BOSTON — With its season hanging in the balance, Boston University could not have gotten off to any worse of a start in Game Two of its quarterfinal series against Northeastern. The Terriers took two penalties in the first 2:14, gave up a 5-on-3 goal to fall behind 1-0 and allowed the Huskies to register nine of the game’s first 10 shots.
But the Terriers didn’t let the slow start take the wind out of their sails. In fact, they caught a nice tailwind and closed out the first period with three straight goals en route to a 5-2 victory, setting up a decisive Game Three on Sunday night.
“We came out too jacked up,” said senior co-captain Joe Pereira. “We had to weather the storm. We got refocused. After they got that goal, we came right back and scored, which is great. We kept coming, we kept coming, and that’s the way we’re going to have to play to get the game Sunday.”
Ryan Ruikka knotted the game at one three minutes after Northeastern’s Brodie Reid opened the scoring. Alex Chiasson started the play with some nice work down low before getting the puck out to Ruikka in the high slot. The sophomore defenseman beat Chris Rawlings, who got pulled after giving up three goals on six shots, glove-side for his second goal in as many nights.
Three minutes later, Chris Connolly led a power-play entry into the zone before feeding a trailing Matt Nieto. The freshman from California snapped a shot inside the right post to give BU the lead.
Kevin Gilroy capped off the first-period scoring when he finished off a play started by Justin Courtnall’s hard work below the goal line. That fourth line of Gilroy, Courtnall and Ben Rosen sustained offensive-zone pressure all night, continuing its recent stretch of solid play at both ends of the ice.
“We just work hard,” Gilroy said. “That’s it. We don’t try to do anything pretty. We know how we play. Each person knows their role.”
Gilroy, in particular, has been playing very well of late, as he now has a four-game point streak. Prior to that streak, Gilroy had just two points in 13 games. He dressed just twice from Nov. 12 to Feb. 7.
“At first, getting out of the lineup at the beginning of the year was a little rough,” Gilroy said. “I kind of let it get to me and I wasn’t playing well. Then my brother Matty was kind of going through the same thing with the Rangers. And then he got into a game and one of his quotes was he said he’s playing the game that he loves and it’s not that hard to come back from it. I took that to heart and just refocused myself.”
After Jamie Oleksiak pulled Northeastern within one late in the second, Pereira sealed the win for BU with a pair of third period goals. The first came 11:37 into the final stanza when he jammed a wraparound past backup goalie Clay Witt (29 saves). The second was an empty-netter with 35 seconds to go.
Pereira, the only senior who sees ice time for the Terriers, was not only playing to extend his season, but also his career. He said that was certainly on his mind.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was thinking about it all night last night and this morning,” Pereira said. “The guys told me it wasn’t going to happen. Our family wasn’t ready to separate. We came ready to play tonight. Now we’ve got to get ready to go get after it Sunday.”
The unusual day off in the middle of the series comes as the result of BU’s men’s basketball team hosting the America East championship game Saturday. Jack Parker said the physical nature of the series so far makes the day of rest a welcome sight.
“I’m very, very happy we have a day off to kind of grab our breath,” Parker said. “It’s been a grind these first two games. I think they’re a more physical and stronger team than we are maturity-wise. It’ll be good for us to take a breath, come back and take an extra day before we have to play again.”