By: Jarett Leonard
BOSTON – Logan Cockerill entered the Hockey East quarterfinals riding an eight-game point streak for No. 20 Boston University, and a night after extending that to nine games with a helper in overtime, the freshman forward secured a game-winner of his own as the Terriers completed a two-game sweep over Connecticut.
With the game knotted at one late in the second period, fellow freshman Shane Bowers stepped up at the blue line and found Cockerill in the right circle, as he paused before elevating a shot to the back of the net. The Terriers (19-13-4) held on from there as the 2-1 victory secured BU a spot in the Hockey East semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Though it appeared that he purposefully waited out UConn (15-19-2) goaltender Adam Huska to open up the net, Cockerill admitted that wasn’t his intention.
“[Bowers] slid it over to me and I couldn’t get a one-timer off like I wanted to right off the bat,” Cockerill said. “I kind of stuttered and then I was able to put it up top.”
Still, the tally extended Cockerill’s point streak to 10 games (4 goals, 7 assists) and set up a date with Boston College on Friday in the semifinal round at 5 p.m. at TD Garden.
“To me we showed a lot of characteristics that we’re going to need moving forward,” BU Head Coach David Quinn said. “Obviously, there are some things that we’re going to need to clean up and we have to be better in certain areas but I think any team can say that when you’re dealing with 18- to 23-year-olds.”
For UConn Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh, though, the loss was a heartbreaking way to end a stellar second half of the season, which included a seven-game winning streak and the program’s first appearance in the quarterfinals.
“I’ve been involved with teams that have lost National Championship games, this isn’t on that level but it certainly feels that way,” Cavanaugh said. “There were nine guys that we recruited to come and start a program in Hockey East, and to watch how far they’ve come in four years, where we’re playing toe-to-toe with Boston University in a series that I think could’ve gone either way.”
After the two sides traded unsuccessful power play chances in the opening period, the Terriers struck first on the man-advantage with just four seconds left in the first. Dante Fabbro kept in a clearing attempt at the right point, fed Brady Tkachuk in the right circle, and he waited for Jordan Greenway to set a screen before wristing the puck past Huska (17 saves) to open the scoring with his eighth goal of the year.
“Coach Quinn just tells us to move the puck quick,” BU captain Brandon Hickey said of his team’s power play. “It seems pretty simple just to move the puck as quick as you can, but at the same time it’s super effective. That’s something that we’ve really been focusing on the last couple games and it really helped out.”
UConn tied the score in the second, taking advantage of a failed clearance by BU as Joseph Masonius kept the puck alive and sent a shot sailing toward the goal, where it deflected off Max Kalter and into the net.
The Huskies ramped up the pressure after Cockerill’s go-ahead marker, outshooting the Terriers 28-12 over the final two periods and 37-19 for the game. But those attempts yielded only frustration for UConn, as they were unable to get anything else past BU goaltender Jake Oettinger, who finished with 36 saves.
“They made some plays, and they have some big-time players, and big-time players make plays like that to win hockey games. I tip my hat to them,” Cavanaugh said. “If you told me we were going to come in here and outshoot them both nights and play like we did, I thought maybe we’d be going to game three but I didn’t think we’d get swept.”
Though his team allowed 37 shots on goal, Quinn said he thought they forced UConn to the perimeter and kept good scoring chances to a minimum. He focused on a sequence late in the third period when BU iced the puck three straight times, which he said illustrated the team’s maturity.
“That’s a good sign. Take icings,” Quinn said. “Three months ago we would’ve handed them the puck and it would’ve been in the back of our net, and we just lived another day. To be able to survive that storm, and then the next three minutes I thought we had some chances.”
For the second straight year, BU and BC will meet in the Hockey East semifinals, with both rivals fighting to keep their national tournament hopes alive. The two teams split a regular season home-and-home series in early December, but the stakes will be much different on Friday.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Quinn said. “It was a great game last year that we had with them, unfortunately we came up on the wrong end of the stick. It’s a new year, two new teams, and any time BU and BC play it’s exciting, but when it’s in the semifinals of the Hockey East playoffs, it gets more exciting.”