Despite the struggles, Woll and the defense escaped the first frame with a lead.

The Eagles only added to it at the start of the second, scoring just over three minutes in. BC’s Logan Hutsko was called for a slash and BU’s Greenway was handed an embellishment call at the same time, so the Eagles were able to space out the ice and score during the 4-on-4. Julius Mattila buried a one-timer from the low slot, finishing off an excellent pass from David Cotton, who had situated himself behind the cage.

The rest of the second period, though, was thoroughly dominated by the Terriers. They bested BC in nearly every facet of the game—doubling the Eagles’ shot total, winning more faceoffs, and most importantly, controlling the scoreboard. BU scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to erase BC’s early two-goal lead, which seemed lucky at the time.

After some extracurriculars between Brady Tkachuk and J.D. Dudek—the Eagles’ forward was called for interference, while BU’s enforcer took exception and drove him into the ice for a cross-checking call—the Terriers amped up their offensive attack. They couldn’t score on a 4-on-3 advantage, nor on the ensuing 5-on-4, but they threatened. After the Eagles’ Julius Matilla had his team’s last real chance of the period, BU scored.

A costly turnover in the defensive zone from Michael Karow led to two quick passes and a BU goal. Hank Crone and Patrick Curry set up Ty Amonte, who sliced in front of Woll, deked to his right, and slotted the puck home. A few minutes later, another defensive breakdown doomed the Eagles—they lost track of forward David Farrance. He skated down the right side of the ice, was left alone at the right circle, and buried a wrister off a cross-ice pass from Chad Krys.

With the momentum firmly in hand, BU kept pushing and forcing Woll to make tough save after tough save. Shane Bowers got a good look on net, as did Crone after receiving a backhand pass from Amonte, but neither could beat Woll. The shot advantage for the Terriers continued to climb, reaching 15 by the end of the period, but the score remained knotted up at two apiece.

The momentum carried over to the third period, with much of the fans in attendance anticipating a quick goal. Just under a minute in, the goal lamp went off for BU—but it was quickly clear that the shot had just hit the side netting. Then, the horn sounded for real when Greenway gathered a puck in the slot and rifled it into the back of the cage, but the goal was called back when Tkachuk was revealed to be standing in the crease and interfering with Woll.

The rest of the period was characterized by big chances for both teams, the product of a breakneck pace up and down the ice. More so for BU, but the Eagles still had a share of potential game-winning opportunities. BC’s Brown had a good look on a three-man rush, while Bowers nearly scored on the other end with a deflection to Woll’s right. Nothing went though, setting the stage for the dramatic overtime period.

“I thought our overtime was outstanding in terms of creating chances,” York said. “Credit to BU, they bounced back.”

The Eagles managed to kill a penalty during overtime, but then were left staring at the TD Garden ceiling as Curry and BU celebrated around them. Per Pairwise predictions, BC isn’t officially eliminated, but sits at a less than 4 percent chance, per College Hockey News. It’s very likely that further results tonight will leave them sitting on the outside looking in, a disappointing spot to be in, although there’s still cause for some optimism. York has a strong recruiting class and young talent, so the streak of missed tournament appearances should be brief.

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Editor

March 17, 2018