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Notre Dame's late goal halts BU celebration

Boston University junior Matt Lane
Boston University junior Matt Lane
Matt Dewkett

BOSTON -- On a night that the school honored its 1995 NCAA Championship team, the current version of the Boston University Terriers lost a third period lead and will have to wait at least another night to lay claim to the Hockey East Regular Season Championship.

Notre Dame freshman Anders Bjork scored with 3:43 to play in regulation to even the score, 2-2, and force overtime where the game would eventually end in a draw.

Irish defenseman Andy Ryan picked off an errant BU pass in the neutral zone before pushing the puck up to Bjork, a fifth round selection of the Boston Bruins in the 2014 NHL Draft. With the help of a Mario Lucia screen, Bjork skated in and fired a wrist shot that beat BU goaltender Matt O'Connor.

The goal helped the Irish salvage a key point on the road in the Hockey East leader's building. Notre Dame (13-15-5, 8-6-5 HE) finished the night in a tie for sixth place with Vermont.

"Getting points at this point is the only thing that matters. We want to try to finish as high as we can. Coming into the number one team's venue and getting a tie, we've grown up a lot. That's just confidence," said Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson.

The lost point prevented BU (19-5-5, 13-3-3 HE) from celebrating the regular season championship on its home ice after the game. A win or tie on Saturday will give David Quinn the title in just his second year behind the bench as head coach at his alma mater.

"It was tough that we tied. We really wanted to get the win and get it over with," said sophomore Nick Roberto, whose second period goal was his first since Dec. 13 at RPI.

The third period started off with a bang for the Terriers, who scored just 31 seconds after the second intermission. Evan Rodrigues carried the puck into the zone after receiving a lead pass from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. Rodrigues sent a pass over to Danny O'Regan, but it didn't connect and the puck ended right back in his wheel house for an easy finish.

After a scoreless first period the Irish drew first blood 4:41 into the middle frame. In transition Montreal Canadiens prospect Jake Evans waited for his linemates to join him at the blue line before skating into the zone. He looked off the open trailer before snapping a quick shot short side above the glove of BU goaltender Matt O'Connor.

The Terriers evened the score immediately after successfully killing an Irish power play. Jack Eichel streaked into the zone before making a nice move to evade an Irish defender and get the puck on net. After one unsuccessful attempt to swat the loose puck home, Roberto chipped it past Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen at the 9:46 mark.

"It was a great feeling, especially at home to get the crowd into it. I got to give credit to Jack, bringing the puck hard to the net. The puck just squirted out and I was able to get it over the goalie's glove," explained Roberto.

It was an ominous start for Notre Dame as it surrendered 14 first period shots to the Terriers. A big reason the game was scoreless after 20 minutes was the play of Notre Dame freshman goaltender Cal Petersen, who finished the night with 34 saves.

"He made the saves he needed to make and then he made some that were crucial to us getting a point out of the game," said Jackson.

Boston University did a great job all night keeping the puck away from Notre Dame, but when the Irish did maintain the puck, the Terrier defense did a good job keeping them to the perimeter.

There was some thought coming into the weekend that BU might be looking ahead to Monday's Beanpot final and neglect to give full attention to the Irish, but it was evident from the opening face-off that wasn't the case.

"Notre Dame is a good team. You can't take them easy. We want to win the Hockey East Regular Season Championship and then focus on Monday," added Roberto, referring to the delayed Beanpot final that will be played Monday against Northeastern.

The Terriers limited Notre Dame to just 19 total shots on goal for the entire game, including just five each in the first and third periods.

"I was really proud of the way we played. From a defensive standpoint that was as good as we've played in a while," said Quinn.

"We did a really good job defending. We did a nice job keeping them on the perimeter. We stayed on the [defensive] side of people. There was good communication. We had pretty good support at the net front. If we can defend like that, we're going to have a chance," added Quinn, known for his defensive expertise.

Perhaps no player in scarlet and white was as impactful in the defensive zone as was freshman Brandon Hickey, a Calgary Flames prospect, who was very solid in one-on-one battles Friday night.

"He can really close on people. He's got a great stick and he's strong. He plays through people, not to people, which is important at this level. For a kid who's 18 years old, he has a great grasp of that," explained Quinn.

All four goals came in transition so it wasn't like either team was that effective moving the puck in the offensive zone for any length of time, even though BU definitely had the upper hand in that category.

"Space was hard to come by. Both teams played well defensively," said Quinn. "They made life difficult for us as Jeff's teams usually do."

Jackson thought his team could have been better penetrating the BU defense and moving the puck around with more cohesiveness.

"I thought we could have done a better job with the puck all night. We had some chances that we couldn't make a play on. We put some passes in skates. We could have been a little more poised at times with the puck," explained Jackson.

BU and Notre Dame conclude their weekend series on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.