The Boston University hockey team entered its weekend series against the University of Maine needing only one point to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Hockey East playoffs.
But after having their nine-game winning streak snapped, 9-6, by the Black Bears on Friday, the Terriers found themselves eye-to-eye with defeat on Saturday, trailing 4-3 with less than three minutes to play.
On Senior Night, however, co-captain Mike Pandolfo came to the rescue, scoring his 21st goal of the year with just 2:43 on the clock, forcing overtime as the Terriers (23-8-3, 15-6-3 Hockey East) salvaged a 4-4 tie at Walter Brown Arena.
BU and Maine (20-9-7, 13-6-5) finished the regular season tied with 33 league points, and 1-1-1 in head-to-head play. The next tiebreaker is league wins, and with a 15-13 advantage, BU earned second place and will host No. 7 Providence College beginning Friday night.
Maine, as the third-place team, will play No. 6 Boston College this weekend in Orono, Maine.
Three times Saturday night, the Icedogs took one-goal leads, but each time the Black Bears answered. Maine scored twice in 1:56 late in the third period, tying the game on a Lucas Lawson one-timer before Niko Dimitrakos blasted a slapper by BU goalie Sean Fields to give the Black Bears a 4-3 lead with 5:40 to play.
Three minutes later, Pandolfo got the equalizer. Holding the puck in the left faceoff circle, sophomore forward Mark Mullen sent a pass to freshman Ryan Whitney on the far point. The defenseman waited for the puck to ricochet off the boards before one-timing a slapper toward the net.
Pandolfo was there, battling with Black Bear defenseman Troy Barnes when Whitney fired. Barnes was able to muscle the stick out of Pandolfos hands, but not before the BU senior could get a piece of the puck.
I didnt even see it. It just hit my stick and went in, Pandolfo said of his deflection past goalie Matt Yeats glove side. A lucky one, I guess.
BU nearly won the game in regulation, when junior Brian Collins broke into the Maine zone with Mullen on his right in a 2-on-2 rush with less than 10 seconds to play. Collins drew Yeats primary attention and slid a pass across the crease, but his feed was just out of the reach of Mullen, despite a diving attempt to tip the puck.
Each team could manage only one shot on goal in overtime, although the Black Bears had three faceoffs in front of Fields within the final 26.6 seconds. The University of New Hampshire had already clinched the regular season title with its 5-2 win over BC, but even though he needed to win if his team was to take second place, Maine coach Tim Whitehead opted to leave Yeats in the net instead of going full bore for the victory, cautiously considering the NCAA Tournament ramifications if his team had lost rather than tied.
By earning the deadlock, BU will face Providence in the Hockey East quarterfinals for the third time in four years, including last season when the host Friars ended the Terriers season, winning the series 2-1.
Coming off of Fridays ugly loss, Freddy Meyer gave BU an early lead with 4:42 to play in the opening period. Junior defenseman John Cronin threw a shot toward the net, and as he lay in front of the crease with a Black Bear on top of him, junior forward John Sabo whacked at the puck to keep it alive before Meyer circled from behind the net and stuck the rebound over Yeats at the left post.
Maine answered quickly, though, when Dimitrakos scored with his back to the net, redirecting a Peter Metcalf pass through his legs and into the open left side on the power play.
The game stayed tied at 1-1 until senior forward Jack Baker scored a beautiful goal halfway through the second period. Taking the puck near the red line, Baker carried the puck through three defenders, slaloming in between the powder blue markers before tucking the puck through Yeats.
Again, however, BUs lead would be short-lived, as Maines Todd Jackson responded 3:20 later with his seventh goal of the year after stealing the puck in the corner to Fields right and baiting the sophomore goalie off his line as he patiently dragged the puck across the slot and fired a low wrist shot into the corner of the net.
With 18:28 to play in the second period, Frantisek Skladany was hit from behind by Black Bears forward Colin Shields, scarily sending the BU sophomore head first into the boards. Skladany went down and stayed there before being taken to the locker room for evaluation. He returned, but Shields didnt, handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
But what could have been a turning point for BU became a critical series for Maine. Making a bid to be the hero in his last regular season home game, Baker got a piece of Chris Dyments slapper from the point, beating Yeats, but it was the only goal BU was able to score on the five-minute advantage.
They definitely built off that, Pandolfo said. If we put one more away there, it could have been a different game.
Lawsons goal tied the game at even strength, before Baker was called for leveling Maines Don Richardson with an elbow, setting the stage for Dimitrakos second goal of the night.
We cant have people taking stupid penalties, said BU coach Jack Parker, who benched Baker for the final 11:38 of the game.
The teams combined for four power play goals, and with Maines 69 minutes in penalties added to BUs 30, little of the game was played at even strength.
We shouldve won that game, Pandolfo said. Coach is frustrated discipline-wise. We feel we could have beat them 5-on-5.
Fridays game may as well have been played 10-on-5. With the game 2-2 near the end of the first period, the Black Bears exploded, taking an 8-3 lead before the second period had ended.
BU got three third-period goals to pull within 8-6 with about eight minutes to play, but Martin Kariyas tally with 2:45 to play quashed any hopes of a Terrier comeback, closing the scoring at 9-6.
For the Icedogs, Baker had a goal and three assists, while Skladany added a pair of goals and Whitney had a pair of assists. Brian McConnell and Hockey East Rookie of the Month Justin Maiser added a goal and an assist each, while Dyment, Cronin, Gregg Johnson and David Klema chipped in with one assist.
Freshman defenseman Bryan Miller added a goal and an assist, but suffered a separated shoulder in the ill-fated second period, knocking him out of the game and into a sling, sidelined for at least two weeks.
Miller joins Pat Aufiero, out with a torn tendon in his ankle, as Terrier defensemen in street clothes for the Hockey East playoffs. Junior Ryan Priem was dressed as the sixth defenseman on Saturday, but saw only one shift of action.
Miller could be back in two weeks, and Aufiero may be back in three, Parker said. Well have Miller back before we get Aufiero back.