All opinions are my own.
The Boston University men’s hockey team (1-1-0) returned to Comm Ave yesterday evening for the first game hosted at Agganis Arena in 581 days. Coming off a 2-1 victory in Hartford the night before, the squad looked for the weekend sweep against the University of Connecticut Huskies (2-1-0) but instead got dominated for most of the competition in a 5-1 loss.
“It’s tough to know where to begin. We talked 24 hours ago about how excited we were about the win and the way we played, and it was a complete 180,” head coach Albie O’Connell said in the post game press conference. “We play in a hard league, UConn’s a really good team––probably one of the best teams in the league––and we played like we thought it was going to be easy.”
No doubt boosted by the fans in the crowd and an emotional 100-year-anniversary video, the Terriers came out with an energy that soon dwindled as the game progressed. The ice didn’t fully begin to tilt in favor of the opponents until the middle frame as the first period ended at 1-1. However, BU never showed a full tenacity to win––or to just make a solid play.
UConn got on the board first at 9:52 with a goal from senior forward Marc Gatcomb who tapped a cross crease pass from fellow senior forward Jachym Kondelik past sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso. The Terriers trailed first in Friday’s game too, playing from behind the Huskies for a majority of the series.
BU found the equalizer from transfer student and junior forward Matt Brown who joined the Terriers this season after playing with UMass Lowell for two years. Senior defenseman Joseph Campelito’s original shot had a loose rebound which Brown was able to sauce past the goal line and into the empty net at 9:52. This was his first goal of the season, and as a Terrier.
Brown’s ability to gel with his line and his team while also leading by example on the ice so early in the season was perhaps one of the small positives the group can take from the night.
“He had a lot of energy, he had a lot of chances. He probably could’ve scored three or four. It was exciting to see him get some confidence with that goal and break out––he moved his feet a lot better tonight than he did last night,” O’Connell said of Brown’s play.
The scoring stopped there for the home team for the rest of the night as the Huskies took over the game for the remaining 40 minutes. UConn regained the lead less than a minute into the middle frame after senior forward Jonny Evans was left open on the right side and slapped one home for a 2-1 advantage.
The Huskies simply outplayed BU as they looked for a tally to even the score. UConn cycled the Terriers in the offensive zone––it almost looked like they were using BU as practice dummies to run through their plays. The Terriers could barely get it past the blue line as the middle was completely clogged by their opponents and they were getting pushed off of pucks often and easily.
“It’s just really sad for the people who came out to watch the team play tonight,” O’Connell said. “Lack of urgency, lack of understanding the situation––we hadn’t been in Agganis for four or 500 days, and we’ve got a packed crowd––it just wasn’t good enough, it’s not going to be good enough.”
Sophomore forward Ryan Tverberg took advantage of the flatness of BU’s game and capitalized on an offensive zone turnover. He blew past all the Terrier defensemen and dished the puck from his backhand to forehand to then tuck it into the back of the net at 9:46.
The scarlet and white continued to give up a handful of odd man rushes and couldn’t put together a successful connecting pass without a Husky getting in the way. It was sloppy pond hockey that frustrated the group and fans alike. Things got a bit more scrappy towards the end of the second with after-the-whistle hits and tussles on the boards––if they couldn’t find a way to score, at least they were being physical.
The last 20 minutes of play were rattled with penalties and consistent poor play. Freshman forward Tyler Boucher, freshman defenseman Ty Gallagher, sophomore forward Nick Zabaneh, and junior defenseman Alex Vlasic all spent time in the sin bin throughout the third period while UConn continued to score.
“We played like a bunch of boys, they played like a bunch of men,” O’Connell said of his squad’s performance.
Tverberg got his second of the game and third of the season with a wonky goal that trickled past Commesso and bounced off the far goal post and in. Now 4-1 at 5:55, there was a pretty deflating tone that encapsulated Agganis and the players on the BU bench.
The Huskies struck once more in the second half of the third to reach the final 5-1 score. Junior defenseman Carter Berger sniped the puck from just above the right circle, putting salt in the wound of what had already been a tough night.
Following this goal, O’Connell pulled Commesso from between the pipes and gave sophomore netminder Vinny Duplessis some ice time. The head coach made it clear that he was in no way disappointed in his starter’s play, he just wanted to give him a break from the mental and physical strain of the competition.
“Commesso was outstanding even giving up five––it could’ve been 10,” O’Connell said. “He gave us everything he could.”
The final minutes ticked away to close out a game BU probably hopes to forget. The Terriers will look to redeem themselves next weekend in their home series against Sacred Heart University. They’ll be given two opportunities to garner a win on Agganis ice, starting on Friday at 7:30p.m. and then Saturday at 7:00p.m. As usual, we’ll be live tweeting the games on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and will have content on Instagram @boston.hockey.blog throughout the week.