Albany, NY – It’s been 21 years since the Huskies last faced Boston University. By coincidence, it was in the NCAA Regional Tournament and it was in Albany, NY. Different year, different result. After a scoreless first period, the Huskies scored six times including three in the final period to dispatch Hockey East’s Terriers by a convincing 6-2 score. The win earns the Huskies the right to face the Terriers cross-town rival, the Boston College Eagles in the Northeast Regional Championship. The prize is a trip to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh, PA April 8-10.
It was a crazy game, with unusual goals, extended delays, several five-minute majors, and a penalty shot. On this day, it worked to the benefit of the Huskies whose last two NCAA appearances in 2018 and 2019 were pretty dismal.
“The game tonight ended up being really strange,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell in the post-game press conference. “With a couple of the plays and the bounces sometimes you are on the right side of it and when you play a really good team like St. Cloud, they were on the right side of some bounces. Congratulations to St. Cloud for moving on. They played a great game and were on the right side of it tonight and I wish them well.”
“The first goal was one for the ages. It was about as strange as you can get. It shoots over the net and no one knows where it is except for the guy standing in center field who caught it, put it down, and put it in an open net. The second goal we had an easy clear but it hit the referee in the butt and went back into our zone. We tried to clear it but they got a shot and it hits Cockerill and it’s going wide and it hits Vlasic (BU defenseman) and goes in. I’d say a little luck was on their side in the first two goals.”
Coach Larson was pleased with the play of his squad.”I was proud of our team. They came out and played hard right away and they handled some adversity getting scored on 8 seconds into the second period. They didn’t let it rattle them and they were able to rally from there and play well down the stretch. Boston University is a great team and it took everything we had to take that one from them.”
There were numerous delays in the game for goal reviews, issues with the ice, and some broken dasher board glass. Larson thought maybe the delays were an advantage. “It felt really long. I mean what else could happen? All of a sudden they are bringing out a fire extinguisher to fix the ice. I think the glass going out was a little bit of a lucky break for us. We just killed off a five-minute major and we had a lot of guys expend a lot of energy on that kill and that may have been a fortunate break for us.”
On Brodzinski’s big two-goal game, Larson commented ” Brodzy is our go-to guy in tough moments. He has hockey sense and a good stick and I think he showed tonight that when you need to have a play being made he has the ability to do it.”
Brodzinski was part of two first-round NCAA losses in 2018 and 2019. ” Third time is the charm, he said. ” We stuck to our game plan. This team really knows how to stick to the structure and stick to what we know. I think this team has something special in it. It’s a completely new team and these guys want to win. We could see it in their eyes when they got to the rink this morning.”
A successful penalty shot for Jami Krannila during a five-minute penalty kill in period three was certainly a boost for the Huskies. He was pulled down while racing for the puck into the Terrier zone. “Coach asked me if I wanted to take a penalty shot or take a penalty and I said I want to shoot it. In practice, I’ve seen Easton (Brodzinski) do the same move that I did. He’s done it a hundred times and it usually goes in so I thought I’ll try that too and I got lucky and it went in.”
The Huskies may have surprised the Terriers a bit to start the game and BU coach O’Connell admitted they were a bit nervous to start the game and it showed. They were giving the Huskies room and it allowed SCSU to transition out of the zone and up the ice quite easily.
The Huskies were gifted an early break after a checking behind penalty was assessed to one of the Terrier’s more physical players, Dylan Peterson 9:08 into the period. The Huskies immediately placed a shot off the post and Nolan Walker nearly stuffed in a rebound in the right crease but then struggled to get anything done on the balance of the advantage They may have had 12 shots but only two scoring chances.
During the major penalty, the Huskies yielded a short-handed one-on-one where Hrenak had to make a big save and a two-on-one where he had to come up big again.
The teams skated to a scoreless first period with the Huskies outshooting the Terriers 14 to 10 with the benefit of the five-minute major.
The Terriers struck immediately in the first 8 seconds of period two with a goal by Wilmer Skoog. The Terriers won control of the opening faceoff and attacked the SCSU zone and with a Husky defender draped on him, Skoog lifted a backhand past Hrenak for a 1-0 Boston University lead.
The Terriers nearly had another less than a minute later as a shot from the left circle was bobbled by Hrenak but then covered up. the Terriers certainly got over their nervousness and began to forecheck harder and allow less free reign out of the zone for the SCSU defensemen.
A high-sticking penalty to David Farrance at 4:40 placed SCSU on the advantage again but only created one shot on goal as BU was keeping the Huskies power play in check.
The Huskies finally evened things up on a very odd play. Nolan Walker was battling a BU player hard along the back dasher and as he fell, the puck flew over the top of the net and landed in front of Micah Miller who was above the right circle. He took control of the puck and with BU goaltender Commesso totally unaware of where the puck was and looking the other direction, Miller (Walker, Trejbal) had a layup in the open right side of the net to tie the game at 2-2.
The Huskies struck again 1:15 later on another lucky bounce. BU attempted to clear the zone but it went off the referee back into the Terrier zone. The Huskies gained control and a shot by Nick Perbix (Hammer, Kupka) deflected off Logan Cockerill and then off defenseman Alex Vlasic and past Commesso and suddenly the Huskies had a one-goal lead at 2-1.
A slashing penalty to Jami Krannila gave the Terriers their second power play and they converted with a goal by Jake Wise at 15:28 to tie the game at 2-2.
But, it only took the Huskies 32 seconds to regain the lead with Easton Brodzinski’s first goal of the game. Again, it was Walker forechecking hard and from the back wall, sent a backhand to Brodzinski who was stationed in the lower left circle and he directed a shot past Commesso for a 3-2 SCSU lead.
SCSU again outshot the Terriers 12-10 in the period.
The Huskies found themselves in penalty trouble early with a five-minute major and game misconduct assessed on forward Chase Brand 3:29 into the period. However, a masterful penalty kill by the Huskies gave little traction to the Terriers, and 48 seconds into the penalty kill Krannila turned it into an opportunity for SCSU. A puck cleared out of the SCSU zone had Krannila chasing it down with Logan Cockerill who hauled him down ten feet from the goal incurring a penalty shot. Krannila promptly beat Commesso with a well-placed shot to increase the Huskies lead to 4-2.
The Huskies took a timeout at 9:28 after the successful penalty kill to recharge and it paid off as the momentum changed after that. It was just 36 seconds after the timeout that Brodzinski scored his second goal of the game to stretch the SCU lead to 5-2. With Brodzinski and Walker battling in front of the Terriers net, Brodzinski jammed the puck past Commesso for a commanding 5-2 lead.
SCSU sealed things five minutes later when the Huskies leading scorer, Veeti Miettinen re-directed a waist-high shot by Brendan Bushy past Commesso for the sixth and final Huskies goal.
Down the final stretch of the game, the Huskies checking line of Hammer, Cockrell, and Kupka logged some important minutes to grind out the balance of the game in the 6-2 win. Hammer was particularly good in the faceoff circle winning 18 of 22 faceoffs for an 81% winning percentage.
David Hrenak had a solid game in goal stopping 34 of 26 shots while BU’s Drew Commesso stopped 32 of 38 shots on goal.
Boston University was 1 for 4 on the power play while SCSU was 0 for 2.
The Brodzinski (2-0-2), Walker (0-3-3), and Miller (1-0-1) line had a productive game with six points. Brodzinski had the game-winning goal. Jami Krannila had a multipoint game with a goal and an assist.
The Huskies will face Boston College in the Championship game on Sunday at 4:30 PM CT.