The much ballyhooed early season matchup between No. 3 Boston College and No. 5 Boston University lived up to its billing last night at a packed Kelley Rink, as senior left winger Evan Rodrigues scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner late in the third period, in a thrilling come-from-behind 5-3 victory for the Terriers.
BU (5-1-0, 3-1-0 Hockey East) trailed 2-1 entering the third but tied it at 1:59 when junior center Mike Moran’s flick of the puck from behind the net caromed off a BC defender for his first goal of the season.
BC (4-4-0, 1-3-0) regained the lead after first-line center Ryan Fitzgerald of North Reading picked the pocket of stellar BU freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey and beat Terriers junior Matt O’Connor (27 saves) for a shorthanded goal at 6:05. It was Fitzgerald’s second goal of the night and seventh in eight games.
“I thought the shortie gave us tremendous momentum,” said BC coach Jerry York, who was bidding to tie legendary Eagles coach John “Snooks” Kelley for the most wins (501) at BC.
Any good karma quickly dissipated when BU’s highly touted first-line center Jack Eichel made a pro-style play to knot the proceedings. Eichel, a North Chelmsford native, won a draw in the BC end back to fellow freshman Brandon Fortunato at the point. He fed across to Hickey, who let go a blast. Eichel tipped the shot past BC sophomore Thatcher Demko (21 saves) at 12:15. It gave Eichel five goals in six games.
With overtime looming, Rodrigues raced around the BC cage and flipped the puck into the crease, catching the inside of the far post at 14:14 for his second goal of the game.
“I didn’t have a play there,” Rodrigues said. “So, I said, ‘Why not throw it out there.’ I think it went off a skate and found the corner of the net.”
BC lifted Demko for an extra skater but BU freshman Nikolas Olsson hit the empty net with 43.6 seconds to play.
“The game could have gone either way and we got a couple of greasy goals in the third period and were fortunate to get two points,” said BU coach David Quinn, “It’s a reiteration of what we’ve seen all year. We have a lot of resolve. There’s no quit in us and that’s a good thing.”
BC came out flying in a fast-paced but scoreless opening period which saw both clubs muster seven shots on net.
“We knew they were going to come at us after they lost (1-0 at UConn) on Wednesday,” said Rodrigues. “It took us until the first intermission and then we told the young guys, ‘OK, guys, calm down.’ “
BC sophomore Chris Calnan of Norwell caused the building to erupt when he slipped a backhand home at 2:10 to hand the hosts a 1-0 lead. The lead lasted only until the 12:17 mark when Rodrigues pulled BU even.
BC freshman winger Alex Tuch drilled a shot that caromed off the right pad of O’Connor. The puck wound up near the BC bench where Fitzgerald took possession, skated a few strides down the right side and fired the puck between O’Connor’s pads at 16:21.
That set up BC with a 2-1 lead going into the final 20 minutes.
“I thought it was an excellent college hockey game with a lot of good plays by both teams and both goaltenders made some outstanding saves,” said York. “The winning goal hit Thatcher’s stick and (Mike) Matheson’s skate and went in the net. Sometimes you need puck-luck. But from my perspective, this was the best our team has played in these short number of games. We battled hard. But credit BU. They’re a good team. There are a lot of encouraging things we can take from this game.”