All was ripe for yet another comeback.
The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team was down two goals in the second period, but turning the corner. Head coach David Quinn called a timeout about halfway through the period, junior forward Mike Moran scored minutes later to cut the deficit to one and BU was on a power play that would carry over to the start the third.
With time running down, it was all but certain that the Terriers would skate into the second intermission down just 2-1. When the horn sounded to end the period, though, all the good energy that BU had was gone.
Freshman center Jack Eichel took an atypical roughing penalty, sapping the Terriers of a man advantage, while also setting up Notre Dame with a prime chance to take advantage.
And answer back they did.
Forward Vince Hinostroza scored on the ensuing power play under two minutes into the third period, which ended up as the deciding goal in Notre Dame’s (14-15-5, 9-6-5 Hockey East) 3-2 win over BU (19-6-5, 13-4-3 Hockey East). Not only was there no comeback, but the Terriers are now forced to wait at least until next Friday to hoist the Hockey East regular-season trophy.
“I’d like to congratulate Notre Dame,” Quinn said. “I thought it was a hard-fought weekend. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. … Love how we battled back, they go up 2-0, we battled back to make it 2-1 and then we take a bad, bad penalty at the end of the second, uncharacteristic, and they get another power-play goal.”
But to say the late penalty at the end of the middle frame was the first last-second mishap for BU would untrue. Rewind the clock one period, and the Terriers were bitten by the closest thing there is to a buzzer beater in hockey. A good first period — one where BU outshot Notre Dame 17-6 — was undone in a tenth of a second.
Fighting Irish forward Mario Lucia stood in front of the net and one-timed a shot past freshman netminder Connor LaCouvee as the green light signaling the end of the period went off. After a lengthy review process, the referees determined the puck crossed the goal line with .1 seconds remaining on the clock, and Notre Dame had its 1-0 lead.
Quinn said the goal was nothing short of “demoralizing” because of the implications it had going into the next period. Notre Dame had basically seized momentum, which it capitalized on at 7:26 into the second. Despite having power-play issues all weekend, the Fighting Irish connected on a goal with a man up.
Defenseman Robbie Russo fired a shot from the point, which LaCouvee stopped with his right pad. The Terriers failed to cover charging forward Sam Herr, who banked in the rebound for Notre Dame’s second goal.
Yet after the goal and the aforementioned timeout by Quinn, BU settled down and got back into a groove. At 15:39, Moran scored in the low slot off a good feed from freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. It was the junior’s first time lighting the lamp since a Nov. 8 game against the University of Connecticut.
“It’s good to see him get on the scoresheet,” Quinn said of Moran. “I thought it was great play by Olsson creating some space down low, finishing his check, getting it in front of the net, making a nice little play to Mike.”
One Eichel penalty and a Hinostroza power-play goal later, however, and BU was back down two goals early in the third period. A penalty kill that excelled earlier in the season, has now been in a funk, allowing 13 goals in its last 47 chances. For Quinn, it all comes back to the players sticking to the basics and doing their jobs.
“Our jobs as coaches isn’t to tell them what to do, it’s to get them to do it,” Quinn said. “I certainly don’t feel good, personally, about the way things have gone from the penalty kill standpoint. We’ll continue to work on and hopefully we can get back to where it was before we went on this stretch where we’ve just been giving up penalty-kill goals.”
On the flip side, BU did get back on the board because of its own man advantage. Eichel found junior captain Matt Grzelcyk pinching in, who wristed the puck past diving netminder Cal Peterson. But this would be the last time rubber snuck by Peterson.
The netminder stood on his head for the remainder of the period, as he snuffed out 18 Terrier shots in the third alone. He finished with 44 saves, besting his 34-save performance from Friday.
Even after the loss, Quinn looked on the bright side. Heck, his team has a quick turnaround and an opportunity at a different title in less than 48 hours.
“The good news is, we don’t have to live with this long,” Quinn said. “We get to play another hockey game on Monday night with an opportunity to win a championship.”