Like on Friday night against Boston College, the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team started Sunday afternoon’s game against No. 6 University of Massachusetts Lowell with a sloppy first period. And like that game against BC, the Terriers again trailed by two goals in the second period.
But unlike Friday night, BU ended this game with a celebration.
Junior forwards Danny O’Regan and Ahti Oksanen started the turnaround with goals in the second period, and freshman center Jack Eichel finished the comeback with a power-play goal 1:18 into overtime, giving the Terriers a 4-3, come-from-behind win over Lowell (15-5-3, 8-2-2 Hockey East). at Agganis Arena.
These Terriers (13-4-4, 8-2-2 Hockey East), a team with five wins trailing after one period of play, fought and scrapped back into the game.
“I’m so proud of our resiliency, said BU head coach David Quinn. “I thought after we got down 3-1, we really did a great job of kind of pulling it together and playing with the pace that we need to.”
The loss to the rival No. 17 Eagles (13-8-2, 6-5 Hockey East) was indeed deflating, but BU needed to regroup for Sunday — first place in Hockey East was on the line against the conference-leading River Hawks.
“We needed to move past that BC loss because anyone who’s been in that rivalry knows the effects it can have when you lose that game, and I thought we did a really good job of putting it behind us and moving forward,” Quinn said. “If you’re going to beat Lowell, you better be on your “A-game” physically and mentally, and giving yourself a chance.”
And at the beginning of the first, the The Terriers looked like a improved team, as they jumped on the board on the strength of a power-play goal from junior winger Ahti Oksanen at the 5:30 mark. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk fed a pass down low into the crease for Oksanen, who finished with an easy goal past netminder Kevin Boyle.
“I guess [the defense] kind of forgot me,” Oksanen said of his goal. “The backdoor, I was wide-open and Grizzy [Grzelcyk] found me there and I just somehow tipped it in between my legs.”
After Oksanen’s goal, though, BU succumbed to some lackadaisical play in the defensive zone, and the River Hawks took advantage.
Freshman C.J. Smith blew past two BU defensemen to beat out an icing, skated in all alone on junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and beat the goalie with a deke and backhander to tie the game at 1-1 with 2:33 left in the period. Twenty-three seconds later, forward A.J. White scored on a wide-open chance on the doorstep after the Terriers failed to protect the front of the net.
By the end of the first period, the River Hawks outshot BU by a 18-11 margin, and had also outplayed the Terriers for a large portion of the stanza.
Things would get worse for BU before they would get better, as Smith camped inside the goal crease and tallied his second of the game — and third straight Lowell goal — less than two minutes into the second on a Lowell man advantage.
But from there on out, the Terriers spent significant time in the offensive zone. The extra pressure — and 26 attempted shots in the second period — translated into a better output on the scoreboard.
Junior forward Danny O’Regan cut the Lowell lead to one on a power play 7:48 into the middle frame for his team-leading 16th goal of the season. An with 44 seconds left in the second, Oksanen struck again, as his shot made it through well-placed screen from junior center Matt Lane to tie the game at three heading into the third period.
“I actually think we started the game off well too and then they kinda turned the tide a little bit, Quinn said. “We didn’t match their pace and then in the second period, I thought we really did a great job pressuring the puck even though we got down 3-1, I thought we were playing well.”
The resurgence continued into the third, but neither the Terriers nor the River Hawks could get the deciding goal. Boyle made 13 stops in the frame, while to his credit, O’Connor blanked all 11 Lowell chances. So for the seventh time this season, the Terriers headed to overtime.
Similar to BU’s first overtime victory this season against the University of Maine on Nov. 21, the Terriers earned an early extra-man chance in the sudden-death period. That win ended with an Eichel goal.
So did this one.
On the opening draw of the man advantage, the Terriers won the draw back to the point. Grzelcyk then fed an open Eichel at the left circle, who rocketed a one-timer high over Boyle’s glove for the game-winner.
“The overtime goal was a great play by Rodrigues, attacking getting it to Matt, and Grizzy [Grzelcyk] does a great job finding Jack and I’ve never seen Jack want to shoot a puck more,” Quinn said. “He actually said that was the first one-time goal he’s ever scored.
“There wasn’t a goalie on the planet stopping that one.”