For all intents and purposes, Sunday night’s matchup between No. 1 Boston College and Hockey East archrival and 11th-ranked Boston University was a one-goal game.
After sophomore right wing Destry Straight scored just 43 seconds into the action, the teams went toe to toe until the Eagles opened it up more than halfway through the third period on the way to a 4-2 victory in front of 6,150 at Agganis Arena.
BC improved to 8-1-0 with seven victories in a row, and BU dropped to 5-3-0.
“It was an exciting game to be involved with, it was an exciting game to watch,’’ said BU coach Jack Parker.
“I was amazed the score was what it was at the end of the second period with all the power plays. Both teams did great jobs killing penalties. They go 0 for 6, we went 1 for 7.
“I thought that was probably the best part of the game as far as executing what we wanted to execute. They played pretty well on their power play and we did a good job killing it. We did not play well on our power play — we made it kind of easy for them to kill against us.’’
The turning point came at 11:01 of the third when BC turned a broken play into a goal. The Eagles took off on a two-on-one rush, but junior left wing Kevin Hayes had his pass broken up by BU defenseman Sean Escobedo.
Hayes got the puck back behind the goal line to the right of freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor (20 saves) and he tried to send it in front, but it wound up banking off O’Connor and into the net to make it 2-0.
“[Right wing] Danny Linell made a great chip out of the zone,’’ said Hayes. “Myself and Quinn Smith had a two-on-one from the red line in. I tried to pass it over to him but it hit their guy and went behind the net. Their goalie was down and I tried to make a play out front and fortunately I was lucky enough that it hit the goalie and went in.’’
BC made it 3-0 when sophomore left wing Johnny Gaudreau beat O’Connor just 1:22 later.
BU clawed back to within 3-1 on freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s first collegiate goal, scored from the right circle with the teams skating four a side.
Parker made the bold move to pull O’Connor a couple of times, particularly when BU had a six-on-four advantage with 3:15 minutes left. But BC junior center Bill Arnold put it out of reach with an empty-netter at 18:02.
BU sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera closed the scoring with his first goal of the season at 18:43 on the power play.
“Games like this help both our teams get better,’’ said BC coach Jerry York, now three victories shy of the all-time Division 1 mark set by Ron Mason.
“We push each other. Win or lose, you’re going to be better because of the game that we played. The skating, the checking, just good hockey from both teams.
“It was a little bit fractured because of all the penalties, but even with that there was some good hockey players from both teams. You [had] exceptional goaltending on both ends.’’
One area where BC clearly outplayed BU was in the faceoff circle. Arnold won 13 of 21 draws and Pat Brown won 8 of 9. Overall, BC won 33 of 54. Parker said that hurt the Terriers.
“We’ve got to get better off of faceoffs,’’ said Parker. “Especially power play and [penalty-killing] faceoffs. We lost a lot of those, which are real important. I thought we hung in there and played pretty well against the No. 1 team in the nation. They’re defending national champions and they’re the No. 1 team right now. From all the teams I’ve seen, they’re an awfully good team.’’
The rivals next square off for a two-game weekend series Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.