Saturday night’s matchup between the N0. 6 Boston University hockey team and the No. 13 University of Notre Dame was a big one. Not only was it Senior Night, but the Hockey East regular-season title was on the line.
If the Terriers (21-10-3, 13-6-3 Hockey East) won, they would be part of a three-way tie for first with No. 14 Boston College and No. 5 University of Massachusetts Lowell. If they tied, the Fighting Irish (19-10-5, 12-6-4 Hockey East) would be part of the three-way tie and a BU loss would grant Notre Dame sole possession of first place.
Playoff seeding and a trophy were there for the taking, and the Terriers played like it. They hit the ice full steam ahead and continued to play a physical game until the final horn.
The Terriers came out of the 4-1 win as Hockey East co-champions. BU head coach David Quinn said his team accomplished a feat that could have been done by any of the top teams in the league, and for that he is proud.
“To finish the season tied for the most points in this league says an awful lot about our leadership, our seniors, our juniors,” Quinn said. “It’s been a lot of fun coaching this group so far. I’m really proud of the way we finished the season.”
Junior defenseman John MacLeod’s game-winning slapshot put the Terriers ahead 2-1 in the second period, and Notre Dame never recovered from the momentum shift.
Quinn described the moment as huge for his team.
“To get a lead is key,” Quinn said. “I thought we handled going down one to nothing well. … We needed something good to happen to feel good about ourselves.”
Notre Dame opened up the scoring 15:19 into the first period when freshman Mike O’Leary netted his second of the season.
Aside from the 1-0 lead at the end of the first, and over a minute remaining in a power play, Notre Dame didn’t possess a clear advantage. The teams were within two shots of each other and were dead even in blocked shots with seven apiece.
The beginning of the second was just as tight, but BU eventually took the lead. While on the power play, freshman forward Kieffer Bellows beat Notre Dame netminder Cal Petersen to a rebound and potted the tying goal.
Over 16 minutes into the second, MacLeod scored the go-ahead goal with a howitzer from the blue line. Freshman forward Clayton Keller scored the next two for the Terriers, bringing his goal total to a fitting 19, matching his jersey number.
The Illinois native said beating Petersen was difficult, but throwing pucks on net ended up being the key to his offensive success.
“He’s quick side to side and he’s big,” Keller said of Petersen. “He’s a great goalie. I just tried getting pucks on net and I think when you do that good things happen.”
Goaltender Jake Oettinger also stood out for BU. The freshman hasn’t been his unstoppable self as of late, allowing 19 goals in the five games prior. However, he only allowed one goal and made 40 saves.
“He made some big saves,” Quinn said. “It was two to one when he made that pad save. It might have been 3-1, that could have changed the flow of the game. Listen, you need great goaltending to win championships and we’ve got a great goalie.”
Quinn said his team looked good in all three zones and both special teams performed well, but he still wants more from the Terrier squad.
“I still think we got another level in us that we can get to,” Quinn said. “But we’re going to take a deep breath and enjoy this for the next few days.”