BOSTON—In early January, finishing at the top of the Hockey East mountain and booking a spot in the NCAA Tournament may have seemed like a pipe dream for the Boston University Terriers.
However, with their best players healthy and confident, the Terriers battled their way to the top of Hockey East, capping their unlikely second-half charge off in style with a 2-0 victory over the Providence Friars to win the 2018 Hockey East Championship.
After 40 minutes of stagnant play that was dominated by the goaltenders, the Terriers found their breakthrough 56 seconds into the third period. Junior Jordan Greenway—who was named to the six-man All-Tournament Team following the game—dug the puck out of the corner to feed a wide-open Drew Melanson in the slot. Melanson fired the puck off the far post and in past Providence’s Hayden Hawkey—who made 27 saves—to give the Terriers a deserved lead. Bobo Carpenter scored an empty-net goal with 1:22 remaining to seal the title for the Terriers.
The goalscorer Melanson—who scored in the semifinal against rivals Boston College—credited his success to stellar play from his linemates Greenway and Brady Tkachuk.
“I play with two great players so that definitely helps out [and] puts me in a lot of spots where I can score,” Melanson said. “This game is a lot about confidence and I’m starting to build some at the right time right now.”
It was the right time indeed. With the Friars already having clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament, it was do or die for the Terriers in Saturday’s Championship Game. Goaltender Jake Oettinger—who won tournament MVP—said this win was special given his team’s circumstances.
“Everyone in the room knew what position we were in,” Oettinger said. “Not one guy in that room wanted our season to end tonight and we showed it. We were the more desperate team and [I’m] just really proud of all the guys.”
Boston University head coach David Quinn had lots of praise for his entire team but was especially proud of Oettinger—who made 60 combined saves in the final and semifinal games.
“He’s an unbelievable kid,” Quinn said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a goalie as well-liked as [Oettinger]. I am so excited that he was MVP of this tournament.”
Quinn also echoed Oettinger’s sentiment about how this title was extra special given their situation.
“I can’t really put into words how I feel for our players and our school, it’s been a tale of two seasons for us” Quinn said. ” To have our backs against the wall going into this tournament…I think that makes this one a little more special than the others.”
The Terriers did not get off to a hot start as Providence dominated on all ends the game, successfully preventing the Terriers from getting any real presence in front of the net. As the game went on, however, Boston University took control as Providence’s fatigue began to show—the Friars’ semifinal game ended early Saturday morning. Head coach Nate Leaman said that the Terriers used this fatigue to their advantage and was factor in his team’s defeat.
“[Fatigue] was a factor, not an excuse,” Leaman said. “I thought [BU] took advantage of that by getting pucks deep and by getting their big guys wearing us down. We got some extended shifts in the [defensive] zone where we bent but we didn’t break. You can’t let the circumstances matter. You have to function and get the job done. We had a terrific first period and we just weren’t really able to sustain that.”
With this victory, the Boston University Terriers won their ninth Hockey East title which was their first since the 2015 season. Senior defenseman Brandon Hickey played on both championship teams but said this one was more special.
“This year we were kind of playing with our backs against the wall,” Hickey said. “It makes it a little more special being a senior and having this be your last chance at this sort of thing. As a freshman, you’re obviously pretty excited about it but you’re a little bit naive and think you’re going to get back to the championship every year.”
The Terriers and the Friars now both head off to the NCAA tournament and await their opponents on Selection Sunday.