By Torrance Latham and Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service
Ahti Oksanen scored his second game-winner in consecutive games to lead the Boston University men’s hockey team past the resilient Northeastern Huskies 5-4 in Agganis Arena on Friday night.
It was also the debut of team captain Matt Grzelcyk, returning from off-season knee surgery. Perhaps overly excited to return to the ice, he was sent to the penalty box less than 15 seconds into the start of his 2015-2016 campaign for interference. However, Grzelcyk settled in scoring BU’s first goal then later assisting on Oksanen’s game clinching score.
Following Grzelcyk’s goal in the first period, fellow defensemen Brandon Fortunato tacked on another tally less than six minutes into the second. The Terriers seized all of the momentum, the defense shining bright.
Then came a sequence of events that no one could have foreseen, a flurry of goals in an eight minute span resulted in Northeastern fielding a 4-3 lead into the final stanza. Just before the dizzying end of the second period, BU head coach David Quinn called a timeout to rally his troops before the game escaped its grasp.
“Just get back to doing your job and focus on your shift,” said Quinn. “Don’t worry about the score and the reaction and the ebb and flows of the game. You have to be mentally tough and you have to live in the moment.”
While Northeastern undoubtedly deserves credit for their resilient second period effort, the Terriers often shot themselves in the foot with a litany of penalties. BU committed nine penalties, leaving them shorthanded for nearly 16 minutes.
Northeastern finished with eight power plays on the night, while BU netted three. The Terriers killed a major penalty, while the Huskies failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity in the final minute of the second period.
“It’s tough to win a hockey game when you have three power plays and they have eight,” said Quinn. “We’ve got to get smarter and we have to stay out of the penalty box. That was a problem for us early last year, and then [I think] we straightened it out.”
BU bounced back following the second intermission and evened the score within the first five minutes. At the 3:52 mark in the third period, defenseman Brandon Hickey slipped one in from the right post, scoring on a rebound shot after Danny O’Regan’s left shot attempt missed.
Three minutes later, Grzelcyk made a pass through the offensive zone to Oksanen, who found the open net to give BU the lead for good. BU’s defensemen accounted for four of the five goals scored. The return of Grzelcyk proved to be a pivotal lineup addition for the first line group.
“That was massive for us,” said Oksanen. “He scored immediately and played a great defensive game. We needed him back.”
The night was not yet over, as BU goalie Connor LaCouvee staved off four last second attempts around the net, in the last 1:30, while the Huskies enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage. The last minute scramble even had LaCouvee in awe.
“That was a bit of a ‘Gong show’ there,” said LaCouvee. “I was just trying to stay in front of the puck and hopefully make the save. The guys had been battling so hard throughout the game. There were a lot of bodies in front, I think [Matt Lane and Doyle Somerby] probably made three or four blocks in the last couple of minutes so that was unreal.”
The Terriers completed the sweep on Saturday night at Matthews Arena with a 4-1 win.
BU (5-3, 3-2 HEA) got goals from Grzelcyk, Doyle Somerby, and Ahti Oksanen as the Terriers raced out to a 3-0 lead against Northeastern (1-7-1, 0-3-1). The Huskies got on the board with 56 seconds remaining in the game on Adam Gaudette’s third goal of the season, but that was as close as NU would get.
O’Regan upped the lead back to three with 20 seconds left on an empty-net goal, his second goal of the season.
LaCouvee started his third straight game, making 33 saves in the win. The sophomore is 3-0 with a .919 save percentage in those three starts. He’s stopped pucks at a .927 rate since allowing five on 24 shots in a loss to UConn on Oct. 27.