Behind five second-period goals, the Boston University men’s hockey team powered past Union College at the Achilles Center in the 2019-20 season opener on Saturday, 7-3.
“We feel good about it,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell regarding the victory, which saw his team notch their most goals in an opener since 2014-15.
The Terriers took the upper hand early with ten shots before Union’s first, and after a Union goal was waved off by the officials, BU found the game’s true icebreaker 14:27 in. Working his way up close, sophomore forward Matt Quercia snapped in a shot off passes from junior defenseman Cam Crotty and freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone to get BU up and running.
The visitors would double their lead 46 seconds later when senior forward Patrick Curry received a pass from his classmate and linemate Patrick Harper and spun out from behind the net to launch a shot goal-bound. The captain’s effort would find a hole at the near post, and the Terrier lead would become two.
“We wanted to stress having a good start,” said Curry, who led by example in lighting the lamp himself less than a period into his fourth season with BU.
Trailing by a pair, the Dutchmen got on the board with 3:24 left in the period through freshman forward Chaz Smedsrud, dancing his way inside and firing one past graduate goaltender Sam Tucker, cutting BU’s lead to 2-1.
A minute later, the Dutchmen added a second to knot the game up at 2. It was junior forward Sean Harrison who shoved the puck in from the right post, bringing the game all square as the teams headed to the break tied, 2-2.
“We felt like we kind of gave them some life,” said O’Connell in regards to surrendering the two-goal advantage. The second-year coach was happy with his team’s response though, saying, “the captains did a good job of keeping the group calm.”
BU came flying out of the gates again to begin the second period, and it didn’t take long for them to find success. Mastrosimone opened his college account two minutes in with a seeing-eye snipe that found the keeper’s five-hole. The assists went to his fellow first-year forward Ethan Phillips and junior defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo, and BU’s lead was restored at 3-2.
“A couple [freshmen] got some points, so they’re probably feel pretty good about themselves,” the coach said about Mastrosimone and others.
Continuing the onslaught to open the second period, senior forward Gabriel Chabot benefitted from some puck luck at the 6:24 mark, sneaking one in from a tricky angle to the keeper’s right to finish off a move involving freshman forward Sam Stevens and junior defenseman David Farrance.
“Our last line was probably our best,” O’Connell said in reference to the attacking trio of Chabot, Stevens and freshman Jamie Armstrong. “They played pretty simple, but they wore the other team down quite a bit.”
The physicality demonstrated by BU’s fourth line was present across the Terrier roster, with both veterans and newcomers welcoming contact and conflict.
“You can’t win college hockey games if you don’t have some physicality to you,” said O’Connell.
Riding the momentum, Curry got his second of the game after several good looks on the power play, eventually finding the back of the net with 8:36 to play in the frame, converting off of a slick feed from Harper who had gained the puck from Farrance.
To explain BU’s flurry of goals in quick succession, Curry pointed to the “long change” between the benches and their respective defensive zones during the second period, tiring the Dutchmen.
The hosts would get one back on a power play with 5:38 left when senior forward Anthony Rinaldi potted the loose change from just outside the BU crease.
Not to be outdone, BU would respond just 46 seconds later. It was Quercia again who was in the right place at the right time, corralling a free puck after Phillips moved it along and swinging it by the helpless netminder to match Curry with a game-high two goals.
“I got a couple lucky bounces there,” said the humble Quercia, whose two goals on the night beat his total of one from last season.
With a 6-3 lead, BU was not done just yet, adding a seventh with just under a minute and a half left in the period. On the power play, Curry and freshman forward Trevor Zegras provided the assists for Farrance, who found a seam in the Dutchmen defense and exploited it for the score.
With so many different players chipping in with goals and assists, Quercia said that with the personnel BU has, “the talent comes out eventually.”
With the visitors exploding for 21 second period shots to Union’s two, BU’s 7-3 lead after 40 minutes would prove to be all the Terriers needed.
With BU protecting the four-goal advantage, the game’s pace would slow in the third. The Terriers gained the benefit of four Union penalties in the final frame, but could not capitalize to expand the lead. On the other end, the defense did plenty to kill off the game, holding Union to just 13 shots in the contest and five in the final two periods combined.
“They made a lot of hard plays look easy,” O’Connell said of his defensive ranks.
With a scoreless third, the game would end 7-3 in favor of the visitors in scarlet and white.
“I think we were just playing the systems we drew up the right way,” said Quercia.
While he was pleased with his team’s first performance of the season, Coach O’Connell knows there is still plenty of opportunity for his team to grow.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “It’s a long season.”
It will be hard to satisfy the coach and his hungry team, but the impressive win was exactly what the Terriers had in mind to start their season.
As Patrick Curry said, “we did what we needed to do.”