The Boston University men’s hockey team skated to a hard-fought 1-1 draw with 45 saves from junior netminder Jake Oettinger in a visit to Providence College Thursday night.
“Our goaltender was the story,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “We’re pretty fortunate to get out of the rink with a point.”
With fifth-place BU (13-15-4, 11-8-3 Hockey East) only four points behind second-place Providence (20-9-6, 13-7-3 Hockey East) with a game in hand on the Friars at the time of the opening puck drop, the Terriers were looking for the full two points to assist their mission of securing a playoff game on home ice.
“They [knew] the importance of the points tonight,” O’Connell said of his squad.
BU nearly got on the board less than a minute into the game, as junior defenseman Chad Krys spotted a seam in the Friar defense on one of BU’s first rushes of the evening. Krys beat goaltender Hayden Hawkey but could not beat the post to the keeper’s left, and Providence would survive the early scare.
“I think we were mentally … and physically ready to go,” O’Connell said about his team’s quick start.
Building off of the early Krys chance, BU kept the pressure on Providence through the opening stages of the game and were rewarded for their efforts eight minutes into the period.
After Oettinger made a double-save to rob forward linemates Tyce Thompson and Scott Conway, the Terriers turned the other way, skating four against one. After freshman forward Joel Farabee was denied by Hawkey, sophomore forward Shane Bowers was there to knock in the rebound for his 11th goal of the season.
“We got off to a really good start,” O’Connell said. “That gave us a chance to get a goal.”
Awoken by the Terrier opener, the Friars came charging back, riding an effective forecheck to a 14-6 shots-on-goal advantage by the end of the period. Coming off a dominant weekend against the University of Vermont (12-18-2, 5-15-2 Hockey East), Oettinger stayed strong.
He fended off point-blank chances from forwards Kasper Bjorkqvist and Greg Printz among others.
“[Providence] did a really good job of getting in, forechecking, and holding pressure on [BU],” O’Connell said.
Despite the lopsided shots-on-target counts, BU led 1-0 after one.
The Terriers started the second frame on the front foot, as Hawkey was forced into action five minutes into the period to keep out sophomore forward Ty Amonte’s diving effort, getting a stick on a saucer pass from junior linemate Patrick Harper in the corner.
As the period progressed and tides turned, Providence peppered Oettinger throughout the middle 10 minutes of the second stanza en route to a 28-12 lead in terms of shots in goal by the end of the period.
Battling wave after wave of Friar attacks, Oettinger and his defense weathered the storm. The greatest threat from Providence came from defenseman Spenser Young, who shot in front with eight minutes remaining in the period. Oettinger and a crowd of Terriers smothered the chance just in time.
“I thought we defended hard,” O’Connell said, who saw his Terriers concede a maximum of one goal Thursday night for the fourth consecutive game.
After another stop by Oettinger to deny forward Vimal Sukumaran up close, BU would finally gain some zone time in the waning moments of the period with the game’s lone power play. Still, it was Providence forward Scott Conway who had the best chance while BU were up a man, stickhandling his way into shooting position but seeing his drive turned away by Oettinger.
After 40 minutes, the score would stand, 1-0. Continuing their theme of hot starts into the third, the Terriers hit the ice running for the final 20, as junior forward Patrick Curry’s off-balance swipe at a rebound was kept out by a sprawling Hawkey three minutes into the frame.
That would be the closest BU would come in the third, as the Friars would once again find their stride as the period wore on.
“As the game wore on, we wore down,” O’Connell said.
After 53 minutes of flawless defense, Oettinger and the Terrier blueliners would finally cave in.
On a break into the attacking zone, forward Greg Printz found linemate Jack Dugan streaking toward the BU net. With quick hands, Dugan slipped the puck through the five hole, netting his 10th goal of the season for Providence and levelling the game at one.
“They made a really nice play on the goal,” O’Connell said of the Printz-Dugan linkup.
After an unsuccessful final push from both sides to end regulation, the teams would move on to overtime. It was the second game in BU’s last three to require an additional frame.
In the extra five minutes, it was Oettinger again who played the role of hero for BU, stoning back-to-back chances from Bjorkqvist and defenseman Vincent Desharnais to keep the Terriers alive. With mere seconds left, Oettinger made one final save against Thompson, bringing his total to 45 on the night.
“Jake was there, and he was able to get us a point,” O’Connell said.
The deadlock would not be broken, and the game finished 1-1. The Friars tallied 82 shots with 46 on goal compared to BU’s 41 shots with 20 on goal.
While Oettinger and his defensemen have been solid as of late, the Terrier attack has been kept to low totals by opposing defenses, as BU scored one goal in each of their previous three games.
“[Providence] seemed a little flat, we weren’t, and it allowed us to get a point,” O’Connell said about the team’s one goal in the game’s opening minutes.
O’Connell expressed his satisfaction with the results his team has gained in their trips this season to Providence’s Schneider Arena.
“We took three of four points off Providence in their own building, so that’s pretty good,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Friars clinched a home playoff game with Thursday’s point. The positions currently occupied by Northeastern and UMass Lowell are the only undetermined spots to host a playoff game.
“That’s a really good hockey team,” O’Connell said of Providence. “They’re going to be a tough out for anyone.”
BU will look to keep their unbeaten run going and the home-ice hopes alive when they return to Agganis Arena against Merrimack on Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m.