Top line, goaltending lift BU to 9th Hockey East tournament title

Scott McLaughlin
March 17, 2018 - 9:36 pm

Jordan Greenway and Brady Tkachuk being on the same line can create some major problems for Boston University’s opponents. Their size and puck control in the offensive zone can wear down the opposition, and it was exactly those characteristics that helped Boston University beat Providence College, 2-0, and capture the school’s ninth Hockey East tournament championship Saturday night.

Greenway, a 2015 second-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, and Tkachuk, a projected first-round pick in the 2018 draft, had already started creating chances and long offensive-zone possessions in the second period, and then it paid off with the game’s decisive goal 56 seconds into the third. 

Tkachuk got in on the forecheck and prevented the Friars from gaining control of the puck. Then Greenway swooped in and won a 1-on-1 battle against another defender before setting up linemate Drew Melanson right in front for a one-timer that beat Providence goalie Hayden Hawkey over the glove.

Greenway, in particular, has been playing the best hockey of his college career over the last couple months, something BU coach David Quinn noted in his postgame press conference Friday night. The 6-foot-5, 238-pound wing-turned-center (Tkachuk stands 6-foot-3, 197 pounds by the way) has always shown the ability to take over games in spurts, but he had never really done it quite consistently enough.

That started to change late in the first half, particularly in a six-point series against UMass Lowell on Dec. 8-9, and carried into the second half. He had points in five of his six games before leaving for the Olympics in early February. 

That tournament, where he was one of the United States’ top forwards, only seemed to boost his confidence even more, as he now has three goals and five assists in six games since returning. As Quinn pointed out Friday night, BU hasn’t lost a game with Greenway in the lineup since Jan. 6, and that’s not a coincidence.

As the Terriers now head to the NCAA tournament -- somewhere they wouldn’t be had they not won the Hockey East tournament thanks to their first-half inconsistency -- Greenway and his linemates will continue to be the straw that stirs BU’s drink, and suddenly the prospect of making a run in NCAAs doesn’t seem far-fetched at all.

The Friars will also be heading to the NCAA tournament, as they had already done enough to lock up an at-large bid before Saturday night.

Special credit also needs to be given to BU goalie Jake Oettinger, who stopped all 30 shots he faced Saturday, one night after standing on his head in overtime against Boston College in the semifinals. The sophomore hasn’t matched his freshman performance for much of this season, but he seems to have figured things out at the perfect time, as he has a save percentage over .950 over the last month.

BU and Providence split control of the first two periods Saturday night, though neither was able to score. Providence had much more possession in the first period and built up an 18-9 advantage in shots on goal and 32-17 advantage in shot attempts, although the Friars did settle for a lot of shots from the outside and didn’t generate enough traffic or rebounds.

The second period started pretty evenly, but then BU really started to take control over the second half of the frame. The Terriers registered nine of the period’s final 10 shots on goal and ended up with a 12-6 edge in shots on goal and 32-14 margin in shot attempts. 

Unlike Providence in the first, the Terriers were also able to turn that possession and attempts into some high-quality looks, though Hawkey stood tall. Their best chance came with just under nine minutes left in the period when Shane Bowers set up a trailing Melanson on a 3-on-2, but Hawkey came up with a big pad save.

Bobo Carpenter wrapped up the title with an empty-net goal with 1:22 remaining.