Backstopped by 32 saves from graduate goaltender Sam Tucker, the Boston University men’s hockey team blanked the University of New Hampshire 3-0 on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.
“Our goaltender was arguably the best player on the ice tonight,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell.
The meeting with UNH (2-2-1, 1-1-0 Hockey East) marked the second game of a two-day doubleheader for the Terriers (2-1-2, 1-0-1 Hockey East). In Friday’s Hockey East opener, the Terriers tied the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (4-2-2, 1-0-1 Hockey East), 3-3.
Senior forward Patrick Curry was kept scoreless for the first time all season on Friday night in Lowell, but it didn’t take long for the captain to find the back of the net against the Wildcats.
With the Terriers pinning UNH deep five minutes in, freshman defenseman Alex Vlasic unloaded on a slapshot that ramped off the stick of Curry and in for his team-leading fifth goal of the season.
“It was a great play by Vlasic,” O’Connell pointed out. The helper was the second of the six-foot-six d-man’s young college career.
Curry’s goal would be the only of the period as BU kept UNH quiet, thanks in part to the work of graduate goaltender Sam Tucker, who made 25 saves the night before. The keeper stayed hot early against UNH, stoning dangerous net drives by forwards Kohei Sato and Angus Crookshank.
“[Tucker] was good last night, and he was better tonight,” said O’Connell.
Senior forward Patrick Harper exited the game during the first period with an apparent lower-body injury. The assistant captain was one of BU’s hottest players, having scored four goals in the previous three games, but his absence forced a reshuffling of the BU lines.
“In practice, we’ve all played with each other,” said freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone, who wasn’t concerned with mixing up the forward groups. “I think everyone…has the ability at this level to play with anyone on the team.”
The back-and-forth play that kept the first period close continued in the second, and both teams would light the lamp through the middle frame. However, only one goal would stand.
At 11:34, BU freshman defenseman Case McCarthy spun the puck centrally to Mastrosimone. After a Wildcat initially intercepted the pass, Mastrosimone won it back and fired it in from the slot to notch his second collegiate goal and make the lead two.
“I just turned and shot far side,” explained Mastrosimone, making a skillful play seem simple.
The visitors thought they had found their opener with two minutes to play when a crowd in front forced the puck by Tucker after it bounced off two posts. However, video review would lead the officials to reverse the call, reinstating BU’s 2-0 lead at the second intermission.
“We bent a little bit, but we didn’t break,” O’Connell said.
UNH threw everything they had at BU in the third period, putting up 14 shots on goal to BU’s four in the final 20 minutes. The Terriers held on, though, preventing a Wildcat comeback.
“We really buckled down,” said Mastrosimone. Tucker added, “I gotta give full marks to our defense and our forwards, really weathering the storm.”
Sam Tucker was flawless all night, but perhaps the 23-year old’s most impressive play came halfway through the third period on a dive at full-stretch to punch the puck away from his right post.
“I got a little lucky diving across,” the goaltender admitted.
Patrick Curry secured the victory in the game’s final moments with his second goal of the game, scoring on an empty net from 70 feet away with assists from sophomore forward Matt Quercia and junior defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo.
When the final buzzer sounded, Sam Tucker had his first shutout as a Terrier.
“It’s a really nice feeling,” he said.
For Tucker and the Terrier defense, keeping a zero on the scoreboard was the perfect way to respond to surrendering a three-goal lead against UMass Lowell the night before.
“It was nice to see us eventually end up closing them out,” said Coach O’Connell.
The strong defensive outing was all the more impressive when considering that BU was without junior defenseman Cam Crotty, who had suffered an injury against Lowell that O’Connell confirmed was “not anything serious”.
“We grinded out a win,” the second-year head coach said. “We were a little short on the bench.”
With a tie and a win in their first weekend of Hockey East action, BU has claimed a spot towards the top of the conference standings early in the 2019-20 season.
“It was a really good confidence booster for the team,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell of the undefeated weekend. “To get three out of four points in the league, we’re pretty excited about the weekend.”
Tucker agreed, saying, “it’s still early, but it feels good to get some points on the board.”
BU will now move on to face the University of Maine (4-3-0, 1-1-0 Hockey East) in a two-game trip to Orono next weekend.