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NCAA Hockey: BU, Union fit to be tied

In the first-ever meeting between the two programs, Boston University and Union traded a pair of third-period goals en route to a 3-3 tie on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.

Former ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey Mike Vecchione had a goal and an assist in his return to Beantown.
Former ESPN Boston Mr. Hockey Mike Vecchione had a goal and an assist in his return to Beantown.
Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- Some ties feel good, some feel bad and sometimes both sides agree they were more than appropriate.

The latter was the case on Saturday night as Union and top-ranked Boston University went forward and back at Agganis Arena before settling for a 3-3 overtime draw before 5,286 fans.

Following a scoreless second period, the teams traded power-play goals to equal the final score. Sophomore assistant captain Mike Vecchione gave the Dutchmen a 3-2 lead at 14:24 before BU senior Evan Rodrigues knotted the score once again 80 seconds later.

"I thought it was a great college hockey game, up-and-down with chances for both teams," BU head coach David Quinn said. "I thought we got better as the game went on. I thought our third period was our best period we had, we did a better job supporting the puck and moving the puck."

"Overall, you'd like to win ... but it's probably fitting it was a tie."

It was a high flying start for both teams as well in the first period of their inaugural head-to-head meeting as they combined for four goals, two on each side, in the early to middle stages.

At 5:47, freshman A.J. Greer was on the spot for his second goal of the season in front of Union sophomore Alex Sakellaropoulos who was unable to handle a point shot off the stick of BU captain Matt Grzelcyk.

Greer, who had not scored since BU's opening game Oct. 10 at UMass, came through the slot and tapped the loose puck into an open net to put BU up 1-0.

Union knotted the score less than a minute later as junior Matt Wilkins fed freshman Spencer Foo alone on the doorstep at 6:25 before senior Daniel Ciampini broke free of BU freshman defenseman Brandon Fortunato and slid a shorthanded breakaway goal between the wickets of Matt O'Connor.

It was a solid game on both sides with exciting action at both ends and a strong physical presence. "For us, it's typical in ECAC. It's a pretty physical league," Union assistant Jason Tapp, a former goaltender at BU, said on behalf of head coach Rick Bennett. "It's a little different than Hockey East where there's a little more flow and run-and-gun. Both teams were competing hard."

Someone who showed himself well physically and on the scoresheet was freshman Nikolas Olsson.

The freshman from Escondido, Calif. missed the previous eight games with an upper-body injury but seemed to assert himself well early. He joined the second line with sophomore Robbie Baillargeon (who was also returning after an eight-game absence due to mono) and Hohmann.

"He gives us a swagger. He's got a physical presence out there," Quinn said. "Once he gets out there, he makes a big hit in his first shift and everyone kind of followed his cue."

The Terriers went to the first intermission in a 2-2 stalemate as his point shot found the back of the net through traffic in front at 13:42. The goal was originally credited to senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann on a tip in front while being marked by a defender, but video replay indicated the defensive stick redirected the puck past Sakellaropoulos.

"It felt great (to be back)," Olsson said. "I definitely did not think I had the goal initially because I saw the high shot, I saw the goalie stand up and I saw it in the net. ... I'd been skating for a while even though it was no contact, so I tried to keep up to speed, make contributions once I got out and luckily I did."

Union was called for three penalties to BU's two in each of the first two periods, but the score remained square at two a side after the second.

The frame was very even as each side took 16 total shots. Sakellaropoulos got some help from his left post with just over 20 seconds left in the period as junior Danny O'Regan's shot from the wing clanked iron. He also stopped Hohmann on a 2-on-1 rush earlier.

Vecchione put the Dutchmen ahead in the final frame, taking advantage of some pretty tic-tac-toe passing. The Saugus, Mass. native and Malden Catholic product was alone on O'Connor's left side and received a beautiful cross-ice pass from Ciampini for his third goal in five games and ninth of the year into a yawning cage.

Rodrigues' strike came at 15:44 off a similar man-up play. Junior captain and Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk started the play at the point, feeding a streaking O'Regan along the sideboards. O'Regan stopped and cut the puck across the ice for Rodrigues to wrist in his sixth of the season from the right circle.

BU allowed Union some offensive zone time in the extra session but O'Connor stopped all three shots he saw to preserve the deadlock.

The Terriers sit at 11-3-3 on the year entering a two-game series next weekend at Wisconsin, while Union (10-7-2) visits Princeton on Friday.