Men’s Hockey: Young Terriers lift BU over BC in first-round thriller

BU’s Wilmer Skoog skates past BC’s Aapeli Räsänen (Ryan Gregory)

BOSTON – BU scored three goals in six minutes to complete a seemingly impossible comeback. BC converted on a last-ditch effort with no one in net. Leads were built, then crumbled, then built and crumbled again. Production came from everyone you’d expect, until it didn’t.

And the final goal didn’t count.

“It was a pretty wild game,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said.

The second Beanpot semifinal game started almost an hour late because it took Northeastern two hours and 41 minutes to put away Harvard 3-1. By the time Wilmer Skoog netted the game-winner in double overtime to lift the Terriers past the Eagles, almost all of the 13,141 in attendance had gone home. Not many more than the die-hard fans stay for a three-hour college hockey game, even one with stakes as high as the Beanpot.

But the contest started just as raucous and energetic as you’d expect from both teams’ biggest game of the year. No. 4 Boston College (16-7-1) got on the board first when Patrick Giles fired the puck into a wide-open net. BU goalie Ashton Abel (35 saves, .897 save percentage) never saw Giles’ shot because of the slick backdoor feed from Marc McLaughlin. Alex Newhook added a power play goal five minutes later to double the Eagles’ lead 7:19 in.

BU celebrates Patrick Harper’s goal against BC in the Beanpot Semifinals (Ryan Gregory)

Boston University (10-8-7) was able to snatch some momentum in a game that already felt like it’d gotten away from them with Patrick Curry’s power play goal. The captain took time to thank Logan Cockerill and David Farrance for the crisp tic-tac-toe high-low passing that led to him staring at a gaping net right on the doorstep.

Then the tone shifted. The student sections on opposite sides of the ice went quiet – or as quiet a few hundred rowdy college students can be. Both sides seemed content now that they had a goal in their pocket. Much of the second period was pond hockey. Neither team could establish much in the offensive zone, and both goalies settled in well.

“In the first couple periods,” O’Connell said, “we had some good moments and some bad moments.”

BC was the one to buck the trend. With five minutes left in the period, the Eagles turned up the intensity. They took six straight shots at Abel, and the freshman netminder was able to fend off everything thrown at him.

On BC’s seventh consecutive shot attempt, Abel deflected a wild turnaround shot from David Cotton, but Alex Vlasic was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He couldn’t get his 6-foot-6 frame out of the way in time, and the puck caremed into the net off his left skate. 3-1, Boston College.

“We spoke to the group between the second and the third about resilience and doing it for the guys who only have one Beanpot left,” Harper said. “It’s a wild game. There’s a lot of hope and a lot of fun spirit within the group, and we just felt that we were going to take it home.”

Fresh off Cotton’s prayer, the Eagles played like most of the third period like they had an insurmountable lead. When Cockerill was whistled for hooking in BU’s offensive zone with 9:22 left, the game looked over. BC’s lethal power play unit was set to take the ice. If nothing else, they’d shave two precious minutes off the Terriers’ comeback effort.

But the BU penalty kill held up, and Luke McInnis took a bad frustration interference penalty 110 seconds into BC’s man advantage.

“Anytime you take a penalty, you’re playing with fire.”

-BC head coach Jerry York

The teams had 10 seconds of 4-on-4 hockey, but Farrance only needed eight to net his 13th goal of the season. (And with his two helpers, Farrance brought his assist total up to 22, maintaining his slim team point lead at 35.)

“You just can’t take penalties late in games,” York said. “You’ve got to keep your composure.”

Farrance was set up by a nice drive to the net by Patrick Harper, so it was only fitting that 70 seconds later, when BU was on a power play of their own, the roles reversed. Farrance took his turn to drive and kick out to the open man in the slot, where Harper had enough time to stickhandle a little and pick his spot – high glove side.

Then came time for the hardworking freshman, Robert Mastrosimone, to shine. The Red Wings draft pick played well enough in Periods 1 and 2 to move up to the top line with Harper and Trevor Zegras for the final frame, and he did not disappoint. After a strong forecheck by Harper, Zegras received the puck in the corner and found Mastrosimone streaking down the left slot for a simple one-timer that beat BC goalie Spencer Knight (31 sv, .861 sv%) through the five hole. 4-3, BU.

“Mastro was terrific all night I thought,” O’Connell said. “Mastro gave that line a spark, then he went to the net, and Z [Zegras] does what he does. It was all around a good play, and the timing of it was obviously critical.”

It was the Terriers’ first lead of the game, with 1:52 left in regulation, but it lasted just shy of one minute before Cotton converted with an extra skater on the ice for the Eagles. Though it would’ve fit the mold of the game perfectly, no one scored in the final 58 seconds, calling for some extra hockey.

“I thought Dave Cotton was outstanding in the game tonight,” York said. “I thought he was really a force in the game. … That’s great to see out of your captain, a four-year guy. He’s got a long, long career after BC.”

Because of NCAA rule changes, all games must follow the same, standardized overtime rules. BU Associate Athletic Director for Marketing & Communications summed up the new setup:

So after both teams came out flat for the first five-minute overtime period, the game “officially” ended in a 4-4 tie. The game was over, but they still needed a winner. The problem is that none of the stats from double overtime were going to count.

It was going to be the biggest goal of one player’s career, and it would never show up on a score sheet.

Patrick Harper almost ended the game a minute and a half into double overtime, but he couldn’t get enough height on his backhand to get it past Knight.

After the Harper breakaway, it was all BU. The Terriers held a significant advantage in offensive zone time, and it led to one extended possession in particular just after seven minutes had elapsed in the period.

Alex Brink and Gabe Chabot both had chances to net the game-winner, but the puck cycled back around to Alex Vlasic on the left side. The freshman blue liner made up for his earlier gaffe by making a perfect pass into the crease. Brink couldn’t finish the play, but Wilmer Skoog came soaring in from the right wing to bury the loose puck and end the marathon night of hockey.

“I was just super happy. Just happiness.”

-Wilmer Skoog

“That was an awesome feeling,” Skoog said. “Sometimes the shots go, and sometimes they don’t, so I was lucky to put it in the back of the net tonight.”

Skoog, a freshman from Tyresö, Sweden, was a January addition for the Terriers, and he’s already contributed a pair of game-winners and a highlight reel goal against Dartmouth in his six weeks on Comm Ave.

This is easily the biggest of Skoog’s three shots to light the lamp, though, as it sends the Terriers to their fifth Beanpot championship game in six seasons. They’ll have no small task, though, as they’ll face the two-time defending Beanpot champion Northeastern Huskies, who also happen to be the No. 12 team in the nation.

The Beanpot Championship will be played at 8 p.m. Eastern Time at TD Garden. We’ll have the audio broadcast at mixlr.com/wtbusports.

Author: Jacob Lintner

Jacob was the 2017 Missouri Student Journalist of the Year and a runner up to the National Student Journalist of the Year. He currently attends Boston University and spends his time playing jazz and studying avant-garde poetry when he's not rooting on the St. Louis Cardinals and New England Patriots.

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