No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey head coach David Quinn liked his team’s first period on Saturday night against the University of Notre Dame at Agganis Arena. The team was preparing to head to the locker room, the teams locked in a scoreless tie.
Until they weren’t. The green light went off behind the goal of freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee, signaling the end of the period, but Notre Dame forward Mario Lucia had just put a puck in the net past LaCouvee.
After several minutes of a video review, the goal was signaled as good — with one-tenth of a second left on the clock — and the Terriers (19-6-5, 13-4-3 Hockey East) skated off for the first intermission with a 1-0 deficit. It was easily the latest goal BU has given up in any period this season. Prior to that, the Terriers’ latest goal had come in the form of an empty-netter with 33 seconds remaining against No. 10/11 Boston College on Jan. 16.
And that would just be the first time a costly error at the end of a period doomed BU in its eventual 3-2 loss to the Fighting Irish (14-15-5, 9-6-5 Hockey East).
“When you give up a goal with .1 second to go at the end of the first in a period that you feel good about, kind of demoralizing,” Quinn said following the loss. “It took a little bit of the wind out of our sails early in the second.”
The Terriers again found themselves in trouble at the end of the second period, when a scrum at the whistle sent freshman center Jack Eichel to the penalty box at the beginning of the third period after a roughing call.
Notre Dame was able to capitalize with 15 seconds remaining on that power play, giving it an ultimately unsurmountable 3-1 lead at the 1:45 mark of the third frame.
For Quinn, the errors came much too abruptly for the Terriers.
“You can really say one second cost us two goals,” Quinn said. “The .1-second [goal] at the end of the first, and the buzzer went off and we take a dumb penalty.”
The Terriers aren’t strangers to woeful late-period penalties. Most notably, against the No. 16 University of Massachusetts Lowell on Feb. 6, Eichel was called for a tripping penalty with five seconds remaining in the second period. Four seconds after that, freshman defenseman John MacLeod was called for a trip of his own, giving Lowell (17-10-5, 10-7-3 Hockey East) a 5-on-3 opportunity for the first 1:55 of the third period.
The Riverhawks were able to score with 33 seconds left on that subsequent 5-on-3 advantage. The difference in that game, though, as compared to Saturday’s game, was that BU held a commanding 4-0 lead prior to the Lowell goal.
The games on Feb. 6 and Saturday are the only two instances in which BU has let an end-of-period penalty result in a power-play goal in the following period. But when it comes to the crucial final weeks of the regular season, Quinn made it clear that mistakes of any kind are unacceptable.
“When you’re in playoff-type hockey games,” Quinn said, “all those things matter.”