For the first time in 51 weeks, the Boston University men’s hockey team has swept a weekend series.
The Terriers (12-9-8, 9-5-5 Hockey East) fought to a 3-1 victory over the University of New Hampshire (15-13-2, 9-10-1) at Agganis Arena Saturday night, finishing off a four-point Hockey East weekend that started with a 4-1 win at UNH the night before.
BU head coach Albie O’Connell said the game was a grind, but his guys stuck with it all weekend.
“It wasn’t a perfect game for us,” O’Connell said. “[I was] proud of the way the team played all weekend and battled.”
The Wildcats took the upper hand early as BU was outshot 14-4 in the opening period despite earning five minutes of power-play time on a major penalty and game misconduct to UNH sophomore forward and leading scorer Angus Crookshank about seven minutes in.
Crookshank’s ejection dealt a blow to the Wildcat bench, but UNH head coach Mike Souza had no complaints.
“That stuff happens,” Souza said. “It was the right call.”
BU freshman forward Wilmer Skoog flicked in a short-range backhand on the extended power play for his second goal of the weekend, answering senior forward Liam Blackburn’s snipe from the slot that opened the scoring just 1:24 into the game.
In a period that caused concern on the BU bench, O’Connell said Skoog’s individual effort was a much-needed spark.
“Skoog made a terrific play to end up depositing that,” O’Connell said.
The trend continued as UNH had 27 shots on goal to BU’s 10 after 40 minutes, but the Terriers had the only goal of the second frame on senior forward Patrick Curry’s team-leading 16th goal of the season, set up at the right post by freshman defenseman Domenick Fensore.
O’Connell said the go-ahead goal was all about Fensore’s slick assist to the captain.
“Fensore made a big-time play,” O’Connell said.
On the opposite side, Souza said he knew the Wildcats needed to take advantage of their opportunities.
“We out-chanced them and out-created them five-on-five, but who cares,” Souza said. “Had we buried some of our chances, we’d probably leave here with a split on the weekend.”
With the 2-1 lead, BU stalled the Wildcats when it mattered most, keeping a clean sheet in the third period. Junior forward Logan Cockerill iced the game with an empty-netter inside of 30 seconds to play, collecting his first goal since returning from an extended upper-body injury a month ago.
Getting back to 100 percent hasn’t been easy for Cockerill, he said, but the assistant captain said it was great to see his shot find the back of the net.
“I had a little bit of a tough time coming back from that injury, just not being able to shoot or stickhandle for two or three months,” Cockerill said. “So [I’ve been] just trying to get my confidence back here … I’ll take what I can get at this point.”
Graduate goaltender Sam Tucker finished with 30 saves on the night after starting both games of the back-to-back, and with only four shots faced in the third period, he said he thought BU’s defensive unit deserved the majority of the credit for the victory.
“I thought the team made it easy for me,” Tucker said. “They kept all the shots from the outside, and I think we were really strong at controlling the play in our ‘D’ zone.’”
Giving Tucker consecutive starts for the first time since December, O’Connell said his graduate goaltender leaned on his experience and rose to the occasion.
“He’s a veteran in college hockey and I just thought his compete level was off the charts,” O’Connell said. “He was solid and gave us a chance both nights, especially tonight, to really get our feet.”
The sweep lifted BU up to third in Hockey East, just one point shy of a two-way tie for first between Boston College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
After dropping consecutive games, including Feb. 10’s heartbreaking Beanpot final, Cockerill thought this weekend was the perfect rebound for BU.
“We were upset, … there’s no use to us sitting around for a couple weeks and dropping points,” Cockerill said. “The message was just to kind of ‘Turn the page and let’s see what we can do this weekend,’ and coming out with the sweep was the best case scenario.”
BU now moves on to a home-and-home series with the University of Connecticut (12-13-4, 9-8-2 Hockey East) next weekend.