Boston, Mass. — The similarities of the two games in the Hockey East Quarterfinal series between Boston University and Northeastern were striking.
For a second consecutive night Saturday, the Terriers fell behind, 2-0, but rallied to tie the score before winning the game on a power play tally. Freshman defenseman Chad Krys scored the pivotal goal with 24.9 seconds to play to clinch the series and move on to next Friday’s semifinals at the TD Garden.
“We just replayed a hockey game that happened last night. It was eerie how the whole thing transpired,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I wish we’d start better. We can’t keep playing like fire the way we have been the last few weeks.”
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson started the comeback for the Terriers with a redirection of a purposeful pass by Clayton Keller upon zone entry on the power play. The score, with 5:22 left in the second, cut the Huskies’ lead in half heading to the final period.
Nick Roberto evened the score 3:01 into the third period on another play in transition. It was a controversial goal as Forsbacka Karlsson was close to being offside on the play before passing the puck to Roberto. What was at debate was whether or not Forsbacka Karlsson had possession of the puck when he crossed the blue line after receiving a pass from Charlie McAvoy.
Freshman Biagio Lerario’s first collegiate goal and Nolan Stevens tip-in just seconds after a power play expired staked the Huskies to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
It marks the end of the season for Jim Madigan’s team, the defending Hockey East Tournament Champion.
“It’s never easy to end somebody’s season. That’s a heck of a hockey team we just played. We may move forward and not see teams as good as them. They have a lot of talent, play hard and make it real difficult on you. That’s why I’m so proud of our team because that’s a very good team we just beat two nights in a row,” Quinn said.
The Terriers will await the result of Sunday’s game three between UMass Lowell and New Hampshire before knowing who they will face next Friday. A River Hawks win will set up yet another Commonwealth Ave. showdown between BU and BC. If the Wildcats win, BU will square off against Dick Umile’s team, the 10th seed.
Special Teams Sway Series
It’s said that special teams can be magnified come playoff time. That couldn’t have been more true in this series. The Terriers killed all seven Northeastern power plays while scoring on four of their own opportunities on the man advantage.
“Our special teams were huge. It was is the difference,” said Quinn.
Despite all its firepower, BU had struggled on the power play for much of the season. However, this weekend the top unit of Forsbacka Karlsson, Keller, Krys, McAvoy and Jordan Greenway really seemed to find a groove.
“Right now our power play looks good and we’re being productive. We wanted to build on what we were doing. The unit that scored the goal, they’ve been coming on,” Quinn explained.
The speed and ability to get Northeastern out of position made a difference. The puck movement on the game-winner left Huskies goaltender Ryan Ruck out of the crease when Krys slammed home the puck.
“We’re quicker. There’s urgency. We’re trying to make a string of simple plays that will create a special play as opposed to a special play. You have to move pucks, one-time pucks, retrieve pucks, and make good crisp stick-to-stick passes,” Quinn elaborated.
Forsbacka Karlsson echoed his coach’s sentiments when it comes to the importance of taking advantage of power plays come March, and possibly April.
“We know we have had a good couple of days for the power play. It’s good for us. It hasn’t been our biggest strength during the year. It’s going to be important now in these games to have a power play that is working and be able to score goals like [the game-winner] and last night.”
More Than Just Points
Forsbacka Karlsson had a goal and two assists on the night. His hockey sense, vision and skating ability make him a threat in the offensive zone. However, his play away from the puck and his ability to match up against the Zach Aston-Reese line was pivotal.
“He was huge. He’s been a little snakebitten in the point department, but when we needed him most, he stood tall. Jakob not only had three points, but he played well all 200 feet.”
The Boston Bruins prospect had been held scoreless in four consecutive games prior to Saturday’s three-point outburst.
“It’s always nice to chip in offensively,” he said.
After scoring a goal in the first period of Friday’s game, Aston-Reese’s line was held scoreless for the final five-plus periods of the series.
“It’s a really good line. It’s one of the better lines in Hockey East. It’s always a challenge going out against them. If you work hard and try to stay on them and minimize their space and time, it’s going to make it harder for them to make offense. That gives us offense instead,” Forsbacka Karlsson explained.
In both games, BU freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger made a crucial, highlight reel save that kept the Huskies from going up 3-0. After making 33 saves on 35 shots Friday, the Lakeville, Minn. native stopped 24 pucks in the series finale.
“Our goalie stood tall when he had to. We have a great goalie. Any team that has success this time of year has a great goalie,” said Quinn.
He also helped BU transition out of the defensive zone three times in just over a minute in the second period by successfully playing the puck and guiding it up to a defenseman for the breakout pass.
Ruck, his oft-maligned counterpart at the other end, made 25 saves on 28 shots. He couldn’t really be faulted on either of the first two goals. He might have over-committed some on the game-winner, but overall he was not the reason Northeastern is going home.