Although the Boston University men’s hockey team spoiled Vinny Saponari’s return to Agganis Arena on Friday night with a win over Northeastern University 5-2, the former BU forward had his revenge on Saturday as he scored the game-winning goal to defeat BU 5-4 in overtime at Matthews Arena.
Saponari, who was dismissed from BU his sophomore year after missing a punishment bike ride for a drinking incident, scored the game-winner on senior goaltender Grant Rollheiser and then partied like a puckstar in front of the BU fans who traveled to Matthews for the game.
“It’s always fun playing BU for everyone, especially for me,” Saponari said. “I have a lot good friends out there and Grant Rollheiser was one of my roommates freshman and sophomore year so it was funny to get a goal against him in overtime. It was just a lot of fun.”
With the loss, BU (21-12-1, 17-9-1 Hockey East) fell to the third seed in Hockey East and will now face the University of New Hampshire in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
Northeastern (13-16-5, 9-14-4) was eliminated from the postseason on Friday night.
Northeastern was first on the board 6:15 into the game when center Braden Pimm tipped in a long shot from defenseman Anthony Bitetto into the top-right corner of the net. It was Pimm’s 10th goal of the season, and it gave the Huskies momentum after not recording a shot in the first five minutes of the game.
BU would answer, though, when junior defenseman Sean Escobedo fired home a pass from senior captain Chris Connolly in the slot. It was Escobedo’s third goal of the season, all three of which have come in the past four games.
Connolly found the score sheet once again 35 seconds into the second period when he took a nifty feed from sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening and redirected it past goaltender Clay Witt for his 11th goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later though, Northeastern forward Alex Tuckerman took the puck off the faceoff and snapped a point-blank opportunity past Rollheiser to tie the game at two. Rollheiser made his seventh appearance of the season in the game ahead of usual starter senior Kieran Millan.
“I thought we left [Rollheiser] out to dry. Rollie made some huge saves for us,” Connolly said. “Their team had some shots right in the slot and he was making some huge saves.”
Northeastern took the lead less than two minutes later on a long, soft shot from defenseman Drew Ellement that bounced past Rollheiser into the back of the net. Tuckerman and senior Steve Quailer recorded the assists on the goal, as Quailer recorded his second assist on his Senior Night.
Soon after the Northeastern goal, Connolly helped the Terriers tie it up again by feeding sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan in the slot for Noonan’s 14th goal of the season. Noonan’s goal was the Terriers’ only power-play goal in the game.
Junior Garret Vermeersch gave the Huskies the lead going into the locker room. With less than two minutes remaining in the second frame, he sniped a power-play goal off the post from the slot.
The Huskies’ lead didn’t last long, however, as Noonan shot home his second goal of the night off Connolly’s third assist. Noonan’s tying goal lasted all the way into overtime, as neither team could put the puck in the back of the net despite several power-play chances apiece.
Connolly finished the night with a goal and three assists in the game, which raises his point total to 35 points on the season – his highest season point total in his college career.
“[Connolly] has been a terrific captain and a terrific player for us and more importantly a terrific guy,” Parker said. “He leads by example as far as how hard he plays and how hard he works off the ice and the kids really respect him.”
With 2:25 remaining in overtime, Saponari netted a rebound that gave Northeastern a win to end its season.
With the regular season concluded and the postseason upon them, the Terriers will be looking to rebound next weekend in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
“Playoffs are coming around the block,” Connolly said. “[Saturday] was like shinny and kind of loose out there. That’s not what next weekend or March or hopefully the beginning on April is going to be like. We have got to address that.”