After knocking off No. 4 Cornell University Saturday afternoon, the No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team looked to overcome the No. 10 University of Michigan and punch its ticket in the Frozen Four.
However, the Terriers (22-14-4, 12-8-4 Hockey East) could not pull off another upset and fell to the Wolverines (22-14-3) 6-3, ending their 2017-18 season.
For the second straight year, the Terriers saw their season come to a close during the NCAA Regional final.
“It’s tough,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “This is the worst part of the season [and] certainly the worst part of my job because we had such a good run [and] such a great group of kids. It’s a tough night, it’s a tough night.”
On the Wolverines’ first shot on goal of the game, freshman defenseman Quinn Hughes rifled a shot from the high slot, beating Terrier sophomore Jake Oettinger five-hole to put Michigan up 1-0 at 5:12 in the first period.
Just over seven minutes later, the Terriers knotted the score.
Freshman forward Brady Tkachuk knocked down Hughes, which allowed junior forward and assistant captain Jordan Greenway to take the puck into Michigan’s zone. Greenway fired a shot from the left circle that beat Wolverine sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne to tie the game at one 12:26 in the period.
With Terrier senior forward and assistant captain Nikolas Olsson in the box for interference, Michigan senior forward and captain Tony Calderone ensured that the game would not stay deadlocked for long.
Calderone uncorked a shot from between the circles to score a power-play goal and put the Wolverines up 2-1 15:21 in the opening stanza.
One minute and 57 seconds into the second stanza, freshman forward Josh Norris sent the puck to the boards, which rebounded off Oettinger’s leg, and in front of junior forward Brendan Warren who cleaned up the play to put the Wolverines up by two goals.
But BU’s “never say die” attitude persisted and the team did not go down quietly.
“I thought we we started playing a lot better actually when we went down 3-1,” Quinn said. “We looked nervous early … [There was] just a different feel on our bench.”
Freshman defenseman Cam Crotty fired a shot that Lavigne deflected, and sophomore forward Patrick Curry took the puck behind Michigan’s net and backhanded the puck in at 11:08 in the second.
“It’s 3-2 going into the third and guys felt good, and then [we] make it 3-3 and you could just feel the momentum and the energy on the net,” Quinn said,
In the third period, on a clear attempt by Michigan, Greenway kept the play in the Wolverines’ offense zone and then fed the puck to graduate transfer forward Drew Melanson, who deked out Lavigne to even the game at three just 3:30 in the third.
This tally marked Melanson’s fourth goal in six games.
Less than three minutes later, Michigan retook the lead.
Senior defenseman and captain Brandon Hickey attempted to clear the puck out of BU’s zone, as Wolverine sophomore forward Jake Slaker positioned himself in front of the clear attempt and gave Michigan the lead at 6:27 in the third off the turnover.
Slaker’s shot ultimately went off Crotty’s shin pad past Oettinger.
“I wanted to play fast, push the pace going up ice,” Hickey said. “I made a bad play and fanned on it. With a good team like that they’re going to capitalize. Obviously if I could go back try it again and make a little bit of a harder play and maybe get more wood on the pocket. I obviously want to do that … Looking back at it now it definitely stings.”
The Wolverines added one more goal to their lead with 3:42 remaining in the contest. Junior defenseman Nicholas Boka finished off a 2-on-1 to slip the puck past Oettinger for his first goal of the season.
With Oettinger pulled, sophomore forward Nick Pastujov fired a shot from his own zone and found the empty BU net to give Michigan the 6-3 victory over BU.
“I don’t say this with any arrogance, but I don’t think anybody in our locker room expected to lose tonight,” Quinn said. “I thought there was an extreme level of confidence … knowing we had to do certain things to win. Unfortunately, early on we didn’t do them.”
This game not only marks the end of the season for BU, but it also marks the final game in the college careers of senior forwards Chase Phelps and Olsson as well as defensemen Brien Diffley, John MacLeod and Hickey.
This senior class was the first Terrier senior class since 1995 to make the NCAA tournament all four years.
“I couldn’t thank Coach Quinn enough for giving me the opportunity to play at BU. It’s been amazing, best four years of my life,” Hickey said fighting back tears. “… [With] the amount of talent [and] the amount of work ethic in that room, I think that’s nothing but signs for the future and the future of the program.”