CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Conventional wisdom in college hockey dictates that the team with a 45-15 shot advantage will win most nights. But it's not guaranteed. Friday night, the Boston University Terriers played the role of contrarians, surrendering an overwhelming shot differential but still managing a 5-3 victory over their archrivals Boston College.
"We can't count shots on net," said BC coach Jerry York. "It's like yardage in football. You still need to score touchdowns."
On the heels of Boston University's 5-0 whitewashing of the Eagles (10-5-0; 7-3-0 Hockey East) on Nov. 13, few hockey followers were expecting another blowout, especially on Boston College's home ice. But the Terriers (8-4-1; 6-3-1 HE), taking advantage of Boston College's long-running power outage, managed to find a way to win despite taking more penalties (17) than shots on net (15).
Afterward, BU coach Jack Parker was livid with what he said was BC's propensity for diving, and his own team's glaring lack of discipline in taking bad penalties.
"It was absolutely insane the way we played tonight," said Parker, hardly sounding like a man who just took the season series from his chief adversary. "Whatever happened out there, nothing else compares to how stupid we were."
Parker admitted before the game that he was worried that BC would figure out their scoring issues, especially on the power play, but on Friday the difference was that the Eagles couldn't figure out BU goalie Kieran Millan. The senior goaltender was immense, making 42 saves, including 22 in the second period when his team, clinging to a slim lead, was outshot 23-1.
"I though Kieran Millan was unbelievable," said Parker. "Our team played great killing penalties, and Kieran played great."
In front of a boisterous sell-out crowd of 7,884, the Eagles got out to the faster start, but couldn't convert, and the Terriers jumped in front with two first-period goals. Millan, much like his all-world performance in the first meeting between the clubs, was solid early, stoning quality bids by Tommy Cross and Johnny Gaudreau. BC's Barry Almeida had a glorious bid at 5:38, but sent his shot over Millan and over the crossbar.
At 10:15, with BC's Isaac MacLeod in the sin bin for interference, BU's Max Nicastro made a leaping block at the blueline, keeping the play in the Eagles' zone. The junior then slipped the puck to Matt Nieto, who found Charlie Coyle cruising in the high slot. Coyle undressed BC's Chris Krieder before snapping a shot past Parker Milner's blocker, off the post, and in for a 1-0 BU lead.
Coyle's strike ignited both benches, and only stellar goaltending on both ends of the ice, especially by Millan, kept the score low. After Millan flashed the right pad to top Edwin Shea, Milner flat-out robbed BU's Justin Courtnall, snagging the junior's cross-crease bid with his left toe.
BU went up 2-0 at 17:03, thanks to a great pass from freshman defensemen Alexx Privitera, allowing classmate Yasin Cisse to split the BC backline. Cisee broke in alone on Milner, and roofed a wrister high glove-side.
In the second, BU opened the door for a BC comeback, ringing up consecutive penalties, but Millan slammed it shut. He twice rebuffed Gaudreau, who will probably be seeing the BU netminder in his sleep, first at the doorstep, and then with a nifty glove stop.
In a play that defined BC's recent scoring problems, the Eagles had a clean 3-on-1 break at 8:30, but Patch Alber passed up a wide-open shot to make a pass, and BU snuffed out the opportunity.
When the Eagles did get pucks to the net, Millan continued to thwart them. By the 12-minute mark, BC was running a 16-0 shot advantage for the period, but couldn't dent the BU net. The Terriers, meanwhile, made their only shot of the period count. BU's Garrett Noonan collected a turnover by Eagle Bill Arnold, and flipped a knuckleball from the left point that found its way over Milner's shoulder for a 3-0 bulge at 13:21.
BC finally got on the board at 16:59, on Arnold's power-play strike. After BU's Nieto was called for boarding, BC's Kreider fed Cross at the point. The BC captain fired a shot that Arnold, setting a screen in front, tipped to beat Millan five-hole.
"We tried to give the game away," said Parker. "That's a recurring theme of this team of mine."
An apparent second BC goal 30 seconds later by Gaudreau was waved off when referee Kevin Keenan blew the whistle before the freshman could flick his rebound attempt over Millan. The Eagles posted a 23-1 shot difference in the middle stanza, but still saw themselves down 3-1 on the scoreboard.
"Hey, Millan was outstanding," said York in a tip of the cap to BU's goalie. "You have to give him credit. Tonight might have been his best game against us."
In the third, BU's defense took center stage, blocking a number of Eagles shots. At the 8-minute mark, with BC trying to kill off a five-minute major penalty assessed to Pat Mullane, BU reclaimed its three-goal lead. Terriers defenseman Sean Escobedo, stationed at the left point, fired a shot-pass that freshman Cason Hohmann corralled at the right side of the net and stuffed past Milner for his first collegiate goal.
BC snuck back into contention at 14:34, when Kreider, looping from behind the net, stepped out in front of Millan and redirected Shea's seemingly harmless shot from the right half wall by the BU goaltender.
Determined to give his troops a chance to tie the game, York pulled Milner at 16:30, giving the Eagles an extra attacker. The strategy backfired when BU's Corey Trivino grabbed the puck in his own zone and lofted it three-quarters of the ice into the empty net for a 5-2 Terrier lead at 16:57.
The Eagles cut the margin to two just 19 seconds later, with BU's Nicastro in the box, when an unmarked Almeida rammed home a pass from Arnold. However, the Terriers managed to run out the clock, and run off with the season's series. The Terriers' win marks the first time that BU has won two games at BC in a season since 1993-94.
The two teams meet again Saturday, at BU's Agganis Arena.
"We definitely have to turn things around tomorrow night if we want to win," said BU's Coyle.
York, despite seeing his team lose for the third time in the past four games, wasn't discouraged.
"Last time, I thought they won all facets of the game," he said. "Tonight, I thought we played very well.
"We had plenty of chances. Now, it's about the finishing touches."
In local college hockey action:
Northeastern 9, Notre Dame 2
The Northeastern Huskies (5-7-2; 3-7-2 HE) served notice that they were rounding into form with last week's 4-1 win over No. 19 Michigan. Count the Notre Dame Fighting Irish among the believers after the Huntington Hounds pinned a 9-2 loss on the nation's No. 3 team. The Huskies pounced on the Irish (10-4-3; 7-2-3 CCHA) right from the first drop of the puck in South Bend, ringing up even-strength goals by Branden Pimm (30 seconds), Adam Reid (2:58) and Dan Cornell (4:13) before the game hit the 5-minute mark. And they weren't finished. Cody Ferreiro pushed the lead to 4-0 with 36 ticks left, and Garrett Vermeersch struck just 47 seconds into the middle stanza. Vermeersch's second goal at 10:33 put the game out of reach. Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan gave the Irish a glimmer of hope with a power-play goal with 13 seconds left, but Pimm dimmed any hopes with his second 13 seconds into the third. NU's Justin Daniels and Drew Ellement rounded out the Huskies' score line with third-period strikes.
Providence 2, Merrimack 1 (overtime)
The clock struck midnight on the Merrimack Warriors (9-1-1; 6-1-1 HE) and their undefeated season, as the Providence Friars (7-6-1; 5-3-0 HE) tagged the nation's No. 1 team with its first loss, 2-1 in overtime. After Merrimack's Jesse Todd sent the game into overtime with his fifth goal of the season at 9:01 of the third, the Friars' Ross Mauermann lit the lamp at 1:54 of the extra session to seal the two league points for the home squad. PC's Alex Beaudry stopped 26 Warriors shots for the win, while Merrimack goaltender Joe Cannata recorded 34 saves in absorbing his first loss of the season.
Massachusetts 4, Harvard 4 (overtime)
In interleague action, the Harvard Crimson (3-3-3; 2-3-2 ECAC), got a late goal from Tommy O'Regan at the 12:04 mark of the third period to help the Crimson garner a point in a seesaw battle against the UMass Minutemen (4-7-4; 2-6-3 HE), 4-4, in Amherst. UMass' Conor Sheary gave the Minutemen the early lead with his fifth of the season at 1:39 of the first, and then the teams traded goals the rest of the way. Neither team, however, was able to get a puck past the two freshmen netminders, Harvard's Steve Michalek (31 saves) and Minuteman Kevin Boyle (40 saves), in the extra session.
UMass Lowell 3, New Hampshire 2
The New Hampshire Wildcats (6-7-2; 4-5-1 HE), sitting in fourth place in the Hockey East before Friday, saw the UMass Lowell River Hawks (8-4-0; 5-3-0 HE) jump past them after taking the first game of a home-and-home set, 3-2, before 6,826 at Lowell's Tsongas Center. After taking a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, Lowell's Dave Vallorani gave the River Hawks a commanding 3-1 lead with his third at 14:50 of the second. UNH's Mike Borisenok gave the Wildcats a lifeline with his even-strength strike at 11:08 of the third, but Lowell's Doug Carr (33 saves) didn't let another puck past him. UNH's Matt DiGirolamo finished with 31 saves. The loss dropped the Wildcats to seventh place in the league standings. The two teams square off again Saturday, this time at UNH's Whittemore Center.
Maine 6, Vermont 4
The Maine Black Bears (4-6-2; 3-5-1 HE) kept the Vermont Catamounts (3-8-1; 1-6-1 HE) buried in the league basement, bouncing back from a 3-2 second-period deficit to score three unanswered goals in the final period and cruise to a 6-4 win. Maine's Spencer Abbott led the Black Bears' resurgence with a four-point night on three goals and an assist. The two teams meet again Saturday night at UVM's Gutterson Fieldhouse.