FARGO-At the very least, you could say the opening game of the NCAA Tournament was a game and a half.
But despite falling behind early yet again, the Terriers are one win away from returning to the Frozen Four.
Charlie McAvoy deposited a beautiful pass from Clayton Keller 11:48 into the second overtime to give No. 2 seed Boston University a 4-3 victory over No. 3 seed North Dakota on Friday night at Scheels Arena.
“Incredible game-the ebbs and flows of it,” said Terriers head coach David Quinn.
Jake Oettinger made 56 saves for BU, which also blocked 51 shots-17 of them by defenseman Brandon Hickey.
“I thought we defended well. We did a good job staying on the D side of people,” Quinn said.
Rhett Gardner, Ludvig Hoff and Christian Wolanin lit the lamp for UND and Trevor Olson added two assists, but it wasn’t enough to help the Hawks avoid losing in the first round of the NCAA’s for the first time since the 2010 tournament.
“Disappointing outcome, but I thought our guys battled extremely hard,” said North Dakota head coach Brad Berry. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The game started as a physical, back-and-forth affair with BU outchancing UND. But goaltender Cam Johnson stood strong, including stopping Kieffer Bellows coming in all alone on a breakaway near the end of the first period.
The Fighting Hawks finally took over momentum by scoring first. UND’s Brock Boeser won a board battle and slid the puck along the wall to Joel Janatuinen, who found Rhett Gardner streaking toward the net and he deked Terrier goaltender Jake Oettinger to deposit it into an open net.
It was the tenth time in a row they surrendered the first goal of a game, but Boston University refused to let the green-clad crowd intimidate them, tying the game early in the second period on Doyle Somerby’s first goal of the season. McAvoy picked up a loose puck in the right circle and found Somerby in the left circle, who beat Johnson under his right arm.
UND started playing more physical from there, limiting the Terriers’ scoring chances and drawing a pair of offensive-zone penalties to keep a talented BU team in check.
The perfect word to describe the third period? Crazy. Boston University came out quick, taking a 3-1 lead on goals by Bobo Carpenter and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
Then things really got crazy.
It seemed nothing could slow down BU but a pane of broken glass. Which is precisely what happened with just over ten minutes left in regulation when North Dakota forward Mike Gornall threw a huge hit on Bellows, shattering the glass into pieces.
After a 14-minute delay, it was all UND as they forechecked relentlessly and kept pounding Oettinger with shots. Hoff finally pulled the Fighting Hawks within a goal on a blast from the left circle, and Wolanin tied it three minutes later with a backhander right through the five-hole of Oettinger.
“Coach told us it was gonna be one of the best comebacks in college hockey history,” Wolanin said.
North Dakota outshot Boston University 37-14 over the final two periods of regulation and 48-23 through regulation overall.
UND had a chance to win in the first OT, but a game-winning goal by Dixon Bowen was waved off due to offsides after a lengthy review. But despite the letdown, Gardner insisted that his team kept the foot on the gas.
“I thought we settled down, played a good game after that,” Gardner said.
As for Quinn and Boston University, they figured it would be overturned.
“Seemed like the longer it took, the better chance that we were gonna have another chance to live another day,” Quinn said. “When the linesman buckled his helmet coming out of the box, we knew we were gonna get another chance.”
UND had the better chances up until about the halfway point of overtime before BU got a good forecheck to set up McAvoy’s winner.
“I saw a lane going to the net and I figured [Keller] would find me,” McAvoy said. “That’s exactly what he did. I had a great rip and it went in.”
When asked if he was worried about fatigue playing a factor in the regional championship Saturday night, Quinn simply replied, “Yes.”
UND goal at 17:04: Gardner 8. Assists: Janatuinen 11 and Boeser 18.
BU goal at 2:05: Somerby 1. Assists: McAvoy 21 and Patrick Curry 8.
BU goal at :28: Carpenter 14. Assists: Clayton Keller 23 and Jordan Greenway 21.
BU goal at 4:24: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson 14. Assist: Patrick Harper 23.
UND goal at 12:14: Hoff 4. Assists: Olson 9 and Dixie Bowen 4.
UND goal at 15:34: Wolanin 6. Assists: Olson 10 and Hoff 12.
First overtime: No scoring.
BU goal at 11:48: McAvoy 5. Assists: Keller 24 and Harper 24.
Shots on goal: UND 59, BU 29
Power plays: UND 0-6, BU 0-2