Boston, MA – It came down to the final seconds of the third period but Matthew Grzelcyk and the Boston University Terriers advanced to the National Championship game with a 5-3 win over University of North Dakota on Thursday night at the TD Garden.
It is BU’s first appearance since 2009 and 11th overall. New England is proving successful in the tournament as the Terriers move on to play Providence College on Saturday night. It will be the third all-Hockey East NCAA Championship game since the conference was formed prior to the 1984-85 season.
In the previous 24 games, the Terriers have notched 31 power play goals and their special teams did not slow down tonight as freshman forward Jack Eichel opened up the scoring just 4:59 into the first period. Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey tallied another power play goal at the end of the first to give BU a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
“We got off to a great start, up 2-0,” said Boston University Head coach David Quinn. “ I thought they started to take the play to us a little bit towards the end of the first period, and obviously we weathered the storm for 10 minutes in the second. I thought they had a lot of chances. They were possessing the puck and playing at a pace. Then, we started getting a little smarter and we got opportunistic. We started getting pucks to the net.”
North Dakota came out strong in the second and third periods determined to close the scoring gap putting 30 shots on net in the last 40 minutes of play but BU still lead 4-1 until late in the third period. An uncharacteristic mishandling of the puck behind his own net by Terriers goaltender Matt O’Connor lead to a goal by UND sophomore Troy Stecher that turned the tides with 7:50 to go in the game.
After a matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that forced four on four play, UND quickly pulled their goaltender and notched another goal to make it 3-4 with 3:43 left to go in the game. North Dakota threw everything they had at BU in the final three minutes but with 19 seconds left to play the puck popped out to BU’s Jack Eichel who shot it the length of the rink to make the final score 5-3.
“I thought overall I liked 50 minutes of our game,” said North Dakota’s Head Coach Dave Hakstol. “I didn't think we managed the puck very well in the first eight to ten minutes of the game. Believe me, they played a good game. They made plays. I want to make sure I give them a lot of credit.”
Even though it wasn’t the finish that UND goaltender Zane McIntyre wanted, he knows his entire team persevered.
“Yeah it was impressive,” said McIntyre. “Every situation we’ve been in this year, tough situations, our guys persevered through it and it’s just been incredible. It just goes to show what their leadership group does and how much guys care here about the program, about the jersey they’re wearing and just about each other in the locker room and everything. Just a remarkable group of guys.”
This may be the end of the college hockey season for McIntyre, but the Boston Bruins draft pick has already left his mark on the North Dakotas record books and has a bright future looking forward.
On the other side of the ice, Boston Bruins prospect Matthew Grzelcyk and his Boston University Terriers will face-off against Providence College for the NCAA National Championship on Saturday night at the TD Garden. This will be their second all-time meeting in the NCAA Tournament – the first was in the 1978 quarterfinals with BU wining 5-3. Boston University heads into this game undefeated on TD Garden ice this season with a 5-0 record. Grzelcyk and the Terriers plan to feed off that confidence heading into the championship game.
“Coming into this game people might have said that we had home ice advantage,” said Grzelcyk. “I think if anything it just helped us calm our nerves early on. Yeah we’ve had a lot of success, we’ve won a few championships on this ice so it just helps you with that familiarity. I think it gives the younger guys especially some confidence.”
Grzelcyk and his teammates have had to battle for wins late in games, which could help them on Saturday night.
“Yeah obviously we had a tough few minutes there but really proud of the way the guys responded,” said Grzelcyk. “We were in kind of a similar situation in the Beanpot finals and we just want to make sure we didn’t let it get to overtime or anything like that. I think Matt O’Connor really came in strong, especially after that kind of fluky second goal. We’ve been relying on him all year so I’m really proud of our effort there.”