MANCHESTER, N.H. - As far as Jason Lawrence is concerned, they all count the same. So, when he’s recounting the story of how he scored the game-winning goal to send Boston University to the Frozen Four, forgive him for embellishing a little bit.
Lawrence’s goal with 14.4 seconds remaining in the third period lifted the Terriers to a 2-1 victory against New Hampshire in Sunday’s Northeast Regional final at the Verizon Wireless Arena. BU will take on Hockey East rival Vermont in the Frozen Four April 9 in Washington, D.C.
“It’s awesome,” said Lawrence, whose 24 goals this season lead the Terriers. “To be able to go to the Frozen Four with the teammates that we have right now, it’s just something that we’ve been working for and a dream come true almost.
“I haven’t celebrated on the ice like that in a long time.”
With Boston University on the power play after James van Riemsdyk was whistled for hooking at 19:14 of the third period, Lawrence found the puck below the left point. He sent a quick shot toward the net that deflected off UNH goalie Brian Foster, but the puck squirted away and got knocked into the net by the hand of Wildcat senior forward Jerry Pollastrone, who was diving toward the crease.
Lawrence said he couldn’t help but laugh when he was credited with the score because he thought Colin Wilson got his stick on it.
“I didn’t even know,” said Lawrence, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Northeast Regional. “I thought Willy put it in. I was just celebrating for the fact that we got the goal. To get credit for it, it’s good. I’ll tell my kids it was a slap shot from the blue line.”
Boston University 2,
New Hampshire 1
|1-BU||Corey Trivino (6)||EV|
|13:43||C. Connolly, V. Saponari|
|1-UNH||Bobby Butler (9)||EV|
|5:52||P. LeBlanc, G. Collins|
|2-BU||Jason Lawrence (24)||PP|
|19:45||C. Higgins, C. Cohen|
|UNH: Brian Foster, 59:45, 21 saves, 2 GA|
|BU: Kieran Millan, 60:00, 27 saves, 1 GA|
|Penalties: UNH 4/8; BU 3/6|
|Power Plays: UNH 0-3; BU 1-4|
The Terriers, who have advanced to their first Frozen Four since 1997, were battling just to stay in the game after New Hampshire seized control in the second period. The Wildcats had the better chances for much of the night and completely stifled BU’s high-octane offense. So with van Riemsdyk in the box, the Terriers knew they had their best chance to rip away a win.
“I thought it was a fabulous college hockey game to watch,” BU coach Jack Parker said, “unless you were coaching in it.
“We were very, very fortunate to get that game tonight because of how hard UNH played.”
Even with the late goal, though, BU knew it had to tend to business in the final seconds. After watching UNH erase a two-goal deficit Saturday against North Dakota and tie the score with one-tenth of a second remaining in regulation, the Terriers were dealing with some scary flashbacks.
“Absolutely,” Lawrence said. “After we got the goal, I looked at the clock and saw 14 seconds. I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ It’s just going to come down to that in these types of games. It’s going to come down to the last second like you saw when they played North Dakota. You’ve just got to be ready for the full 60 minutes.”
There were almost immediate parallels to UNH’s Northeast Regional semifinal win, most notably after the officials went to a review to determine how much time should be put on the clock when BU iced the puck. And with 3.5 seconds remaining and a face-off on the same end of the ice, one couldn’t help but wonder if the ghosts that once haunted UNH in the NCAA tournament were turning into angels. Instead, the Terriers won the draw and killed the clock to finish the job.
“You think about it a little bit because it was pretty amazing what they did last night,” BU goalie Kieran Millan said. “But at the same time, we’re not North Dakota, so it was our game to win. We were doing everything we could to get that win.”
SAVES THE DAY
If it weren’t for freshman goalie Kieran Millan, Boston University never would have had the chance to set up its heroics in the final seconds. Millan made 27 saves, a number of them on great chances, and no one was more frustrated by him than UNH sophomore forward Mike Sislo.
Sislo, who led the Wildcats with 19 goals this season, was robbed twice by Millan and once by the crossbar. Millan stopped a Sislo shot by sliding to his left late in the second period, and his high glove save on Sislo’s two-on-one bid with 4:36 remaining in the third period was one of the two best highlights of the night. Earlier in the third, Sislo had Millan beat, but the puck rang hard off the crossbar during a power-play opportunity.
“On odd-man rushes, you know who it is [with the puck],” Millan said. “Whether it’s Sislo or [James] van Riemsdyk, you know they’re shooters, so you’ve got to play them tough and come out far and challenge. I was fortunate on the crossbar one, but the other [two], I thought I did a good job and kept the puck out.”
Millan deflected a bid from van Riemsdyk’s early in the first period, getting enough of his stick on a high wrister to avert danger.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Jason Lawrence said. “He’s just so calm and collected back there. He’s been like that since the first game he played. He’s just been rock solid all the way out. The guys know how solid he is, and it gives us more confidence to play.”
Millan’s nightly résumé also included a save on a low shot from Bobby Butler during a UNH three-on-two rush with five minutes remaining in the third period. Lawrence claimed it never gets old watching their freshman steal the show.
“You know they’re coming,” Lawrence said of the highlight-reel saves. “But still, when it happens, you’re like, ‘Wow, how’d you pull that one off?’”
Millan’s lone mistake came in the second period. UNH junior forward Peter LeBlanc, who scored the game-winner in overtime to beat North Dakota on Saturday, ducked past BU junior defenseman Brian Strait to gain the zone. LeBlanc sent a shot that deflected off of Millan’s pads and out in front to Butler, who tied the game at 5:52. Millan went so far as to call the rebound he allowed “soft.”
“It’s part of the game,” said Millan, who was named to the All-Tournament Team. “[LeBlanc] actually made a really good play. He had a really quick release. At that point, my feet were a little planted, so I had to focus on stopping the puck initially because he almost beat me five-hole. In doing so, you kind of give up a rebound. You understand that it’s a bad rebound because your defensemen are kind of helpless in that situation. I thought we battled back after and got the win.”
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE VERIZON WIRELESS ARENA
• UNH coach Dick Umile briefly alluded to James van Riemsdyk getting whistled for hooking with 45.7 seconds remaining in the third period, and it sounded like he wasn’t very happy with the referee’s decision. “It was tough,” Umile said, “but I won’t say anymore about that.”
• BU only committed three penalties in the game, the fewest it’s had since being called for one in the regular-season finale against Providence. The Terriers had been whistled for 45 penalties in their first six postseason games.
“Coach was harping on it at the beginning of the game and especially at the end of last game that it could come back to haunt us,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got to definitely be disciplined, stay out of the box. It takes away momentum. It gives them opportunities on the power play. We’ve got a great penalty kill, but you don’t want to give them too many power plays to a team.”
• The Wildcats got away with a blatant too-many-men penalty late in the second period.
• This was a tough afternoon for both goalies — BU’s Kieran Millan and UNH’s Brian Foster — who were getting run over on a regular basis.
• UNH brought forth one of its best defensive efforts in recent memory, loading the neutral zone and making it very difficult for BU in transition. The Wildcats really limited BU’s strategy of bouncing the puck off the boards to gain ground in the neutral zone, and they packed the middle of their zone once BU started setting up its offense. Lawrence said the Terriers made a few adjustments during the second intermission, especially with how they planned to break out of their zone.
“They played well,” Lawrence said. “On their forecheck, they were really taking away our ability to get out of the zone. They were taking away our center play and our board wing, and they were very effective at it until we changed up a couple things and started to get some more flow into the game.”
• UNH senior forward Greg Collins on why the Wildcats looked like the hungrier team all day: “Coming into the game, we just had the attitude of we wanted it more, really.”
• UNH senior defenseman Kevin Kapstad shattered his stick while on his way to the bench after BU scored its second goal.
• It was interesting watching UNH sophomore forward James van Riemsdyk and BU sophomore forward Colin Wilson briefly battle for the puck behind the net in the second period, knowing the two top-10 NHL draft picks will end up facing similar battles for the next 15 or so years.
• The crowd had a lot more energy for this game than it did during both of Saturday’s games combined. It obviously helps that each team is located within a close proximity of the building, but there was a pretty good back-and-forth going on between the fan bases. The UNH faithful definitely outnumbered BU’s fans, but it wasn’t by a dominant margin.
• There seem to be more weird bounces off the boards in this arena than any rink in the Northeast.
INCH’s THREE STARS OF THE NIGHT
3. Peter LeBlanc, New Hampshire. He had an assist, and it seemed like every time the Wildcats threatened with an offensive chance, LeBlanc was the catalyst.
2. Jason Lawrence, Boston University. His tremendous senior season just got a lot of national validation.
1. Kieran Millan, Boston University. He just keeps getting it done, and he looks almost flawless under pressure.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
Much better crowd than Saturday. There was a strong college atmosphere type of feel, and you could hear each team’s fans really living and dying with every play.
UNH’s defensive game plan was just tremendous.
ALL-NORTHEAST REGIONAL TEAM
F - Nick Bonino, Boston University
F - Jason Lawrence, Boston University
F - Peter Leblanc, New Hampshire
D - Matt Gilroy, Boston University
D - Kevin Kapstad, New Hampshire
G - Kieran Millan, Boston University
Most outstanding player - Jason Lawrence, Boston University
Boston University will take on Vermont in the Frozen Four at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. (Thursday, April 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2). The teams have never met in the NCAA tournament. Vermont won the season series with BU, 2-1-0, and was the only team in Hockey East to win the season series against the Terriers.