When No. 10 University of North Dakota scored in overtime, No. 6 Boston University thought its season was over. The Terriers (24-11-3) flatlined on the ice while the Fighting Hawks (21-16-3) celebrated their victory. However, the referees calling the play offsides baffled the arena, and shocked the Terriers back to life.
“We thought there might be an offside,” head coach David Quinn said of the stressful scenario. “It seemed like the longer it took, the better chance we were going to have a chance to live another day. When the linesman buckled his helmet as he was coming out of the box we knew we were going to get another chance.”
The Terriers didn’t waste that chance. They barely clung on for the rest of the first overtime, not even recording a shot on goal, but the second overtime made all the difference. After 91 minutes and 48 seconds of play, sophomore forward Charlie McAvoy netted the game-winner, sending the Terriers into the next round of the NCAA Tournament with a 4-3 win.
Right from puck drop, the pace, physicality and prowess of the game all screamed playoff hockey. With three minutes left in the first period, forward Rhett Gardner scored the first goal of the game to put North Dakota up 1-0. Forward Brock Boeser won a puck battle in the corner allowing line mate Joel Janatuinen to collect the puck and pass to Gardner down front, who beat freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger’s stick across the crease.
The Terriers haven’t scored first in a game since Feb. 6 against Boston College in the Beanpot semifinals. After allowing the first goal, they knew they couldn’t let a strong team such as the Fighting Hawks get on a roll.
Just 2:05 into the second period the Terriers tied the game. Sophomore defenseman Charlie McAvoy passed to senior defenseman Doyle Somerby. The captain’s 6-foot 5-inch frame and extended reach secured the pass from McAvoy on the end of his stick, letting him flick the puck past UND goaltender Cam Johnson.
BU came to life following Somerby’s first goal of the season. The Terriers killed off two penalties, putting a damper on North Dakota’s scoring chances. The Fighting Hawks took the game into their own hands towards the end of the period, maintaining possession and peppering Oettinger with shots, outshooting the Terriers, 25-18, after 40 minutes of play.
McAvoy said the team has been battling with maintaining a mature level of play all year and sometimes their young age still appears in their play.
“Something that we’ve battled with is trying to act way beyond our years,” McAvoy said. “It’s obvious that we’re a young team and maturity might be something people question in our locker room sometimes. But I think tonight we proved that we can play our game and stick with it regardless of what happens… On our bench I don’t think there was ever a time that we thought this game wasn’t ours.”
The NCAA tournament is the hockey equivalent of March Madness, as a team goes home after one loss, so a lot was on the line. Madness is one of the few words that could accurately describe the game from the third period on.
Twenty-eight seconds into the final frame, Greenway collected the puck. He jammed it along the boards to freshman forward Clayton Keller behind the net. Keller worked the puck between the pipe and defender Colton Poolman to sophomore forward Bobo Carpenter at the doorstep. Carpenter picked his spot in a fraction of a second and scored the go-ahead goal, his 14th of the season.
Minutes later, sophomore forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored to make it 3-1, cushioning the Terriers’ lead.
While offense went to work, the defense kept the Terriers in the game. The penalty kill went 6-for-6 on the night, and players blocked 51 shots. Seventeen of those came from junior defenseman Brandon Hickey alone. Freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger made 56 saves on the night, a career high for the 18-year-old.
“I thought we defended well,” Quinn said. “We did a good job staying on the D-side of people. I thought we did a good job not giving second changes. Jake made some huge saves when he needed to and our penalty kill was outstanding, especially the one in overtime. Our penalty kill has been really good all year.”
Oettinger was happy to have the likes of Hickey and others in front of him.
“[Hickey] has been a horse for us all year on the backend,” Oettinger said. “It’s no shocker to me that he had that many blocks. He lays his body out on the line every night for the team and that’s why he’s one of our leaders.”
The Fighting Hawks found their way past the BU blueliners twice in the third period, though, with goals from forward Ludvig Huff and defender Christian Wolanin. The Fighting Hawks had four times as many shots (21) as the Terriers (5) in the third period. The game was tied, and the arena had a whole new atmosphere. It wouldn’t be an easy win for the Boston boys.
Going into the game, the North Dakota offense was ranked 16th in the nation, averaging 3.18 goals a game. BU was just behind them, averaging 3.16 goals a game, so the score going into overtime was no surprise.
Overtime, was full of surprises. The first, forward Dixon Bowen’s goal was ruled offsides after a long deliberation. The second, BU recorded zero shots on goal, although it did hit post once. North Dakota had five shots find net and after 8- minutes they outshot the Terriers 51- 23.
The second overtime was full of nail biting and breath holding until McAvoy destroyed the Fighting Hawks chance of winning the national championship two years in a row.
“You got two high-end players like [McAvoy] and [Keller] just making great plays, and that’s what it takes to win games like this,” Quinn said. “You need great players to win games like this.
“I thought our guys competed hard and stuck with it,” Quinn added. “They didn’t get rattled. Just a great win.”