Dogged Terriers top Northeastern
Deciding game set for tomorrow
The rest of their classmates already had fled the raw damp of Commonwealth Avenue for Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Panama City, and Phuket, and Boston University’s hockey team had no desire to join them. Spring break for the Terriers traditionally means a trip to Causeway Street and a loss last night would have sent them to a place where the only ice is found in a mojito.
So BU made sure it’ll play at least one more game this season, whacking Northeastern, 5-2, before 3,676 at Agganis Arena to even their Hockey East quarterfinal series at a game apiece.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was thinking about it all night last night and this morning,’’ said BU cocaptain Joe Pereira, who scored the final two goals as his teammates forced a third game tomorrow night with a trip to the Garden on the line. “But our guys told me not to worry about it. Our family wasn’t ready to separate yet.’’
After dropping Thursday’s opener, 4-2, BU needed to come out last night at full throttle. Instead, the Terriers (19-11-8) quickly put themselves in the doghouse as Pereira and Sean Escobedo were whistled off, giving the Huskies a 5-on-3 advantage for a minute and 18 seconds. Brodie Reid, Northeastern’s freshman fusilier, fired a rocket past goalie Kieran Millan and the visitors were up, 1-0, after 3:25.
The possibility of early expulsion soon registered with the Terriers, who responded with their first three-goal first period of the season. The first came at 6:20 from defenseman Ryan Ruikka, who wristed one past goalie Chris Rawlings from the top of the right circle for his second tally in two nights, after managing only one during the regular season.
Then, after Matt Nieto scored on the power play at 9:19, fourth-liner Kevin Gilroy came up with only his sixth goal in three seasons at 13:01 to make it 3-1. Three goals on six shots was enough for NU coach Greg Cronin, who replaced Rawlings with freshman Clay Witt, who’d beaten BU at Agganis in the regular-season finale.
By then the Huskies (13-15-8) were in disarray, and when Randy Guzior and Rob Dongara went to the box simultaneously at 15:43, the hosts had a golden opportunity to end the evening before the first intermission.
The Huskies found a way to kill off the 5-on-3, survived four penalties within 11 minutes in the second period, and then drew to within a goal on defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s unassisted floater from the right point that surprised Millan just 26 seconds before the second intermission.
“That was a real positive way to end the period,’’ said Cronin. “To get that goal, it energized our bench.’’
That was a little too close for comfort for the Terriers, who’d become accustomed to one-goal grinders with NU. So Pereira restored the cushion with 8:23 to play, poking at the puck through a scrum until it slid past Witt (“His goal was huge,’’ declared coach Jack Parker), then added an empty-netter at 19:25 that made sure that his mates would have a chance to lace up again.
“Frankly, I’m very, very happy we get the day off to grab our breath,’’ said Parker, who celebrated his 66th birthday yesterday and needed a bit of wind to blow out his candles.
His Terriers have made a habit of taking these playoff series to the limit, but they’ve won four finales in four years, all at home. If they finish things tomorrow, they’ll get to the Garden for a record 10th straight time, but they know these Huntington Hounds won’t roll over.
“Our guys are unflappable,’’ said Cronin. “I think they’re resilient. We’ll show up and play.’’
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.