In a season that has usually been marked with slow starts and imposing finishes, the second period has often been a forgotten segment for the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team.
Going into their weekend tilt against Merrimack College in the Hockey East quarterfinals, the Terriers (23-7-5) had outscored opponents by a mark of 36-32 in the middle frame — standing as the period in which the Terriers have surrendered the most goals during the 2014-15 campaign.
Such a narrative meant little by the end of weekend, with the Terriers outscoring the Warriors (16-18-4) by a mark of 7-0 in the second period en route to a series win and an appearance in the Hockey East semifinal next weekend at TD Garden.
After scoring four straight goals in the second period Friday, the Terriers remained dialed in Saturday after first intermission, notching three unanswered goals en route to a commanding 5-0 win in their final appearance of the season at Agganis Arena.
Outshot them 18-9 in the first, but they had some chances, their power play had some zone time,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “Again, I thought we had a mentality of, ‘Alright, we gotta get to the net, we gotta posses it and we gotta use our points, and we’re going to do it more often and we’re going to do it better.’
“We’re not going to deviate from what we know what we’re going to have to do to score against these guys. And I thought we just turned it up a notch in the second period.”
It appeared that the Warriors were primed to capitalize in the opening minutes of the period — going on the power play after BU junior captain Matt Grzelcyk was whistled for cross checking at 2:33.
Ultimately, the Terriers’ penalty-kill unit would be the one to take advantage, as freshman center Jack Eichel gathered the puck in BU’s zone and rushed down into Merrimack’s side of the ice. Warriors defenseman Jonathan Lashyn dived near the crease in an attempt to disrupt Eichel’s route, but the young forward dangled and hesitated with the puck before dishing it across the slot to senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann, who buried it into the net to hand BU a 1-0 lead at 4:11.
Special-teams play once again swung in favor the Terriers less than two minutes later, this time on the man advantage.
As the scarlet and white cycled around the Merrimack cage, junior forward dished the puck from the end boards up to senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues — stationed just outside of the left circle. Rodrigues’ wrister soared into a screen of skaters, tipped off of junior forward Ahti Oksanen and past Warriors goaltender Rasmus Tirronen at 5:42.
BU capped its second-period run with just over two minutes left in the stanza, with O’Regan sneaking the puck just past Tirronen’s left side to give the Terriers a sizeable lead going into the second intermission.
Three goals did little to set the narrative of just how dominant the Terriers were in the second period, with BU outshooting the Warriors by an incredible 24-2 margin — the lowest shot total that the Terriers have relinquished to an opponent this season.
For Grzelcyk, the biggest key to the team’s dominating showcase in the middle period was the direct result of being unselfish both on offense and defense.
I think just moving the puck, especially on the power play,” Grzelcyk said. “I think that’s been more successful. A theme that we’ve had in both games was getting guys to the net and getting traffic, because we knew they are a defensive-style team and they had a good goalie, so I think that’s what worked for us.”
Impressive play in the second period might go against the grain of a majority of BU’s performances throughout the 2014-15 season, but Quinn noted after Saturday’s game with the stakes building with every new playoff game, teams need to push for new ways to come away with wins.
“You have to win all different ways in sports,” Quinn said. “We had to win a different way than we’re used to winning and we did it.”