The No. 10 Boston University men’s hockey team (1-0-0) took down the University of Connecticut Huskies (1-1-0) in a thrilling and resilient 2-1 victory at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday night.
“I’m psyched for the team,” head coach Albie O’Connell said after the game. “I’m psyched for the way we started that game.”
The first game of the regular season for the Terriers started off aggressive with back-to-back-to-back penalties being drawn by a seemingly-undisciplined Huskies core. Junior forward Vladislav Fristov took the first trip to the penalty box for hooking 1:15 into the game, and while the Terriers had a few shots in the offensive zone, they were unable to capitalize on the first opportunity.
Just over five minutes into the period, UConn secured the lead that would last them the next 50 minutes with a breakaway goal by Fristov that went five-hole on sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso. After the opening goal, Commesso stayed solid through the rest of the game, stopping 33 of 34 shots throughout the match.
Four minutes after the goal, BU went back on the powerplay when senior forward Marc Gatcomb was given two minutes for high-sticking. Despite getting eight shots during the man-advantage, the Terriers again failed to create a turnover. 50 seconds later, UConn was given their third penalty of the period on a tripping call by sophomore forward Artem Shlaine.
Despite having six minutes to capitalize on in the first period, the Terriers struggled to create chances in the Husky zone. UConn applied consistent pressure with plenty of hits on junior blueliner Domenick Fensore who would later be part of the turn-around goal for BU.
“I thought they did a good job of really pressuring us. We haven’t seen that type of pressure this year,” O’Connell explained. “We’re a little slow on the breakout and then in the zone, and once we did get [the power play] set up, we didn’t get enough shots. We had multiple opportunities to shoot the puck and we didn’t. If you don’t establish your shot, you’re not gonna have a good power play.”
After the series of UConn penalties, the Terriers were struck with two of their own as sophomore forward Dylan Peterson sat in the box for slashing at 13:55, followed by a hooking call on junior forward Robert Mastrosimone at 15:45. The rest of the period saw a few chances for both sides, and the period came to a close with BU down a goal.
Commesso was the star of the second period, if not the whole game, stopping 11 shots on goal and remaining as composed as ever. The Huskies had a beautiful opportunity in the last four seconds of the period but Commesso’s post-to-post glove save kept the differential to one and will likely be a contender for save of the year.
Leading the D-core tonight were juniors Fensore and assistant captain Alex Vlasic, as well as sophomore Cade Webber.
“I thought Dom [Fensore] was dynamite tonight. It was tough seeing him get hit with the way he did, but he’s like a rubber ball out there. He bounced right back up and makes a huge play — and a bunch of huge plays down the stretch– and he definitely looked like he had his skating legs early on in the game,” O’Connell said of Fensore.
Webber, having only played in 14 games last season, had a really solid game as a two-way defenseman for the Terriers, stepping up in shots offensively and blocked shots defensively.
“His best hockey is ahead of him, so I’m really excited to see how he could progress this year. He looks really good in practice, and he’s starting to get more confident,” O’Connell told the media.
The last frame started off with a one-man advantage for the Huskies as a penalty from freshman forward Ty Gallagher rolled over between the second and third periods, and the rest of the game remained fairly tame in terms of penalties with just one more for senior forward Carter Turnbull at 14:50 for boarding.
Despite the decrease in penalties, both teams came out with an aggressive intensity for the third, tallying 15 and 11 shots on goal from the Terriers and Huskies, respectively.
The real turning point came at 14:20 of the final period when Fensore skated coast-to-coast, driving the puck to the crease for a shot that would ultimately be saved by UConn netminder Darion Hanson, but would turn into a rebound scoring chance for the Terriers as junior forward Sam Stevens tucked the puck past the line to even the scoring at one.
Just thirty seconds later, Turnbull’s boarding penalty made room for Mastrosimone’s go-ahead goal to put the Terriers up one for the last five minutes of play. A twice-rebounded shot from junior defenseman Case McCarthy and junior forward Wilmer Skoog landed perfectly in front of Mastrosimone to hammer the puck home from the left circle.
“Our fourth line was terrific. Stevens with another goal, and then you get a powerplay goal when you need it, so [I’m] pretty pleased with the group. I really like our leadership and our effort. I really liked the bench a lot more tonight– we made great strides.”
The Terriers will return to Boston for a rematch with the Huskies in the official home-opener (and the first game played in Agganis Arena in 581 days) on October 9 at 7pm, with updates on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog.