For the first two periods on Saturday night, the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team was in a battle more with Murphy’s Law than with No. 1 Providence College.
Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
The end of the second period saw BU hit one post and miss two open nets on rebound opportunities. It was the culmination of a frustrating period in which the Terriers (5-3-2, 3-2-2 Hockey East) took five penalties and shot wide of the net eight times.
But similar to how he felt at Providence (6-0-3, 0-0-2 Hockey East) on Friday night, head coach David Quinn maintained that his team was still in good position to make a move in the third.
“We miss some open nets, we hit some posts,” Quinn said. “Even though we’re down 2-0 going into the third, we kind of felt pretty good about the way that period ended and the way that period was overall.”
Finally, in the third period, as puck luck would have it, things would finally go BU’s way. All it took was a better effort on special teams play.
Friday night, the Terriers needed to rely on the penalty kill. Saturday, it was a matter of staying in the offensive zone and converting on power-play chances.
With extra-attacker goals from senior winger Ahti Oksanen and freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and another from Forbacka Karlsson seconds after a power play expired, the Terriers came back to earn another point in a 3-3 tie against the Friars.
“We have outstanding guys,” Forsbacka Karlsson said after the game. “Everybody can create something off that unit, and I think especially with [senior captain Matt Grzelcyk] Grizzy back, just being kind of a quarterback on the top there, it’s definitely something we can keep going with.”
And it was Grzelcyk’s heady play early in the third period with the extra man that helped get the Terriers on the scoreboard for the first time. The senior captain, from the left side of the ice, dished the puck across to the right wing to Oksanen, who banked a shot off the post and Providence goaltender Nick Ellis and into the net.
It would be Grzelcyk’s only power-play point on the night, but his presence on the extra-man unit has given the Terriers an important lift. After failing to score on a power play in his first game back to the lineup against Northeastern University on Nov. 6, BU has since converted 4-of-14 power plays (2-for-7 on Saturday) in the three games since — a 28.5 percent success rate.
Grzelcyk’s ability to control the puck at the top of the point and facilitate the offense into the attacking end has not gone unnoticed by Quinn.
“He keeps things moving, he’s active,” Quinn said. “I think he gets the penalty killers thinking a little bit and guessing and we were just having a lot of trouble coming into the zone. … We started getting things down low and changing the look a little bit and then when we did go up top, we had a little bit more room and Ahti gets a huge goal from Grizzy, a great pass by Grizzy. And obviously Ahti can one-time with the best of ‘em and he got us going.”
From there, Forsbacka Karlsson scored twice, one seven seconds after a power play ended and the other on the man advantage.
The latter, which was set up by crisp passes from senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan and sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato, saw Forsbacka Karlsson take the puck into the high slot and take a perfectly placed shot high over Ellis’s glove side. It gave BU the lead, albeit a brief one that lasted 1:17.
Without a strong third period in both ends of the home-and-home series, it’s hard to say if BU could’ve taken away a point in either of the games. In the three games before this weekend, BU had been outshot a combined 56-20 in third periods. These two games were a different story, with the Terriers recording 33 shots on goal compared to PC’s 20.
For that, Quinn was happy to see his team trending in the right direction, especially against a nationally ranked opponent, a conference foe at that.
“I thought we kept it simple and obviously our power play was huge in the third period,” Quinn said. “I loved how we pulled it together and battled back.”