O’Connor sets career high with 55 saves as BU ties North Dakota

Boston University celebrates Garrett Noonan’s goal in the first period (photo: Melissa Wade).

BOSTON — When Boston University sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor made 37 saves on Friday night, it was easy enough to wonder what he might be able to do for an encore.

He responded with a career-high 55 saves, including 24 in a thrilling third period, as BU managed to escape with a 3-3 tie against a relentlessly intense North Dakota team in front of 4,378 at Agganis Arena. After falling behind for the first time of the night at 6:45 of the third period, Terriers freshman Robbie Baillargeon notched the equalizer with 9:57 remaining.

Both teams had any number of great chances to win it in regulation, but had to settle for the deadlock after overtime.

“It’s the game of hockey,” North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. “Their guy played well in net. On this one, I’ll judge the performance, not necessarily the outcome. We played a better hockey game tonight than last night.”

“North Dakota played very well,” BU coach David Quinn said. “Early on, we were unable to match their intensity and their desperation. As the game went on, we played better, but penalties killed us.”

BU was outshot by a 58-31 margin, and Quinn felt that a big explanation for that disparity was the Terriers’ inability to get shots on goal, particularly in the first two periods.

“We missed the net 26 times, and I guarantee you that 15 or 20 of their shots were a result of that,” Quinn said.

Quinn felt that his players have tried too hard to snipe corners of the net instead of putting shots on the goalie and looking for rebounds. Any number of errant shots led to rushes the opposite way.

Coming off the loss on Friday night, North Dakota looked focused and hungry from the drop of the puck. There was also appeared to be trying to get BU off of its game with physical play — almost every time O’Connor covered the puck in the first two periods, there was all sorts of pushing and shoving afterwards.

Regardless, BU got the first goal on a four-on-three power play at 6:57 of the first period. Garrett Noonan got the puck at the point and skated in slowly. The defense backed off, and Noonan fired a shot that pinpointed the top corner on the glove side of Zane Gothberg.

North Dakota got that one back in less than two minutes.  With his back to the net at the top of the right-wing circle, Bryn Chyzyk got the puck and wheeled to release a low shot that eluded O’Connor.

Despite being outshot 21-5 as of 6:50 of the second period, BU regained the lead at 6:59. Danny O’Regan got the puck behind the net and teed up Nick Roberto for a one-timer and a goal. Roberto was making his debut as first-line right wing due to Friday night’s shoulder injury to Cason Hohmann.

Just 14 seconds later, Stephane Pattyn tied it again. It was similar to the goal BU had just scored, as Michael Parks set up Pattyn from behind the net for a great grade A shot and score.

The third period was exhausting to watch. On a power play, Roberto almost got another goal when he redirected an Ahti Oksanen shot off of the post, but then BU’s Jake Moscatel took a very avoidable penalty for charging, and North Dakota took its first lead during the waning seconds of that man advantage. Brendan O’Donnel, who had sat out Friday’s game due to injury, did a great job of selling the shot from the left-wing side before passing to Adam Tambellini on the right wing. O’Connor couldn’t get over to cover the far side of the net, and the freshman buried it.

On a rush midway through the period, BU tied it 3-3. Robbie Baillargeon skated up the right wing and slipped it to Evan Rodrigues on his left. Rodrigues tried to pass it to his left as well, but the puck caromed off a stick and went back to Baillargeon on the right-wing side. He made a quick move and tucked it in.

BU’s Matt Lane had a great chance on the doorstep on a late power play, and North Dakota almost scored on a crazy scrum in front of O’Connor in the last 40 seconds, but the score didn’t change.

“Very disappointing,” North Dakota forward Stephane Pattyn said. “I thought we played really ,really well … If we keep playing like that, we’re going to win more games than we lose.”

Coach Hakstol seemed more upbeat.  “As usual when we come out on an Eastern swing, we ran into some challenges. We probably got better as a hockey team, even though we’re leaving with one point.”

North Dakota (4-6-2) hosts St. Lawrence twice next weekend, while BU (6-6-1) looks forward to playing Cornell in the biannual Red Hot Hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.