Ice Hockey, Sports

No. 1 Terriers fall in overtime against No. 18 Harvard

Freshman forward J.J. Piccinich registered his first collegiate point Tuesday night against Harvard. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward J.J. Piccinich registered his first collegiate point Tuesday night against Harvard. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

BU coach David Quinn’s comments following Tuesday night’s game against No. 18 Harvard University stood in stark contrast to the Agganis Arena scoreboard.

While the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey fell to the Crimson (6-1-2) in overtime by a score of 3-2 — snapping a five-game unbeaten streak — Quinn added that his team put forth perhaps its best showing of the season.

“From start to finish, I thought that was as thorough a game as we’ve played in a while,” Quinn said. “Ironically, we win two hockey games last week and I thought that we played better tonight than we did against Maine and UConn.

“It’s a funny game. … Give them credit, they [Harvard] are a good hockey team, they’ve got a dangerous first line, the goalie played well and they were more opportunistic that us.”

The Crimson have won the last five meetings against the Terriers (8-2-1, 6-1-1 Hockey East), outscoring their crosstown rival by a 29-17 margin during that stretch. BU’s five-game skid is the lengthiest such slump against Harvard since the club dropped nine straight contests from 1960-64.

The Terriers opened the game on an impressive note, controlling the tempo in Harvard’s zone while stymieing the Crimson’s chances against BU junior goaltender Matt O’Connor.

While neither team jumped on the scoreboard over the first 20 minutes of play, the Terriers entered into the first intermission with a 13-5 advantage in shots.

Quinn praised the effort of his team in first stanza, as the Harvard’s five shots stands as the lowest number of attempt on target given up by the Terriers in the first period this season.

“That was the best first period we played,” Quinn said. “That’s a team that scores goals, and to hold them to 24 shots and not a lot of quality shots, it says an awful lot about our D-corps and our team defense.”

Both squads would exchange scoring opportunities through the first few minutes of the second period, with the Terriers finally taking advantage of a power-play bid after Harvard defenseman Wiley Sherman was sent to the sin bin for a slashing penalty at 7:35.

Facing off against a Harvard penalty-kill unit that entered Tuesday’s game leading the nation with a 96.8 percent (30-for-31) success rate, the Terriers broke through with a little under a minute remaining in the Terriers’ man advantage.

Senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann fired a wrist shot from the left circle that soared toward Crimson goalie Steve Michalek. The puck bounced off the Harvard netminder and in front of freshman forward J.J. Piccinich, who could not stuff the puck into the net.

Fortunately for the Terriers, junior forward Matt Lane was there to collect the secondary rebound and sent it past Michalek to put BU up, 1-0, at 8:57.

Lane’s goal extended the his point streak to three games, while Piccinich’s helper gave the forward his first collegiate point.

“He’s a kid that’s been a scorer everywhere he’s been and he’s going to get one, and when he gets one, there’s going to be a slew of them following it,” Quinn said of Piccinich. “He had some chances tonight. It’s good to see him get a point.”

BU’s lead would be short-lived, however, as Harvard would claw back into the game less than three minutes later in the period.

Harvard forward Jimmy Vesey corralled the puck in BU’s zone after a faceoff win and promptly glided towards O’Connor. The North Reading native beat O’Connor glove side at 11:46 to knot the game at 1-1.

The Crimson later took advantage off a hitting-from-behind call against freshman forward Jack Eichel at 17:19 in the second stanza, setting them up with their third power-play chance on the night.

After cycling the puck around BU’s zone, Harvard’s extra-man unit finally found the back of the BU net at 18:24, as forward Kyle Criscuolo launched a shot from the left circle that sailed past O’Connor to make it a 2-1 game in favor of the Crimson going into the third period.

Despite facing another deficit going into the last 20 minutes of play, the Terriers were once again able to fight back into the contest.

Over six minutes into the final frame, BU found its equalizer off of the stick of junior forward Ahti Oksanen. Oksanen skated down the left side of the ice, settled near the left circle, and muscled a shot that careened over Michalek’s shoulder to make it a 2-2 game at 6:43.

The score was Oksanen’s eighth tally of the season — one more than the Finnish forward notched all of last season.

Oksanen’s goal would account for the only offense generated by either squad in the third, as both teams entered into overtime.

Less than a minute into the extra frame, the Crimson received perhaps their best chance on the night, as Vesey earned a breakaway chance against O’Connor. The BU goalie stood tall between the pipes, turning Vesey’s backhand shot aside to keep the Terriers alive.

Ultimately, the Crimson broke through, as Criscuolo forced his own rebound into the BU net at 3:10 to give Harvard the win.

The Crimson have had some success of late when facing off against the top-ranked team in the nation. The last time that Harvard played the No. 1 in the country, it defeated No. 1 Quinnipiac University in overtime, 2-1, on March 1, 2013.

While Quinn acknowledged that the Terriers still need to improve in multiple areas going forward, he once again reiterated that he was impressed with his team’s effort Tuesday night.

“I know there’s a heap of things that we need to do better. We’ll address them and we’ll continue to get better, but like I said, I thought tonight’s game — we were better tonight than we have been in a while. … If we play like that, we will get rewarded. We will get rewarded.”

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