March 24, 2012

After persevering all year, BU gets bounced by Minnesota

By Jesse Connolly

You’d be hard-pressed to name a college hockey team that had as trying a season as Boston University in 2011-12. Yet time-and-time again, the Terriers overcame every ounce of adversity thrown their way. 

Jack Parker's squad displayed remarkable resolve all year, but the Terriers couldn't overcome Minnesota's relentless attack on Saturday in St. Paul. (Dave Arnold Photography)

In December, Corey Trivino – the team’s leading scorer at the time – was quickly dismissed after being arrested for sexual assault. That same week, BU lost sophomore forward Charlie Coyle, who abruptly left to sign with the St. John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The club was dealt another blow in February, as defenseman Max Nicastro became the second team member charged with sexual assault.

Somehow, some way, Jack Parker’s squad fought through it all. The fact that the Terriers finished in a tie for second in the Hockey East standings is a triumph in and of itself.

So when BU erased two deficits on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, then cut Minnesota’s lead to 4-3 in their first round match in the NCAA tournament, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion they would find a way and persevere.

But after leaping over so many hurdles all season, this was one challenge the Terriers couldn’t overcome. Boston University fell by a score of 7-3 in the West Regional semifinals, as the Golden Gophers pulled away late to advance.

BU got off to a slow start and fell behind 5:55 into the contest, as Kyle Rau tallied for Minnesota. But the Terriers picked up the pace and had a few glimmering opportunities. Golden Gophers goaltender Kent Patterson was forced to make two big stops, denying a wraparound attempt by Nieto and a backhanded shot by Evan Rodrigues.

The Terriers carried momentum into the middle frame and knotted things up at 1-1 on the power play with 7:49 gone in the period. Adam Clendening put a shot on net from the point and Wade Megan outmuscled defenseman Ben Marshall to bang home the rebound.

The game stayed tied for just 92 seconds, as Jake Parenteau tallied to put the Golden Gophers back on top.

Less than four minutes later, the resilient Terriers struck again. After coming up big for Minnesota, Parenteau had a brutal giveaway right in front. Ross Gaudet grabbed the puck and put it past Patterson to make it 2-2.

A contact to the head penalty on Justin Courtnall put BU shorthanded for the next five minutes of action. For the second time in the middle frame, Kieran Millan coughed up a goal immediately following a tying tally by his teammates. Jake Hansen scored for Minnesota just 1:49 after Gaudet got things knotted up.

Twenty-nine ticks later, BU fell into a two-goal hole as Jake Hansen made it 4-2. With six seconds left in the period, things got testy. Sean Escobedo only went off for holding but let his emotions get the best of him, prompting everyone to rush over in front of the Minnesota bench. Alex Chiasson and Ben Marshall earned matching minors for roughing.

The Terriers went into the room and regrouped, intent on rallying and keeping their season alive.

With 3:09 gone, Adam Clending blasted one home just seven seconds into a power play, making it 4-3. Over the next 4:59, seven of the eight shots put on goal belonged to BU. It seemed to be just a matter of time until the Terriers tied things up.

But with 8:09 gone, Nico Sacchetti broke in and beat Millan to put the Golden Gophers back up by two. Boston University was officially out of comeback magic.

Jake Hansen buried an empty-netter with 1:56 remaining, as did Nick Bjugstad 52 seconds later to seal the deal for Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers will take on North Dakota on Sunday with a trip to the Frozen Four down in Tampa on the line.

The Terriers, meanwhile, will head home with plenty to be proud of, but that won’t make the fact that national championship No. 6 will have to wait until next year or beyond sting any less.