CHESTNUT HILL — When Boston University freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey tried to restart a rush on a power-play chance in the neutral zone in the third period against No. 3 Boston College, he forgot one key element.
Instead of moving the play into the BU offensive zone a little more than six minutes into the third period, Eagles forward Ryan Fitzgerald intercepted the puck on a pass from the defenseman at the blue line and skated in 1-on-1 on junior goaltender Matt O’Connor. The netminder had no chance.
Not only did BU give up the goal, it also fell behind 3-2 and seemingly lost the momentum it got early in the period when junior forward Mike Moran banked in a goal from behind the net off goalie Thatcher Demko.
But if the No. 5 Terriers (5-1, 3-1 Hockey East) have shown anything this year, it’s their ability to play their most consistent and best hockey in the final 20 minutes. Friday’s game at Conte Forum was no different.
After Fitzgerald’s tally, his second of the game, BU scored three unanswered goals to win 5-3 over the rival Eagles (4-4, 1-3 Hockey East).
“It reiterated what we already knew,” said BU coach David Quinn. “We’ve had great third periods all year, and we have an awful lot of resolve. There’s no quit in us so far, which is a great sign. Not an easy atmosphere to play in, especially for our group. I thought we weathered the storm early.”
This game played out much of the way BU’s season has gone thus far: hang in early, but explode late. Coming into the game, the Terriers had a plus-10 goal differential in the third period. Despite the one BC tally early in the frame, the Terriers’ season total now sits at plus-13, which includes 14 goals for BU.
To get to that point, though, the Terriers needed to get the puck to the net with authority.
And who better to lead the charge than Hickey?
The freshman made up for his early-period gaffe when he took a one-time shot from the point that freshman forward Jack Eichel re-directed through a screen and by Demko.
Quinn said after the game that Hickey’s resiliency and ability to recover from a mistake played a huge role in making the play happen.
“Brandon Hickey — everybody in the building saw what happened on the shorthanded goal,” Quinn said. “But he kept playing. He didn’t let it rattle him. He came back, and I couldn’t have been happier for somebody when we tied that game and he took the shot from the point.”
As much as the mental toughness played a crucial factor in another strong third period, a little bit of puck luck didn’t hurt either. Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues didn’t mind.
A wraparound shot from Rodrigues at the 14:14 mark of the frame initially looked harmless enough. The Eagles defense in front of Demko, however, allowed otherwise. Junior Michael Matheson, who stood in front of the crease and Demko, inadvertently knocked in the puck with his stick, giving BU a 4-3 lead.
“Again, you look at the goals we scored. None of them were pretty,” Quinn said. “The slapshot from Hickey is a tip-in. Moran’s goes off Demko. That’s how goals are going to be scored in this series.”
BU continued to pressure Demko, garnering 12 shots to BC’s eight in the period. And as freshman forward Nikolas Olsson iced the game with an empty-net goal with 53 seconds to go, a raucous Conte Forum crowd of 7,884 was silenced and headed for the exits. The Terriers had polished off a brilliant final-period comeback to seal the deal.
“We got rewarded for our hard work,” Quinn said. “A lucky bounce helps, and we were able to get a lucky bounce or two. But I think we made our lucky bounces.”