By Eric Getzoff
BU News Service
The Boston University Terriers clinched a share of the Hockey East regular season title with a 4-1 win against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday night.
The Terriers had known they would be a top four seed in the Hockey East playoff tournament since the previous weekend, but the specific seed wasn’t determined until this Saturday’s game. The win last night secured them the No. 2 seed in the tournament and catapulted the Terriers into a three-way tie for the Hockey East regular season championship, tying UMass Lowell and Boston College each with 29 points.
The Terriers lost the tiebreaker to UMass Lowell for the No. 2 seed due to total league wins (12 to UMass Lowell’s 13).
Earning the No. 2 seed means BU will host the second-highest seeded team remaining in the quarterfinal round the weekend of March 10th in a best of three series.
“It’s great,” Clayton Keller, who scored two third period goals, said about winning a share of the Hockey East regular season title. “I think we set that goal at the beginning of the year that this was the first step. It’s pretty special to do that, but I think now the Hockey East playoffs is the most important thing to us, so I think we’re just going to do everything to prepare for that.”
Terriers’ head coach David Quinn was also excited about hoisting the Hockey East trophy after the game.
“The share of the league championship regular season is a great accomplishment for our guys,” said Quinn. “To finish the season tied for the most points in this league says an awful lot about leadership, our seniors and our juniors.”
BU’s trouble in Friday night’s 3-1 loss to Notre Dame was putting the puck in the net. They couldn’t get past Irish goaltender Cal Peterson after their first period goal, even while amassing 23 shots in the third period.
Saturday was a different story. Freshman Kieffer Bellows scored a power-play goal on a rebound off Peterson’s knee pads with 9:21 remaining in the second period. Junior John Macleod followed with a slap-shot from the point seven minutes later to give the Terriers a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“I thought we turned up the heat a little bit tonight and I thought we raised our game a little bit,” said Quinn.
The Irish opened the scoring 15:19 into the game when Mike O’Leary beat Terrier netminder Jake Oettinger for his second goal of the season.
Oettinger, though 11th in the nation with a 2.11 goals against average, has allowed 16 goals over the team’s last four games, including allowing a season-high six goals against Harvard in the Beanpot Finals on Feb.13.
But the freshman goalie managed to stop 40 of the 41 shots he faced on Saturday and held the 11th-best offense in the nation to one goal. Oettinger has 18 wins this season, good for third most among freshmen goalkeepers in the nation.
Seniors Doyle Somerby, Nick Roberto and Tommy Kelley, the first group of seniors to play all four seasons under Quinn, were honored before the game during a pre-game ceremony. Quinn is in his fourth season behind the Terriers’ bench.
“They’re great people,” said Quinn. “Part of putting a program together is obviously getting great players but getting great people and those three guys are exactly what you want in your program.”
“It was a really nice way to go out,” said Somerby. “Fans were buzzing all night so it was a fun atmosphere for my last regular season home game.”
As the Terriers took advantage of their opportunity to clinch a share of the regular-season title, the Irish missed out on theirs. Had they won, the Irish would have been sole winners of the Hockey East regular season championship, sharing the trophy with nobody. But after tonight’s loss, they’ll be the No. 4 seed in the tournament.
BU finished their season strong, winning two of their last three games after a nine-game stretch which saw them go 3-4-2. Coach Quinn said he was happy about the way his team finished the season, and believes his team can raise their play even higher.
“I still think we got another level in us that we can get to,” said Quinn. “But we’re going to take a deep breath and enjoy this for the next few days and enjoy a weekend off and get ready for whatever opponent we have.”