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It was, in the words of Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again.
One night earlier, Boston University fell behind Northeastern 2-0 in the first period, but got to within one in the second period, then tied it, 2-2, in the third. In overtime, a power-play goal secured the win.
On this night, the only difference was that the power-play game-winner to give the Terriers the 3-2 win came slightly before the end of regulation, 24.9 seconds to be exact, instead of a wee bit after, in overtime.
“Should we just replay last night’s press conference?” BU coach David Quinn quipped after the game. “We just replayed the hockey game. Really, it was eerie.”
Although the Terriers performed better in the first period than the night before, the result was the same 2-0 deficit. It was a hole they were once again able to crawl out of, but certainly the most dangerous of habits.
“We can’t keep playing with fire the way we have the last few weeks,” Quinn said. “But I certainly like some of the characteristics we’ve shown, being mentally tough and playing well in crucial, critical times, which is something you absolutely have to do this time of year.
“I wish we’d start better, [but] it’s never easy to end somebody’s season. That’s a heckuva hockey team we just played.”
As for his young team’s never-say-die attitude, Quinn had a quip for that, too.
“We may be so immature, we’re stupid,” he said.
Nonetheless, it’s a sign of how talented the Terriers are, and how dangerous they’re likely to be in the Hockey East championships next weekend and NCAA tournament beyond, that they can keep crawling out of the holes they dig for themselves.
“There isn’t any doubt,” Quinn said. “You’re going to need mental toughness, you’re going to need to be resilient this time of year, and you can’t let situations put you down. You need to keep moving forward, and that’s what we did. We didn’t let the 2-0 deficit get us down. It didn’t get in the way of our performance.”
Additionally promising was how the special teams performed in the series. BU’s penalty killers, along with exceptional goaltender Jake Oettinger, shut out a vaunted Northeastern power play that had come into the series converting at a blistering 28.9 percent clip.
On the flip side, the Terriers power play had ground to a halt heading into the series, failing to convert 33 of its final 38 chances. In both games, however, the unit scored twice, including the decisive game-winner.
“This time of year, your year-long stats don’t matter,” Quinn said. “It’s what are you doing right now? How good is your power play right now? We may be 23rd in the country, but I couldn’t care [less]. I just care about how we look right now, and right now, our power play looks good and we’re being productive.”
Where a few weeks ago, BU’s man-advantage unit, according to Quinn, often got “too cute,” it now is performing like the proverbial Swiss watch.
“We’re quicker, there’s urgency,” he said. “We’re trying to make a string of simple plays, which will create a special play, as opposed to, ‘Let’s make a special play.’ If you put together four simple plays, all of a sudden, there’s going to be a great chance, as opposed to, ‘I’ve got it, I’ve got to make a heroic play.'”
BU advances to the Boston Garden, where it will face Boston College if Massachusetts Lowell defeats New Hampshire in the rubber game of its series on Sunday. Otherwise, as the top remaining seed, the Terriers will take on the 10th-seeded, upstart New Hampshire Wildcats.
Either way, Northeastern’s season is over. And Huskies coach Jim Madigan was none too happy about a certain déjà vu> aspect of the series.
“I really can’t talk much more about the game,” he said in a terse press conference that lasted under a minute. “My Mom told me if you can’t say anything nice about people, don’t say anything at all.
“I can’t talk about this series without [talking about] two calls that didn’t go our way. For me, that was the difference in the game and in the series. I don’t want to go there and risk a future suspension.”
Hockey East roundup
No. 4 UMass Lowell 3, New Hampshire 1
Lowell rebounded from a stunning opening-game loss to win, 3-1, and force game three on Sunday afternoon. The River Hawks weathered a first-period major penalty during which UNH took a 1-0 lead on its only shot of the period, then tied it before the end of the period, and took a lead they would never surrender with two second-period goals.
No. 12 Notre Dame 5 No. 10 Providence 3
Jordan Gross scored 21 seconds into the third period to give Notre Dame a 2-1 lead, and Bobby Nardella got the eventual game-winner seven minutes later. Brian Pinho scored his second of the game to narrow the margin to a single goal, 3-2, until two empty netters by Dylan Malmquist secured for the Irish a trip to the Boston Garden for the Hockey East semifinals. The loss puts Providence in a tie for 12th in the PairWise, leaving the Friars precariously on the NCAA tournament bubble.
No. 17 Boston College 7, No. 13 Vermont 4
For the second straight night, Boston College took an early first-period 3-0 lead. Unlike the night before when the Eagles rode that early dominance to a 7-0 win, however, this time Vermont charged back. The Catamounts made it 3-2 before the end of the period, and when BC scored twice in the second, they responded to get back in striking distance at 5-3 until two more Eagles’ goals in the third sealed the win. Five of the first seven goals scored by the two teams came on power plays. The loss drops Vermont to 18th in the PairWise as of this writing, an almost certain indication that the Catamounts’ season is over.