By: Dave Souza
WORCESTER, Mass. — With under a minute remaining in the third period of the NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal, the No. 13 Boston University Terriers led No. 3 Cornell with 34 seconds left on the clock. The Big Red circled the zone with their net empty, searching for the equalizer to extend their season. Instead, Bobo Carpenter shoveled a loose puck into the neutral zone, where freshman Logan Cockerill collected it before burying the disk into the open net. That strike iced the contest for fourth seed BU, as they downed top-seeded Cornell, 3-1, to move a step closer to the Frozen Four.
“Playoff hockey at its finest,” said head coach Dave Quinn. “There wasn’t a lot of room out there today. I thought two teams that just competed as hard as you possibly can, it was a physical game, it was a fast game – that’s as big and strong of a team that you’re going to see in college hockey, they play fast. It took everything we had to beat them.”
After a pair of even periods, the Terriers opened the third as they did against Providence in the Hockey East Championship – with an early goal. Netting the strike was defenseman David Farrance, who turned in his second score in three games.
Farrance’s game-winner came with 15:21 remaining in the third, and was a byproduct of an errant clear by the Big Red. In another great effort down low by the Terriers’ top line, Jordan Greenway began the play by dispossessing Anthony Angello along the far sidewall before feeding it to Drew Melanson. The graduate student made a quick pass to Brady Tkachuk, who moved around the back of the Cornell cage. There, Tkachuk hesitated before backhanding a pass to Farrance, who teed up a slap shot that found twine through traffic.
“I didn’t even look, I kind of just tried to get the puck past the first guy coming out at me so I didn’t really see the net at all,” Farrance said of his game-winning goal.
“Just trying to get more pucks in on net and trying to find lanes to the net I think has helped me the most. It’s just been pretty great playing with some high-end players, so I think that’s been the reason.”
The freshman’s tally set off a heavy offensive push by the Big Red, who turned up the intensity in the BU zone as the clock continued to tick.
While Cornell had found success this season throwing pucks on net and putting home the rebounds, they were unable to do so against the Terriers due to BU’s stout net-front defense. Throughout the contest, a slew of red jerseys stood in front of Jake Oettinger (30 saves), tying up the pressing Cornell forwards bearing down on net, and clearing out any second-chance opportunities that found their way out front.
“I thought we did a heck of a job defending the net front, I thought whenever someone maybe got beat we did a great job supporting them,” Quinn said.
“You can attribute to what’s going on in the last two and a half months, a big piece of it is because of Jake,” the head coach added. “The thing I like about our game is that I think we’re working in sync with him, our D-zone coverage is working well with him, he’s making the first save, [and] we’re not giving up a lot of second chances off the shot.”
The sophomore net minder again looked poised in net for the Terriers, turning aside all but one chance from Cornell, including all nine shots that came in the third period.
Oettinger’s lone blemish came at 7:27 of the second on a goal from Cornell senior Trevor Yates. With the captain standing alone in the far face-off circle of the BU zone, the Big Red jumped out to their only lead of the game when Yates wristed a shot over Oettinger’s blocker. The shot came near the high slot and broke a deadlock that had lasted nearly 28 minutes.
With the scoring drought over, the Terriers nullified the Cornell lead with a goal 36 seconds later. BU’s forwards broke into the zone after the ensuing faceoff, with Brandon Hickey swiping the puck with his backhand towards the net after he fanned on his initial drive. His second chance floated towards the far post, where Shane Bowers batted it into the back of the net, tying the score.
“The response was huge for our team,” Bowers said. “They kind of dropped us down right after they scored, but that brought us right back up and we were able to build from there.”
The rest of the game was punctuated with heavy hits and defensive scrums, as both teams tried to wear their opposition down with gritty play. Both squads’ top lines factored into the physical battle, as Angello repeatedly dueled with Greenway and Tkachuk throughout the contest.
In the end, the Terriers earned the victory with stifling defense late, and a calm composure during Cornell’s intense offensive pushes. With the win, BU becomes the second four seed to upend the top seed in their region – the Air Force Falcons toppled No. 1 overall St. Cloud State yesterday in Sioux Falls.
“You’re a little bit more confident, you’re riding a little bit more of an emotional high,” Quinn said of conference winners who faced top seeds in this year’s tournament.
“There’s a feeling. Anybody who’s been apart of a team that wins a championship, or you have a chance to win championships, there’s that ‘it’ feeling, it’s hard to describe. Our guys feel that.”
BU will now take on the winner of the Michigan-Northeastern tilt on Sunday afternoon back at the DCU Center. Puck drop is slated for 4 p.m. as the Terriers look to earn their way to the program’s 23rd Frozen Four.