March 23, 2013

Terriers sparkle in semifinal's second half

By Andy Merritt

Boston University coach Jack Parker rallies his troops during Friday night's Hockey East semifinal at TD Garden. (Dave Arnold Photography)

BOSTON – The last time Boston University was on the ice at TD Garden was one of the low points of its season, a loss to Harvard that marked one of the program’s worst Beanpot performances in recent memory.

For about 25 minutes Friday night, it looked like the Terriers were headed for a repeat performance in the Hockey East semifinals against Boston College – one that would end their legendary coach’s career on a decidedly anticlimactic note.

But then, as Jack Parker said, “we came back from the dead.”

It started with a pair of goals separated by just 2:04 in the second period. Until Evan Rodrigues and Matt Lane scored those goals, the Terriers were quite simply adrift. Through 31 minutes of play, they’d taken just 10 shots to BC’s 24.

“I thought my guys were uptight, they were struggling to move the puck, and they were not skating,” Parker said of the first half of the game. “But I’m so pleased with how hard we competed, even when we were down 2-0.”

Rodrigues and Lane, taking BU’s 11th and 13th shots of the night, made it 2-2, and the Terriers never looked back en route to their 6-3 win, which put them in Saturday night’s final against UMass-Lowell. With their chances of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament shot, the only way for the Terriers to keep their season alive is to keep winning.

It just took a little while for them to get that message.

“We weren’t gonna let [Parker] lose to BC at the Garden in his last game, so we did whatever we could do,” said freshman Danny O’Regan (Needham, Mass.), who scored two goals, including the game-winner.

“Much appreciated, Danny,” Parker deadpanned, sitting next to the rookie on the postgame dais.

Just like a basketball team facing oblivion in the NCAA tournament, the Terriers turned their entire game around in the second half. They took 16 shots over the final 29 minutes, including six on the power play in the third period, when they scored twice with the man advantage; BU was 3-for-6 overall on the power play, while BC’s potent man-advantage units were held to just one goal in seven tries.

The Eagles, who now await word on Sunday as to where they’ll end up starting the NCAA tournament, didn’t have a lot of answers for what went wrong after they took a two-goal lead on goals from Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.) and Quinn Smith.

“I didn’t see a huge change in our team. I thought in the first 35 minutes we played great hockey,” said BC captain Pat Mullane (Wallingford, Conn.). “We were up-tempo, we forechecked well, we made smart plays and limited turnovers. I don’t know if we got complacent, but they got a few lucky breaks, we didn’t catch those breaks, and I think we kind of got away from what made us successful in the first 35 minutes.”

Rodrigues’ goal put the Terriers on the board after 30 minutes of futility, coming at the end of a nifty series of moves by the sophomore, who has 11 points (five goals) in his last nine games. But it was Lane’s game-tying strike that really turned the tide.

With 5:46 to go in the second, BC’s Michael Sit took an offensive zone faceoff won by Patrick Brown and fed it back to Danny Linell at the point, but the puck skipped over Linell’s stick. Lane adroitly jumped past Linell and took off up the left wing, cutting in and pocketing a backhand between BC goaltender Parker Milner’s legs.

Lane, and the Terriers, were off to the races. Garrett Noonan, playing in his first game since separating his shoulder and missing the last three contests, scored on the power play with 2:01 to go in the second, giving the Terriers a one-goal lead. Then O’Regan scored the first of his pair, on the power play, 1:42 into the third. That ended up the game-winner after BC’s Steven Whitney scored later in the third, but O’Regan and the Terriers weren’t done yet. The freshman added his second goal of the night, and his 16th of the season, again on the power play with 12:03 to go. Rodrigues sealed it with an empty-netter, his second goal of the night.

The Terriers also got a stellar effort from freshman goaltender Sean Maguire, who made 44 saves and held down the fort until they got themselves straightened out.

Until Whitney slowed the bleeding with 6:17 remaining, the game had been all BU for more than 20 minutes.

“I thought for the first 30, 35 minutes we played as well as we have all year long,” said BC assistant Mike Cavanaugh, who with Greg Brown oversaw the Eagles in the absence of Jerry York (Watertown, Mass.), who’s recovering from eye surgery. “And then Rodrigues got a goal, and that got them energized a little bit. An unfortunate bounce, Danny Linell had a puck bounce over his stick, Lane capitalized and they got some energy.”

Back in February, the Terriers were embarrassed over two Monday nights at TD Garden.

“After the way we played at the Garden a month ago,” Parker said, “I didn’t think we’d be back here.”

But they are back, and Saturday night they have a chance to win Parker’s eighth league title, as well as extend the legend’s tenure for at least one more game.

Andy Merritt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @a_merritt.