If you were putting an ad campaign together for Friday night’s Providence-Boston University hockey game, what you would you focus on?
Matt Grzelcyk slightly chuckled when asked, but he didn’t hesitate with a reply.
“It wouldn’t be too tough,” the Boston University senior said, “you already know what it’s going to center around.”
Grzelcyk was referring to “The Goal” that sparked Providence to a 4-3 victory over the Terriers in the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four title game.
Grzelcyk was asked because in addition to being a third-round draft pick of the NHL’s Boston Bruins and the first BU player in 85 years to be named the sole captain in consecutive seasons for his team, he’s also majoring in advertising and communications.
From the sounds of it he’s going to be pretty good at whichever path he chooses.
Tonight’s much-anticipated rematch at 6 p.m. ET on ASN is the first meeting of the Hockey East rivals this season. The last time the teams met on the ice BU peppered Providence goalie John Gillies with 52 shots — second most in title game history — only to see the game slip away after Tom Parisi scored from mid ice late in the third period.
It wasn’t the game winner, but it tied the game at 3 and shifted momentum.
“It was totally unexpected from everyone watching the game,” Parisi said. “Honestly, I never saw it. I was just lofting the puck into their zone and was headed to bench when the place just erupted and my teammates started grabbing and pushing me and telling me I scored.”
Grzelcyk didn’t see it, either.
“I was just about to come onto the ice. I wasn’t looking that direction and the crowd just started going crazy,” he said. “I had to look up to the Jumbo Tron to see what happened. It just …”
It changed everything.
So, what happened?
Parisi was just crossing the red line and about to head to the bench when he casually flipped the puck from center ice into the BU zone. BU goalie Matt O’Connor, one of the top goalies in the country, caught the puck in his glove — then inadvertently dropped it into the net. O’Connor later said he didn’t realize he had caught the puck in his glove.
“I have a lot of respect for Matt and the way he handled the questions after,” Grzelcyk said. “If it weren’t for him we wouldn’t have gotten that far, and he felt so bad after. He felt like he cost the guys in the locker room the title. He’s a good guy.”
On the ice, chaos ensued.
As the arena erupted in disbelief, ESPN announcers erroneously credited Parisi’s teammate Kyle McKenzie with the goal, so now McKenzie and not Parisi is famous on replays. Parisi doesn’t mind.
“It was pretty surreal,” said Parisi, a senior defenseman who now fields questions from friends , family and fans on a regular basis like “Did you use a pitching wedge on that shot?” or “Did you know it went in?” and “What were you trying to do?”
Two minutes later, the rejuvenated Friars scored the game-winning goal with 1:17 to play when Brandon Tanev, now a senior and Parisi’s roommate, got the puck off the draw, skated left between the circles and fired a wrist shot over the glove-side shoulder of O’Connor from point-blank range.
Asked if he would have preferred to take Tanev’s picturesque shot — or his long bomb — Parisi hesitated to choose.
“His was beautiful,” Parisi said. “Mine, it definitely wasn’t the way I’d draw it up, but I’ll take it.”
BU entered the title game as the favorite, but tonight Providence is unbeaten (6-0-1) and ranked No. 1 in the country while BU is 5-3, riding a three-game win steak and ranked 11th.
Mix in last year’s title loss — or victory, depending on your point of view — and both teams are ready for a physical game.
“BU is still a very good team,” Parisi said. “Their team has changed since last year and so has ours, but it’s the Hockey East and they’re about an hour away, so I would guess beating them in the championship game is going to escalate our rivalry even more.”
Providence banks on its veteran experience. Parisi and Tanner are two of 10 seniors on the roster and while Gillies, the Frozen Four MVP, left after his junior year to play pro hockey, junior Nick Ellis has filled in well. Ellis sports a 2.18 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
The Terriers are also settling in for another title run. After losing O’Connor and Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) to the pros, BU is anchored by Grzelcyk, the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week. He saw his first action of the season last weekend since having knee surgery during the offseason. He scored two goal and added an assist in BU’s sweep over Northeastern.