O’Connor Mistake Just One of Many Things to go Wrong for BU in Final Stretch
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By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service
When people look back on BU’s 4-3 loss to Providence in Saturday’s national championship game at the TD Garden, Matt O’Connor’s misplay of a puck that trickled into the back of the net will be the first thing people mention, fair or not. It’s the ground ball that went through the legs of Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
Like the Buckner play, it wasn’t necessarily what lost them the game. It’s just what everybody will look back on.
“I couldn’t really see it in my glove,” said O’Connor, who made 39 saves. “I thought it rolled out of it. I tried to drop and throw it to Jack [Eichel] and it was too late.”
The Terriers were 19-0 when leading after two periods going into Saturday night, outscoring opponents by a 69-29 margin in the third period. But the difference between the first 40 games of the Terriers 2014-15 slate and Game No. 41 was the latter was the national title game, where veteran teams prevail more often than not.
Of the 18 skaters who dressed for Providence along with starting netminder Jon Gilles, 14 Friars were either juniors or seniors. Meanwhile, the Terriers had eight freshmen in their lineup.
“Sometimes experience is the best remedy for situations that we were in tonight,” said Quinn. “And we don’t have a lot of it.”
The Friars gained a new life when Eichel went to the box for hooking with 15:27 to go in the game. BU had been carrying the play to that point, playing with the pace that had them leading, 3-2, with a 42-24 shot advantage.
Providence landed two shots on O’Connor on the powerplay to no avail, but it began a stretch where a good deal of play was played in the BU zone. The Terriers chased the puck more often than they possessed it. From the start of the powerplay to when the game-tying goal was scored — a stretch of 6:51 — the Terriers were outshot 13-4.
“Playing a pretty good third period, obviously we would’ve liked to spend more time in the offensive zone,” said Quinn, “but people list sight that despite all of our success, we’re the youngest team in the country. We have four 18-year-old defensemen playing in the game tonight.”
Following the game-tying goal, it took just 2:19 for the Friars to get what would be the game-winner. Kevin Rooney got the better of the draw with Eichel, with Brandon Tanev taking the loose puck to the net and beating O’Connor glove-side high, a vulnerable spot for the junior goalie. A play that was well drawn up, and executed even better.
The Terriers had no answer to the goal, and 6:17 later, PC won its first national title in hockey. But while a bad mistake by their goaltender played a hand in the loss, O’Connor’s teammates made sure he knew it wasn’t on him.
“[O’Connor’s] really been the backbone of our team all year,” said Grzelcyk. “And I think every guy in the room would agree we wouldn’t be in the [national] championship game without him.”