Fifth-seed Boston University will look to become the lowest seed to ever win the Hockey East tournament thanks to a thrilling, 6-5 double overtime victory on Friday night over second-seed Boston College in game two of the semifinals of the 19th annual Hockey East tournament in Boston.
The hero of the night for the Terriers was sophomore Justin Maiser, who netted his first hat trick of the season, scoring the tying goal with 3:22 remaining in regulation and then blasting an enormous one-timer past BC goaltender Matti Kaltiainen (29 saves) at 5:00 of the second overtime for the victory.
“We tried to match lines all night,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I liked that match-up [that scored the winning goal] where we had their third line against arguably our top line.
“Maiser has had the tendency to score in games like that,” Parker added. “But you have to credit his linemates, too. [Brian] McConnell is a big-game player and Mark Mullen has had a good year for us.”
The overtime winner came when BU pressured the Eagles defense, and McConnell finally forced a turnover in the left corner. He shoveled a pass out front to find a semi-open Maiser. Winding up like a defenseman at the point, Maiser launched a one-timer that beat Kaltiainen before he ever had time to react, sending the BU faithful that still remained at the FleetCenter near the midnight hour into pandemonium and the Terriers into their seventh championship game.
“McConnell hit some guy nice and hard and created the turnover,” said Maiser of his game-winner. “I was screaming in front of the net and he gave me a great pass. I just tried to shoot it as hard as I could.”
The game itself was the ultimate flip-flop, wide-open affair. Six lead changes highlighted the night where, for the most part, goal-scoring prevailed over goaltending.
“If you tell me it’s going to be a 6-5 game, we lose, especially against Boston College,” said Parker, who clearly preferred to play a more defensive style of hockey. “At portions of that game it was wide open. It was almost like there was nothing you could do about it.”
The opening minutes of the game proved to be the telltale sign on how the night would progress. After BC’s Tony Voce hit the post to the right of BU netminder Sean Fields (46 saves) just 31 seconds in, BU’s Brian Collins hammered a shot between Kaltiainen’s legs at the 43 second mark to give BU a 1-0 lead.
BC would answer with goals by Ned Havern on a partial breakaway at 9:03 and Chris Collins at the one-minute mark of the second.
But that lead would be short-lived thanks to a crazy three-minute offensive outburst. BU’s Mike Bussoli found room in front of Kaltiainen after a scrum at 2:08 to even the game at 2-2, before teammate Brad Zancanaro buried a near-identical goal at 3:39 for the Terriers to regain the lead.
But BC struck back, with Ty Hennes banging home the rebound of a John Adams’ bid at 4:07 to finish a four-goal flurry over a span of 3:07, one second shy of the tournament record for fastest four goals.
Maiser buried his first goal of the night at 16:39 to give the Terriers the lead into the second intermission, firing the rebound of a blocked Mike Bussoli shot past Kaltiainen for a 4-3 lead.
In the third, it appeared that BC’s Tony Voce might be the game’s hero, as the junior winger evened the game at 7:18 and gave BC back the lead with 8:10 to play.
That was only until Maiser struck on a controversial goal with 3:22 remaining in regulation. Maiser knocked down a Dan Spang shot from the left point and then immediately fired a hard backhander past Kaltiainen. BC argued that Maiser’s stick was above the crossbar when he first touched the
puck, leading referee John Gravallese to turn to video replay for a decision.
That decision appeared to yield nothing as the on-ice officials then conferred for what seemed like an eternity before Gravallese finally signed a goal.
“I thought for sure it would be called a goal,” said Parker. “I don’t know if it was high sticking, but I knew he didn’t high stick the puck into the net. You can only call goals back on certain criteria. When you high stick the puck and then shoot in into the net, you can’t call that back because
then you’d have to review every play.”
Once allowed, the goal signed a temporary respite to the wild scoring. It didn’t, though, end quality-scoring chances.
In the first overtime, the Eagles controlled the play, and Voce, already with two goals on the night, had the chance to put the game away, not once, but twice. His second opportunity saw him push the puck between Fields’ legs but just wide of the far post.
“We had some excellent chances in overtime,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We created some good scoring chances in a high-energy type game.”
Surviving the first 20 minutes of overtime seemed to give BU a little jump, and eventually led to Maiser’s heroic game-winner.
Now, for BU, the number one objective will be to rest. They will face top-seeded New Hampshire in the title tilt tomorrow at 7:00, giving the Terriers just 19 hours to recover between games.
That, though, isn’t a major concern for Parker.
“I think adrenaline will take us,” said Parker. “Guys should get geared up for [the championship game]. So I’m not to worried on whether or not we’ll be ready to go by seven o’clock tomorrow night.”
Saturday’s championship game will be the seventh for the Terriers, carrying a 5-1 record in its first six. BU has only met New Hampshire once for the championship–ironically the last time BU made the finals–winning 4-2 over the Wildcats on March 15, 1997.
BC ends its run towards Hockey East hardware but can now focus on the NCAA tournament. Depending on what happens on Saturday, and in next weekend’s tournament action in other conferences, BC is pretty much assured either a number one or two seed in the NCAA regional tournament.