After winning the Hockey East Tournament, the Terriers entered the win or go home portion of their schedule, the NCAA Tournament. The selection committee placed them as the #1 seed in the Northeast regional where they would face off against the #4 Yale Bulldogs in the first round.
The game would be a contrast of two completely different styles. BU possessed the most potent offense in the nation, while the Bullldogs played a stifling defensive style backed by Alex Lyon, who led the country in GAA, save percentage, and shutouts.
The Terriers did not get the start they wanted as they looked nervous in the first, a sign of the youngest team in the country playing on a big stage with a lot of eyes on them. For the first time all year, the defense looked as though they were starting four freshmen as errant passes and bad decisions plagued the Terriers.
On the offensive end, Yale made a point to finish every check they could, especially against Eichel. They took away his time and space, and his effectiveness was reduced. It was the same approach Team Canada used at the WJC. Hit him and Eichel will get frustrated.
Thanks to a post and Matt O’Connor, the first period ended scoreless. Yale would push the pace in the second when they got the only goal of the period on a power play en route to outshooting Terriers 13-11.
Needing to win the third period, the Terriers showed their trademark resiliency and dominated possession in the final frame. The shots were 14-2 and the puck never seemed to leave the Yale end. The Terriers got two goals in the middle of the period from Oksanen and Rodrigues before Yale tied it 2-2 three minutes later.
The game would enter overtime with momentum clearly tilting in BU’s favor. They had a prime opportunity with 1:51 of power play time to open OT, but could not convert. Seven minutes into the extra frame, Jack Eichel would provide the setup to win the game for the Terriers.
Covering at the point for a pinching Doyle Somerby, the puck squirted out to him and he fired a slapshot on net. Lyon made the initial save, but could not control the rebound that went right to the stick of a wide open Danny O’Regan. He made no mistake, and slammed it home to send BU to the next round.
Despite being outplayed for most of the game, the Terriers would advance. Their opponent would be the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, who had defeated Minnesota 4-1 in the later game. Duluth would be a much better stylistic matchup for the Terriers, as they prefer to play a similar offensive, run-and-gun style.
Duluth clearly watched the film from the Yale game because they came out with the exact same plan of attack to shut down Eichel. He was held in check for most of the game, but the attention that the defenders paid to him helped free up his linemates Evan Rodrigues and Dan O’Regan for success.
Evan Rodrigues scored the only goal of the first with an impressive display of hand-eye coordination. As the puck was in the air in the Duluth offensive zone, Rodrigues tracked the puck and timed the backswing on his slapshot to hit the puck as soon as it hit the ice. He gauged it perfectly, and fired it in for a 1-0 lead as it hit the ice.
The teams traded goals in the second, with the period ending at a score of 2-2 thanks to a goal from BU’s Matt Lane. Duluth had the better of the play for most of the first two periods, leading in shots 26-19.
Right on cue, the Terriers turned it on and found another gear in the third. They outshot Duluth 13-5, but with less than three minutes remaining, still found themselves tied. They got a prime chance when Duluth’s Andy Welinski took a holding penalty in the waning minutes.
With just one second left on the power play (and 2:24 in the game), Evan Rodrigues corralled the puck at the point and pulled off this beautiful toe drag:
It put BU up 3-2, and the Terriers withstood a final push by Duluth to get the win and advance to the Frozen Four. Eichel went pointless for just the 6th time in his career. In those previous five games, the Terriers were just 1-1-3.
Up Next on the Jack Eichel Tracker: The Terriers will face the University of North Dakota in the semifinals of the Frozen Four on Thursday, April 9th. The winner of the Hobey Baker trophy will be announced on April 10th.
Previous Editions of the Jack Eichel Tracker:
Part I: A Dazzling Debut (5 Assists vs. St. Thomas)
Part II: Matching McDavid (2 Goals, 2 Assists vs. UMass Amherst)
Part III: Torching His Former Team (2 Goals, 1 Assist vs. USNTDP)
Part IV: Going Streaking (2 Goals, 3 Assists vs. Michigan State, Michigan, and Providence [2 games])
Part V: Head to Head with Hanifin (1 Goal, 3 Assists vs. BC & UConn)
Part VI: Manhandling Maine (2 Goals, 4 Assists vs. UConn & Maine [2 games])
Part VII: Peaks & Valleys (1 Goal, 5 Assists vs. Harvard, Colgate, Dartmouth & Merrimack [2 games])
Part VIII: Gearing Up for the WJC (2 Assists vs. RPI)
Part IX: Back On Top (2 Goals, 2 Assists vs. Wisconsin [2 games])
Part X: Power Play Maven (1 Goal, 2 Assists vs. BC & UMass Lowell)
Part XI: Money in Overtime (2 Goals vs. Vermont [2 games])
Part XII: UMass’s Worst Nightmare (2 Goals, 5 Assists vs. UMass Amherst, Harvard & UMass Lowell)
Part XIII: Separating From the Pack (1 Goal, 3 Assists vs. UNH [2 games])
Part XIV: Beanpot Champions (2 Assists vs. Notre Dame [2 games], Northeastern)
Part XV: Hobey Baker Race is Over (4 Goals, 7 Assists vs. Northeastern & Merrimack)
Part XVI: Toe Drag Heard Round the World (4 Goals, 1 Assist vs. UNH & UMass Lowell)