In the 100th game of junior goaltender Jake Oettinger’s collegiate career, the Boston University men’s hockey team kept the University of Connecticut scoreless en route to a 2-0 victory, splitting the weekend series and bringing an end to BU’s six-game losing streak.
“It was important to bounce back,” said Oettinger. “It definitely feels good to get a win at home.”
After conceding twice in the opening frame on Friday night, the Terriers (11-15-3, 9-8-2 Hockey East) kept the Huskies (10-18-2, 5-13-2 Hockey East) showed early improvements on Saturday, with the teams remaining scoreless through 20 minutes. UConn attempted nine shots on goal in the stanza while BU put up 14 – an encouraging development following the mere five shots on target the Terriers tallied in the same amount of time the night before.
We protected our net,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell about the advances made on Saturday following the rough start in the series opener on Friday.
BU were the closer of the two teams to breaking the deadlock in the first. Junior forward Patrick Curry, who scored a late game-tying goal in the teams’ first meeting, found a hole in the Husky defense with four minutes remaining. This time around, though, the Illinois native would not be able to beat freshman keeper Tomas Vomacka, and the sides stayed 0-0 after one.
“Their goalie in the first made some highlight reel saves,” said O’Connell of Vomacka.
The deadlock would persist through the second period, with both teams struggling to establish an offensive rhythm. BU came up just inches away on multiple opportunities, including a two-on-one chance for Curry and linemate Joel Farabee late in the frame. The freshman looked to feed Curry on the rush, but the play was broken up just outside of Vomacka’s crease.
“That line’s got some pretty good chemistry,” said Coach O’Connell regarding the partnership of Farabee, Curry, and sophomore linemate Shane Bowers – all of which created chances throughout the weekend.
Play became more chippy into the final minutes of the frame as the Terriers and Huskies pushed for a late go-ahead goal to grab the lead at the break. Play would be halted three different times for penalties – two for BU, one for UConn – but even in special teams, nothing could separate the sides after 40 minutes, keeping the score 0-0.
“It was hard to get open ice,” said O’Connell of the tight play through two periods.
The ice was finally broken in the third, as sophomore forward Ty Amonte lit the lamp for BU 1:27 into the final frame. Sophomore Cam Crotty’s shot was knocked down by Vomacka following a pass by senior forward Ryan Cloonan, but Amonte was right there to sweep it in and give BU the lead. It was the sophomore’s fifth goal of the season, and his first in eight games.
“I think we’ve been competing real hard,” said Jake Oettinger, whose Terriers were rewarded for their competitive effort by scoring the opener for just the second time in eleven games.
Oettinger was solid throughout the game, but the junior really stood tall when the Terriers were defending the one-goal advantage. With BU in search of a second on the power play with nearly 12 minutes to play in regulation, UConn leading goal scorer Alexander Payusov snuck in for a breakaway. However, the junior forward was denied by the glove of Oettinger.
That definitely was nice for me to chip in a little bit,” said the Dallas Stars draftee, who made 26 saves in the contest. “I didn’t think I had a ton of work tonight.”
Oettinger and the Terrier defense would survive long enough for their attack to double the lead. Working on the penalty kill, Ryan Cloonan made a diving stop to win the puck for BU. It fell to sophomore defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo, who fed it forward for a streaking Joel Farabee. The Flyers prospect did the rest, firing high to the blocker side to put BU up 2-0 with 4:18 remaining. The tally marked his eleventh goal of the season – tied with linemate Curry for the team lead.
“Capitalizing on those chances is huge,” said Oettinger. “[The Farabee goal] gave us a little bit of breathing room.”
A final attempt to rally would come up empty for the Huskies, and BU would finish 2-0 victors. It was the first victorious shut-out of the season for the Terriers, and a welcomed end to the six-game skid.
We can breathe,” joked O’Connell about finally ending the losing streak – the program’s longest since 2014, and just one loss short of being BU’s longest since 1962.
On a more positive historical note, the shut-out was the 11th of Jake Oettinger’s career with BU, putting the junior just two away from reaching the Terrier record. With a flawless performance in his 100th game, it was certainly a special night for the Minnesota native.
“It’s crazy that it’s already been 100 games. It feels like I was playing my first one yesterday,” said Oettinger. “It’s definitely a cool milestone and nice to get a win in the 100th game.”
Even with the struggles as of late, the Terriers still find themselves just three points away from hosting a Hockey East playoff game, and four points off of the second spot in the division.
“This afternoon we looked at the records and said ‘look, everything’s up for grabs,’” said Coach O’Connell.
With confidence returning and a favorable schedule ahead, Coach O’Connell and his goaltender Oettinger are optimistic about the state of their team going forward.
“Guys were committed to doing the right thing and playing the right way, said O’Connell. “There was a lot of buy-in, so that’s a positive sign for sure.”
“Top to bottom I think it’s a really close-knit group,” said Oettinger. “It’s just really fun to be around the room.”
The Terriers will look to keep things moving in the right direction as they travel for a two-game set at the University of Vermont next weekend.