Even in a year when the Boston University Terriers are not their perennial dominant selves, there is no keeping the Terriers out of the Hockey East Championship.
On Erin O’Neil’s 54-save night, the Terriers were able to hold off the No. 6 Northeastern Huskies and win 4-3 to clinch a spot in BU’s fifth-straight Hockey East Championship game. The Terriers will face No. 1 Boston College.
“It was certainly an exciting game,” BU coach Brian Durocher said. “I think everyone got their money’s worth from an entertainment standpoint. Northeastern came in and, I thought, played a fantastic game. We got what we needed in the first period, four Grade-A saves at least by our goalie. That game could have been done right then and there, but she made some fantastic stops. That gave us a chance to get our feet on the ground, maybe slow the game down a little, and we kept scoring timely goals.”
The Huskies got on the board first. Ainsley MacMillan took advantage of a physical play in front of the net. She received the puck all alone in the faceoff circle and ripped a shot past O’Neil. The physicality of the play was indicative of how the rest of the game was played. A total of 11 penalties were called in the game, resulting in seven combined power-play opportunities for the two teams.
“You’ve got to play with what the officials are calling,” Northeastern coach Dave Flint said. “If they’re letting you play and letting you go, then sometimes it gets a little bit more physical. We always have good physical games with BU, especially in a smaller rink [like Lawler]”
The Terriers responded at the halfway point. Rebecca Leslie wristed a shot past Hockey East Second-Team All Star Brittany Bugalski. It was the first of four goals the junior gave up.
The second period resulted in BU taking control of the game. Victoria Bach got the scoring in the period started when she slipped a puck between Bugalski’s legs, giving the Huskies the 2-1 lead. The lead, however, did not last. Just moments later, Shelby Herrington took advantage of a chaotic play when she picked up the puck from in front of the Terriers’ net and fired a shot past O’Neil.
Then, past the three-quarter mark of the period, BU got control of the lead for good.
Kayla Tutino received a feed from Alexis Crossley and fired a knuckler from just in front of the blue line. The shot went through some traffic and it got past Bugalski. The Terriers had the lead, and a hot goaltender to hold it.
“[With O’Neil having a good game], you start to press a little bit,” Flint said. “You grip the stick a little bit tighter when all of a sudden pucks aren’t going in. I don’t know how many crossbars and posts we hit, but it was a lot, and [O’Neil] made some magnificent saves right on the doorstep.”
Crossley added a goal on a short-handed opportunity. On a counterattack, Crossley broke free and beat Bugalski, giving the Terriers an insurance goal, a goal that ultimately came in handy when Herrington picked up her second goal of the game in the waning moments.
With North Dakota losing to Minnesota in the WCHA semifinals, Northeastern clinched an NCAA tournament berth. The Terriers, on the other hand, were able to extend their season and compete for a tournament berth of their own Sunday in the Hockey East championship game. BU has historically seen a lot of success in the title game, going 5-0 in the Hockey East Championship game. Interestingly, the last two of those five wins came against Boston College, who the Terriers will face on Sunday.