There might have been 20 minutes left to play in Saturday night’s match at Agganis Arena, but a 2-1 deficit certainly seemed like a death sentence for the No. 11/12 Boston University men’s hockey team.
Over the last two seasons, the Terriers (3-0, 1-0 Hockey East) have struggled with clawing back into games after trailing at the start of the third period, posting an underwhelming record of 2-29-1 over the last two seasons in such a scenario.
Thanks to a goal from No. 14 University of Michigan forward Alex Kile at 8:33, the Terriers were once again reeling at the end of the second stanza, leaving the bench in deflated fashion after surrendering the score to the Wolverines (2-3).
While the odds were stacked against the Terriers, junior captain Matt Grzelcyk told his team to remain positive in the locker room. The chances were going to come.
“We didn’t have to change the way we played,” Grzelcyk said. “We felt that as long as we stayed disciplined and kept to our gameplan, that things were going to work out.”
Things ultimately did work out for the Terriers, as BU registered two goals over the final period to secure a 3-2 win over Michigan in front of a raucous Agganis Arena crowd.
The Terriers evened up the score less than three minutes into the third, as sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby uncorked a shot from the point that ricocheted off of freshman forward Jack Eichel and past Michigan netminder Zach Nagelvoort to make it a 2-2 game.
The game would remained in a deadlock for almost 14 minutes, with both squads generating prime scoring opportunities through a combination of impressive passing, off-kiltered one-timers and desperate rushes towards the net.
Finally, the Terriers broke through.
In the waning minutes of the game, sophomore forward Nick Roberto served the puck up to freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey, who fired the puck towards the net.
Junior forward Matt Lane, tangled up in the flock of Terrier and Wolverine bodies positioned in front of the net, deflected the puck past Nagelvoort, giving the Terriers a lead that they would not relinquish.
The series of play was helped by the fact that the Terriers capitalized on a weary unit of Michigan skaters that had not made a line change in some time – something that Lane noted was part of BU’s game plan entering the period.
“We talked about it going into the third, was establishing a good offensive zone presence and getting fresh bodies out there while they were tired,” Lane said. “I definitely think that was one of the causes for the goal.”
The end result of Saturday’s game was not solely born out of the team’s offensive efforts. BU’s defensive corps and penalty kill units also succeeded in curtailing a high-powered Michigan offense that netted eight goals the previous night against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
“It felt good for our team,” said BU coach David Quinn. “Honestly, I felt good for these guys because of the way they played and how much it meant to them. You could see it in their faces in between the second and third period that it kind of felt like it’s 2-1 here. We talked, we’ve all been down 2-1 before and come back and win hockey games – this is nothing new, this isn’t and insurmountable lead that we have to overcome.
And we killed a penalty off, again, that penalty to start the third, we had three chances to clear the puck and we don’t. So they kept zipping it around, and we’re just holding on and hoping to survive. We end up killing it off and boom we score right after, which is a big, big deal for us.”
The 2014-15 season is still in its early weeks and there are many more games to be played, but Lane acknowledged that coming away with a come-from-behind win against a ranked opponent should serve as an obvious boost for the Terriers.
“It was awesome,” Lane said. “We learn, and that’s how the game goes, and we talk about that nonstop, going into the third period being down a goal or whether it was last night being up a goal, we’re saying, ‘We’re not gonna let up. We’re either gonna come back or we’re gonna hold the lead, whatever it may be.’
“We learned from last year and hopefully we keep learning and doing those kinds of things that are going to help us win this year.”