The Boston University men’s hockey team (3-7) fell to the Northern Michigan University wildcats (5-5) in the second leg of their away series. The Saturday night game ended with a score of 6-2 and would be the second consecutive weekend where the Terriers were swept.
“We played well five on five,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said after the game. “I thought we broke the puck out well… [The defense] did a good job managing the puck in the neutral zone. They hinged well, they got the puck in at the offensive blue, they were pretty good. So they didn’t have a ton of five on five chances.”
Instead of starting with their usual netminder, O’Connell opted for sophomore Vinny Duplessis to start in net after the deflating loss to NMU the night before. Sophomore Drew Commesso has let in 10 goals in the last three matchups and while he definitely doesn’t deserve all of the blame, Duplessis was the more logical start.
“At the start of the game I thought he was there,” O’Connell said of his goaltender. “I think overall, goaltending wise, I think both guys would like to be better. I think we’d like them to be better. I think they probably want to be better, but at the same time, especially on the penalty kill, we have to be better as a group.”
The Terriers came out of the locker room with a ton of energy and spirit with several controlling minutes of puck possession early in the first. Despite the strong start, the game quickly turned into 60 minutes of undisciplined hockey with 40 minutes in penalties between the two teams.
Just over five minutes into the first period, sophomore forward Mikey Colella skated up the left wing alone and opened up the scoring for his squad. This would be the Wenonah, New Jersey native’s sixth goal of the season and first of the night.
Two minutes after the Colella goal, freshman forward Ty Gallagher tallied his first collegiate goal to knot the score at one apiece. Unfortunately for Terrier fans, it would be one of the only bright spots for the rest of the 60 minutes, and one of the only times Gallagher’s name would be spoken of so highly through the rest of the game.
NMU took the first penalty of the night as Tanner Vescio was sent to the box for cross checking at 10:46 of the period. This would be the first penalty of a highly-whistled matchup as Gallagher was sent to the box four minutes after NMU’s successful kill for a tripping call of his own.
While on the man advantage, Colella netted his second goal of the night at 17:53. Trevor Cosgrove’s shot attempt rebounded off of Duplessis’ pad and Colella was able to pick up the puck and sneak it just between Duplessis and the net to put his squad up 2-1.
12 seconds after the goal, Gallagher was sent back to the penalty box on a cross-checking call. Now on their second power play of the night, NMU’s AJ Vanderbeck furthered the score to 3-1. Graduate forward Max Kaufman successfully blocked Vanderbeck’s first shot, but he picked up his own rebound and flew the puck over Duplessis shoulder.
The second period followed suit with sophomore forward Dylan Peterson taking a penalty for tripping at 1:04 of the second frame. The penalty kill was successful and had a few solid short-handed opportunities from junior forwards Sam Stevens and Robert Mastrosimone, but the Terriers couldn’t get past NMU’s sophomore netminder Rico DiMatteo.
The teams exchanged penalties with Michael Van Unen taking one for the Wildcats on a holding call, but the Terriers were unable to capitalize. At 14:13 of the period, Mastrosimone got a high-sticking call putting the Terriers down a player for the fourth time of the night in 35 minutes, giving NMU another capitalizing opportunity as Trevor Cosgrove’s slapper from the blue line flew past Duplessis, extending the score to 4-1 Wildcats.
A minute after the goal, the undisciplined play continued as freshman forward Tyler Boucher was sent to the boc for an elbowing call, and then Van Unen received his second penalty of the night for cross-checking.
The Terriers started the third period with 13 seconds remaining on the power play but couldn’t capitalize on the man-advantage. At 3:47 of the final 20 minutes, four players took their place in the penalty box: junior blueliner and forward Case McCarthy and Wilmer Skoog for BU for Cross-checking, and Vanderbeck and former Terrier Hank Crone for embellishment and cross-checking, respectively.
In regards to all of the whistles blown in the Saturday matchup, O’Connell’s main takeaway was disappointment in his coaching staff.
“Our penalty kill was poor the entire weekend from how we’ve been managing off the rush. And that’s on the coaches. That’s 100% Getting those guys organized to play the right way. They’ve got to execute some things, but at the end of the day, it’s on us to get those guys to make sure they’re positioned better and in spots.”
With two players in each box, the teams still skated for two minutes 5-on-5, giving the Terriers the opportunity to minimize the gap with a goal from junior defenseman Domenick Fensore. Fensore picked up a pass from Ethan Phillips and shot the puck between the legs of DiMatteo and the play was under review for several minutes, but was deemed a good goal. Fensore’s third goal of the season brought his group up by one and married the score to 4-2.
Unfortunately, what could have been a game-changing goal turned out to be more of the same, as Boucher got his second elbowing penalty of the game, giving NMU another powerplay chance, and ultimately, another goal. Colella scored his third of the night as his shot went bardown and he was able to secure the hat trick. The Terriers, who had 26 penalty minutes in 60 minutes of play, let in their fourth power play goal of the night, and the score became 5-2.
Just when the game couldn’t get any worse, NMU’s Andre Ghantous scored an empty net goal at 18:14 to add salt to the wound. The 60 minutes came to a close with the Wildcats victorious at 6-2.
“We got to do a better job of coaching those guys up… It comes from our leadership group. I think Logan Cockerill has done a great job,” O’Connell said. “I thought he led the team really well from last night to tonight. And there’s nothing we can do but just continue to try to get better. And I think that’s kind of the mantra that the group has; there’s definitely a high level of frustration.”
The Terriers will be back in Boston on Friday night to take on last year’s NCAA champions, the UMass Amherst Minutemen, at 7:30pm in Agganis Arena, with coverage on Twitter @BOS.Hockey.Blog and on Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog.