By: Max Wolpoff
BOSTON — Senior co-captain Natalie Flynn last scored a goal in the Hockey East semifinals against Northeastern. As a sophomore. Today, her two goals, including the overtime winner, helped give Boston University an upset win over #2 Minnesota, 6-5.
“I don’t score too often, but I try to do a few other things out there that don’t always go up on the scoreboard,” Flynn said. “I try to work hard and push my team, so that’s all I can ask.”
BU followed up a disappointing effort last night with an impact performance from throughout the lineup. In the course of play, the Terriers did not trail the Golden Gophers at any point.
“It was a lot of charged up emotion, I think a little bit more on our side,” BU head coach Brian Durocher said. “The kids were frustrated that the beginning of the game got away yesterday.”
The scoring started with Victoria Bach and Abby Cook in the first period. Bach’s goal came off a turnover deep in Minnesota’s zone while Cook’s blast found its way through the pads of Sidney Peters.
Minnesota clawed back, with two goals coming on power plays later in the first. Sarah Potomak on the five-on-three and Kate Schipper on the ensuing five-on-four scored, both assisted by Kelly Pannek.
“A team like this could go out and beat you by two or three goals, but the kids came back and they answered again,” Durocher said.
Nina Rodgers made her old team pay for passing it to her in the offensive zone. The junior buried her fifth of the year, tying her best total from Minnesota.
“It was a neat shot and that’s what I liked about it,” Durocher said. “She stole it, took a good stride, took a look, and really made a beautiful shot.”
Flynn took a puck off a Deziray De Sousa shot block, skated through the defense, and scored her first goal in 58 games to give BU a 4-2 lead. Flynn centered a new-look third line with freshmen De Sousa and Natsza Tarnowski. Each player got points in today’s game.
“We were rolling three lines, and I think that no matter who we’re playing with, as long as that happens, good things can come,” Flynn said.
Lindsay Agnew jammed away at a loose puck to bring Minnesota back within one. Defenseman Sydney Baldwin had her initial shot saved by Erin O’Neil, but the rebound careened to Agnew for her third of the year.
On a five-on-three of their own, Samantha Sutherland pulled BU ahead by two once more. Alexis Crossley faked a slapshot, and made it a slap pass for Maddie Elia. Elia fed Sutherland at the top of the crease to beat an over-committed Peters.
“This game was our best game that we played all season,” Sutherland said. About her goal, she said “everyone was kind of panicking a bit, so I did my best to stay in my place and stay where I should be and it worked out well.”
Late in the third, Pannek set in the panic for the home crowd with a goal to make it 5-4. With Peters coming to bench for the extra skater, team captain Lee Stecklein banked a shot off O’Neil from near the goal line to bring the score level. The Gopher bench erupted in joy, while the Terriers hung their heads.
Between the third period and overtime, “I told them, ‘we have to get back to square one,’ which is just ‘you go first and defend and somebody will back you up,'” Durocher said.
Three of Minnesota’s five goals came with the woman-advantage. They went three-for-four on the power play all night and four-for-eight in the series.
Durocher said limiting the penalties going forward is “just up to the kids themselves.” “Our job is to be a little bit better with our sticks, be a little bit better on the defensive side so you’re not forced to hook or slash or hold.”
On her first shift of the extra frame, Flynn won a face-off in the offensive zone. Minnesota fought for control, but Tarnowski wrestled it away below the goal line. Tarnowski’s pass passed De Sousa to get to Flynn. With three Gophers around her, Flynn fired a quick wrister.
Upon hitting twine, the Terriers emptied their bench to hound their senior captain. In her 133 game career, Flynn has not scored more than two points in a game until tonight.
“The fact that I even am here is great, but to be captain my senior year, it’s just unbelievable,” Flynn said. “I have a great group of girls behind me, so it’s not too difficult of a task.”
Junior and Minnetonka, Minnesota native Erin O’Neil stopped 44 of 49 shots in her first start since a 4-1 loss to Maine on Novemeber 12. The win is the 30th of her collegiate career.
“I don’t know if there’s one in there that she could get,” Durocher said. “[Minnesota is] getting back-door goals where we made some clearly fixable mistakes.”
BU scored six times on 22 shots. Minnesota out-attempted BU 89-42 in the game. Terrier defenders blocked 25 shots in the game.
“We have to add to the team defense,” Durocher said. “Whether you’re a forward blocking shots, or a defender picking up sticks and blocking shots, but today it was there in spades.”
The Terriers were without Rebecca Leslie for the game. Durocher said she was held out for precautionary reasons.
“She took a hit, it seemed nonchalant in the game [on Friday], but Minnesota kid spun and threw a pass up and she was coming behind the kid and ran into her back,” Durocher said. “There’s too much we know about medicine and health. We want that kid healthy for the last 20 games.”
Minnesota is the highest ranked team BU’s beaten since downing #1 Boston College in the 2015 Hockey East Finals.