Ice Hockey, Sports

No. 5 BU bests No. 3 BC in back-and-forth thriller

Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey (4) and freshman forward Nikolas Olsson (13) swarm freshman forward Jack Eichel after his third-period goal. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey (4) and freshman forward Nikolas Olsson (13) swarm freshman forward Jack Eichel after his third-period goal. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

CHESTNUT HILL — For the first time in almost three years, the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team skated off the ice at Conte Forum with a win, as the Terriers downed No. 3 Boston College, 5-3, in a seesaw match Friday night.

The victory stands as the Terriers’ (5-1, 3-1 Hockey East) first win at the Eagles’ (4-4, 1-3 Hockey East) rink since BU defeated their longtime foe by an identical score of 5-3 on Dec. 2, 2011.

“Well, just a great college hockey game,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “It’s something that I think we all expect and seen an awful lot of in the history of this rivalry, and we couldn’t be more proud of the way that we battled back.”

The first period of play was an entertaining — if not sloppy — affair, as both squads struggled to generate offense in front of both BU junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and Eagles netminder Thatcher Demko.

“I don’t think there was a shot for the first three or four minutes,” Quinn said. “I thought we had some chances in the first, but I thought they controlled the play a little bit more than we did in the first.”

The Terriers were able to come away with a few solid chances against Demko over the opening 20 minutes of play, capped off by a breakaway bid from freshman forward Jack Eichel in the closing moments of the stanza that the BC goalie was able to turn aside.

While both teams entered the first intermission deadlocked in a 0-0 draw, the Eagles quickly grasped the lead in the opening minutes of the second period.

BC captain Michael Matheson fired a shot toward O’Connor from the right circle, and while the BU goaltender was able to stop both the incoming wrist shot and the subsequent attempt, there was little that he could do to stop the third rebound — a backhand offering from forward Chris Calnan that found the back of the net at 2:10 to give the Eagles a 1-0 advantage.

BU would finally mark itself on the score sheet a little over 10 minutes later in the period, as senior forward Evan Rodrigues toe-dragged and deked his way through a myriad of BC skaters near the slot before beating Demko blocker side with a backhand shot near the left circle to knot the game, 1-1, at 12:17.

“I was actually at the end of a shift and contemplating, actually, when I got the puck, just chipping it in and just changing,” Rodrigues said. “I kind of turned and looked up and [freshman forward Nikolas] Olsson and Eichel both drove the net and kind of took the two D with them. I kind of just pulled in my backhand, and I think Demko went down, and I just slid it in.”

The Eagles would quickly respond, as a poor line change from the Terriers created two odd-man rushes for an opportunistic Boston College squad. Forward Ryan Fitzgerald would ultimately cash in on the second attempt, firing a wrister past O’Connor at 16:21 to give BC a 2-1 lead.

Entering the final period of play, the Terriers would not roll over, once again clawing back into the game at the 1:59 mark. Junior forward Mike Moran peppered Demko with a shot near the left circle before banking the puck past the BC backstop to make it a 2-2 game.

The momentum seemed to have firmly swung in favor of the Terriers over the subsequent minutes of play, with BU earning two minutes on the power play after Matheson was called for a slashing penalty with 14:15 remaining in the game.

Unfortunately for the Terriers, the Eagles would be the ones reaping the benefits of the man advantage, as an ill-advised pass from freshman Brandon Hickey in BU’s defensive zone was intercepted by a lurking Fitzgerald, who easily deposited the puck past O’Connor after a series of dekes to put the Eagles back on top, 3-2, on a shorthanded goal at 6:05.

Despite his role in Fitzgerald’s second tally on the night, Hickey would redeem himself later in the period. After receiving a pass from freshman defenseman Brandon Fortunato, the Leduc, Alberta native uncorked a shot from the point that Eichel deflected past Demko to once again tie the game at 3-3 with 7:45 left on the clock.

Finally, with 5:45 remaining in the game, the Terriers secured their first lead of the night. After collecting the puck off a pass from junior Danny O’Regan, Rodrigues sailed into the BC zone and around the Eagles’ net. While the senior’s wraparound bid did not look promising off the stick, the puck ricocheted off Demko’s stick and Matheson’s skate before listlessly sliding into the goal — giving BU a 4-3 lead that it would not relinquish.

“I didn’t really have a play there,” Rodrigues said. “I kind of just brought it around the net and figured, ‘Why not just throw it in front? You never know who’s there.’ I think Danny and Jack were both driving the net, so I just threw it out there, hit off a skate I think and found the corner of the net.”

Each of Rodrigues’ last two multi-goal games have come against BC, with the assistant captain registering two scores against the Eagles in the Hockey East Semifinals on March 22, 2013.

The Terriers finally capped their scoring at 19:17 thanks to an empty-net goal from Olsson to seal the win for BU.

After the game, Quinn opted not to discuss his first career victory over BC as a coach, instead focusing on the performance that his team put forward against its most storied rival.

“I don’t look at it that way. I feel good for our guys,” he said. “They left an awful lot out there. You get dirty goals by working and working and working. And that’s what happened. We got rewarded for our hard work. A lucky bounce helps, and we were able to get a lucky bounce or two.”

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I spend my days serving as Sports Editor of The Daily Free Press, covering BU Hockey and finding more ways to worship Tom Brady. Previous experience includes covering the Red Sox and Bruins for and writing for South Boston Today. Follow me on Twitter: @ConorRyan_93

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