The Boston University men’s hockey team (2-2) hosted the Sacred Heart University Pioneers (1-2) for the second time this weekend in their back-to-back series at Agganis Arena. After a late 3rd period game winning goal from Sacred Heart on Friday, the Terriers were out for redemption and garnered a 4-1 victory tonight.
“We challenged the group today. We had some hard meetings with some lines and individuals and the team in general about how we need to play to win, and I thought we responded really well,” Head coach Albie O’Connell said in the post game press conference. “It was a different feel on the bench––it was a different energy.”
The first half of the opening frame was a ping pong match of penalties back and forth. Pioneer junior forward Kevin Lombardi landed himself in the sin bin for a tripping penalty at 1:05. The Terriers had no success on that power play, but were back on the man-advantage at 3:16 after Sacred Heart got called for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty on the bench.
Again, BU had no puck luck on the power play and were unable to get much of a cycle going. Given two opportunities to get on the board first early in the period is something this squad needed to take advantage of, especially after coming off a tough loss the night before.
Sacred Heart went up a man at 5:56 after freshman forward Tristan Amonte collected two minutes for interference. The Terriers had a pretty productive PK with junior forward Robert Mastrosimone breaking out of the zone for a breakaway and attempted deke. Junior netminder Justin Robbins was able to deflect the shorthanded shot to keep the game 0-0.
Consistent with the special teams theme that unravelled in the first, the home team finally got one to the back of the net at 16:28 with a highlight reel shorthanded goal from junior forward Sam Stevens. Set to take the faceoff, Stevens propelled the puck forward right over Robbins’ shoulder to lift his squad a 1-0 edge.
“That was an incredible goal. Not only the shot but the intelligence and where his stick placement was going into the draw and understanding where the goalie was too,” O’Connell said. “You could see that on ESPN, it was really really well done.”
Stevens’ tally seemed to kickstart the BU bench. Playing with a spark of life and purpose, the Terriers were flying around the offensive zone, creating chances by throwing nearly everything on net. Ending the period on a high, the group headed into the second looking to defend their lead.
Freshman forward Tyler Boucher doubled the Pioneer’s deficit in the opening minutes of the second period. Sitting at the doorstep, Boucher tapped junior forward Matt Brown’s initial shot from the right circle past the left pad of Robbins to garner his first goal as a Terrier.
Boucher has consistently been working hard night in and night out so it’s nice to see him get rewarded at the collegiate level. Additionally, coming out in the second, asserting dominance, and building on a lead, was a big positive for BU to maintain the momentum and their own confidence.
The Pioneers clawed back to within one off a snapshot from senior forward Todd Goehring at 7:42. It didn’t seem to rattle the Terriers, though, as they began to find their groove and respond a little less than three minutes later.
Junior forward Ethan Phillips netted his first goal since January 24, 2020 of his freshman year campaign. Phillips only played one game for BU last season, so there’s no doubt it feels good to get back on the scoring sheet after such an extended absence. His redirect of a shot from Mastrosimone at the point put the competition at 3-1.
“It feels really good. I had some chances in the games we’ve had this season and to finally get the monkey off the back after almost two years feels really good,” Phillips said of his goal.
The scarlet and white sustained their refreshingly fast-paced tempo for the remainder of the middle frame and finished the period up 19-12 in SOG.
BU showed up to the last 20 minutes of play determined to secure their first home-ice win in what’s been close to 600 days. Junior forward Wilmer Skoog received a slick pass from junior defenseman Domenick Fensore on the left wing, wristing the puck right past the goal line for his first of the year.
Skating with their largest lead of the regular season so far, the Terriers played with a greater sense of unity; connecting passes, communicating on defense, and finding the open shot much better than they have in recent games.
Junior defenseman Alex Vlasic found himself in the box at 7:54 for a slashing call, but his squad held it down on the penalty kill, limiting Sacred Heart’s chances with their physical edge.
Sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso had some key saves in those two minutes and throughout the night, playing like his usual self. The netminder ended the night with 30 saves, notching another impressive performance for the books.
The competition got scrappy towards the end of the third. Fueled by the Pioneer’s frustration, the teams went at each other on the boards and graduate student forward Max Kaufman played a big part in sticking up for his group.
A slew of penalties were assessed throughout the chaos, resulting in some 4-on-4 and 4-on-3 hockey, but the score stayed at 4-1 until the final buzzer sounded.
BU put together a cohesive team win after somewhat concerning performances in their past two matchups. The squad played under a single identity and seemed to be having fun for the first time in a while. They’ll hopefully carry this sentiment into their upcoming games.
“The locker room was pretty rambunctious, the music went on quick,” O’Connell said. “It’s nice to win at home, it’s nice to have a crowd of people cheer you when you win, it’s nice to salute the fans after you do it.”
The Terriers will be back in action next weekend in their home-and-home series against the Merrimack College Warriors. The puck will drop at 7:00p.m. in North Andover on Friday, and 7p.m. back in Boston on Saturday. We’ll have a preview for the series up on the blog later this week, and as always, follow along @BOShockeyblog on twitter and @boston.hockey.blog on Instagram for updates.