MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Down a goal more than halfway through the game? That's right where Boston University wanted to be in Friday's NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal.
Junior Danny O'Regan scored his 22nd goal of the season 7:27 into overtime to lift the Terriers to their 12th-ever regional final with a 3-2 win over Yale at Verizon Wireless Arena.
The reigning Hockey East champions improved to 26-7-5 with its sixth consecutive win and its third in as many NCAA Tournament games in Manchester. BU advanced out of Manchester and onto a national championship in 2009.
"We knew it would probably come down to a one-goal game, possibly overtime," BU head coach David Quinn said. "I think this game, in a lot of ways, is a microcosm of our season. I thought we looked a little nervous early, but give Yale credit for the way they played."
The Bulldogs did all they needed to do in a scoreless first period by holding BU in check, despite an 11-6 shots on goal disadvantage.
Just before the halfway point, Yale had likely the best chance of the frame as sophomore Frankie DiChiara came ahead of the Terrier defense during 4-on-4 play and placed a backhand shot square off the crossbar behind goaltender Matt O'Connor.
"That's not exactly where I wanted to be. I would have liked to be up 4-0," Yale head coach Keith Allain said jokingly. "It was the kind of game we thought it would be. We felt it would be to our advantage if they were chasing us rather than us chasing them."
It was much more of the same in the second, despite Yale finishing with a 13-11 shots edge and taking a 1-0 lead to the intermission. BU was called for each of the first two penalties in the middle frame and it proved to come back to bite them as freshman defenseman Nate Repensky broke the ice for the Bulldogs at 13:19.
Just 18 seconds into an elbowing call on BU junior Ahti Oksanen, Repensky took a wrister from the center point that eluded traffic at the net mouth and beat O'Connor through a nice screen provided by sophomore Mike Doherty.
"Our goal was to get the first goal of the game," Yale senior Trent Ruffolo said. "That was definitely our mission. I don't think anything changed on our end. I think they may have picked up the tempo a little bit, but I thought it was a pretty evenly matched game, especially towards the end there."
As has been the case for the entire season, the Terriers turned up the offense in the third period and took a 2-1 lead on a pair of goals in just under a three-minute span in the middle stages.
Junior Ahti Oksanen was the first BU player to crack the board, grabbing hold of a loose puck between the circles for a high wrister on Yale sophomore Alex Lyon at 8:21.
"It was funny. Once they were up 1-0, I thought we just started playing better," Quinn said. "It was almost like the pressure was off. We're a lot more comfortable being down than ahead for some strange reason."
Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues made it a 2-1 game at 11:20 with his 19th goal of the season, firing an off-angle shot through from the left side after O'Regan entered into the offensive zone.
The Bulldogs showed great resilience less than two minutes later as junior Cody Learned fed DiChiara for his ninth goal of the season after a failed BU clear attempt at 13:12.
Yale had to kill off two penalties called in the final three minutes of regulation, including a hooking call on junior defenseman and Bruins prospect Rob O'Gara that carried into overtime. "We looked to gain momentum off that kill," Ruffolo said. "Our goal going into overtime was to take care of that kill first and then we'll get back to our game."
On the winning goal, freshman Jack Eichel's shot was blocked, but O'Regan was quick to pounce on top of the loose puck in the right circle for his fourth game-winning goal of the season.
"The way the game was going, I thought I could have put it over the net," O'Regan said. "I had a bunch of chances early and the goalie kind of had my number. ... That net was just pretty gaping and got a lucky bounce for once."
As expected, it wasn't easy but the Terriers live to fight another day as the win was BU's third in as many games decided in 20-minute overtime periods this season.
"At this time of year, you're not going to spend 60 minutes in their offensive zone," Quinn said. "You're playing good hockey teams and you're going to have to weather a storm, fight through a difficult shift. I thought we did a good job of that."
With one more, they'll be back in Boston.