In Friday night’s series opener at Maine’s Alfond Arena, the Boston University men’s hockey team managed 41 shots on goal but could not overcome the Black Bears in a 4-2 defeat.
“We didn’t shoot the puck very well tonight,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell, suggesting that the quality of BU’s shots was not good enough to push the visitors past Maine (5-2, 2-1 Hockey East).
As became a theme on the night, both teams managed 12 shots on goal in the first period, but it was Maine who was able to cash in.
On a power play four minutes in, freshman forward Ben Poisson finished off a quick series of passes to tally his first collegiate goal. 12 minutes later, senior forward Sam Rennaker found the back of the net on a quick rush into the BU zone to double Maine’s lead at the first break.
“We have to be better,” said O’Connell, whose Terriers (2-2-2, 1-1-1 Hockey East) found themselves behind after 20 minutes for just the second time this season.
The early stages of the second period were interrupted by multiple penalties for both sides, and in a four-on-four situation, BU got one back to cut into Maine’s lead.
Taking over possession from sophomore forward Matt Quercia, freshman forward Jamie Armstrong attacked the Maine zone in a two-on-one alongside freshman defenseman Dom Fensore. Outwaiting the lone Black Bear, Armstrong fired in his first goal as a Terrier.
O’Connell said that when BU were finding success, they “played simple and played hard.”
The Terriers controlled play for much of the middle period, but in the final seconds, graduate goaltender Sam Tucker was called upon for a pair of crucial stops to keep the Black Bear lead within one at the second intermission.
“He was great,” said O’Connell about Tucker, who finished with 31 saves on the night.
BU continued on the front foot in the third, amassing 11 shots before Maine could get their first. While the pressure was encouraging, the Terriers struggled to find an end product.
“[It’s about] bearing down in those moments and putting it in the back of the net,” O’Connell said.
When the Terriers could not capitalize, the hosts were able to notch the game’s next goal.
Against the run of play 10 minutes through the third, sophomore forward Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup knocked in a cross-crease feed from Poisson to restore Maine’s two-goal advantage.
“[We were] a little bit youthful with some of our decisions,” said O’Connell, noting that Maine took advantage of such mistakes.
BU fought back to narrow the lead again when senior forward Patrick Curry potted a rebound with BU skating six-on-five under two minutes to play. Freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone and sophomore forward Matt Quercia were involved in the buildup before the captain put it in.
“I liked our effort,” O’Connell said after the game.
BU’s fortune with the net vacant did not last much longer, as Maine senior forward Tim Doherty sent a defensive zone faceoff win 200 feet into the gaping BU goal to seal the 4-2 victory.
According to O’Connell, “[Maine] stuck with their gameplan.”
While Sam Tucker was solid between the pipes, the Terrier netminder was overshadowed by his counterpart in the Maine net, where junior goaltender Jeremy Swayman finished with 39 stops.
“I think [Swayman] saw a lot of the pucks,” said O’Connell. “There wasn’t enough traffic.”
Coach O’Connell knows his men can do better than what they showed on Friday night.
“We have to get the youth out of our game,” said the second-year boss, whose line chart on Friday featured nine freshmen.
Maturing on the job will be a tall ask for the young Terriers, but BU will have an opportunity to show improvement when they return for a rematch against Maine on Saturday night at 6pm.