Tumultuous BU Season Ends on Sour Note
by Annie Maroon/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. After a number of Boston University’s losses this year, the story has been the same as today’s: despite flashes of strong offensive play, the Terriers just couldn’t overcome the amount of time they spent in the penalty box.
In the West Regional semifinal against Minnesota on Saturday, all 29 of BU’s penalty minutes wore down its PK unit and gave the Gopher power play chances to put the game out of reach. The killing blow, though, came with junior assistant captain Justin Courtnall’s game misconduct and five-minute major for contact to the head late in the second period.
Seconds after Minnesota took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Seth Helgeson, Courtnall left his feet to hit a Minnesota player in the head. Yasin Cissé went to the box to serve the five-minute major as Courtnall headed to the locker room, and it took just 20 seconds of that power play for Jake Hansen to extend Minnesota’s lead to 4-2.
With under a minute to go in the second, BU was still shorthanded when defenseman Sean Escobedo got tangled up with Minnesota’s Ben Marshall on the boards in front of the Gophers’ bench. Both players threw punches, and BU forward Alex Chiasson got involved as well. Chiasson and Marshall received roughing penalties, and Escobedo went off for holding, leaving BU shorthanded in a 4-on-3 situation.
“It’s hard to keep your emotion in such a big game when you’re playing from behind,” BU captain Chris Connolly said. “You want so badly for the outcome to go in your favor and you see the clock ticking down, and you know that your chances are getting closer and closer to not going your way, so it can be emotional sometimes. It’s something that you’ve got to keep in check and do a better job of.”
Although the Terriers didn’t give up another power-play goal after Hansen’s, they were handcuffed for much of the second and third period — either playing shorthanded, or exhausted and disoriented from playing shorthanded.
The Gophers spent their share of time in the box as well, and BU picked up two power-play goals on seven chances. The first came from junior winger Wade Megan, who finished off a rebound on a shot from defenseman Adam Clendening in the second period. Clendening took care of the second one himself, firing from the point early in the third to make it 4-3. That goal, the sophomore’s fourth of the year, put the game well within the Terriers’ reach.
“We were pretty good on the power play at times, and other times we looked inept on the power play,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “I thought [Minnesota] looked really good on the power play every time.”
But playing without Courtnall, a third-line wing, took its toll on all four BU lines. That was evident as Minnesota forward Nico Sacchetti walked in on goalie Kieran Millan, essentially uncontested, and cut across the slot to score the goal that gave Minnesota a 5-3 lead.
By that point — eight minutes into the third period — BU didn’t have enough left in the tank to make up a two-goal deficit. The game was already all but over when the Gophers put away two empty-netters in the last two minutes to seal it.
“It wears on you over time, especially if you get some back-to-back penalties, which I think we did a couple times,” said BU senior forward Ross Gaudet, one of the team’s top penalty-killers. “Mentally, it can hurt you or help you, if you kill them off – you know you can get the momentum, but if you let a couple in it kind of gets you down.”
After a season that saw the departures of three regular BU starters — not just bodies on the bench, but roommates and friends of the rest of the team, and very good players — it’s not hard to see how frustration and other emotions could take over in a game that went the way Saturday’s did.
“It was a game that was there for us in the second period and then — we talk about rule No. 1, don’t beat yourself,” Parker said. “We didn’t heed that again tonight.”
And so a tumultuous season ends.