Written by James Garrison
The Boston University men’s hockey team (4-7-1, 3-4-1 Hockey East) traveled west to the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts on Saturday night to play the second game in their weekend series against the No. 8/9 UMass Amherst Minutemen (6-3-1, 4-1-1 Hockey East). After playing their most complete game of the season Friday night, the Terriers looked to finish the weekend on a positive note.
The Terriers welcomed junior forward Ethan Phillips after missing Friday’s game due to undisclosed reasons. Going into the night, Phillips was sixth on the team in scoring, with one goal and five assists for a total of six points, and he finished the night with three shots on goal and an even plus-minus rating.
The Terriers continued their strong play in the first period, outshooting the Minutemen 12-7. The Terriers controlled the majority of the play in the first period, with some great scoring chances that were almost buried by Jay O’Brien and Robert Mastrosimone. The positive impact of Jay O’Brien’s return continued to be felt throughout the Terriers’ locker room.
In his return Friday night, O’Brien was held off of the scoresheet but provided a noticeable boost in energy to the Terriers’ offense. At 18:01 of the first, O’Brien wired a wrister past Matt Murray to put the Terriers up 1-0. Junior defenseman Domenick Fensore figured in for an assist on the play for his eighth point in twelve games this season.
“He was awesome,” head coach Albie O’Connell said when asked about O’Brien’s play as a whole this weekend. “It’s a big boost for our team when you have one of your best players out of the lineup for eight games.”
The Terriers were back on their heels in the second period, having to defend a Minuteman offense that came out with a lot of jump. The Minutemen also brought a lot of physicality in the second, with both Fensore and O’Brien taking big hits that left them down on the ice. Both Fensore and O’Brien returned to play later on in the period, though.
Despite spending much of the period in their own zone, the Terriers were able to capitalize on their opportunities. After freshman forward Tyler Boucher drew a tripping penalty, the squad went on their second power play of the game.
With just eight seconds remaining in the power play, junior forward Wilmer Skoog deflected a shot from O’Brien to put the Terriers up 2-0 with 10:11 remaining in the second period. The Terriers’ power play went one for three on the night and surrendered a short-handed goal in the third period.
The Minuteman responded quickly after Skoog scored his fifth of the season, only 1:12 after the Terriers went up 2-0. Junior defenseman Matthew Kessel’s shot from the point found its way past sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso to cut the Terrier lead in half with 8:59 remaining in the second period.
Just as the Terriers were looking to head into the locker room with the lead, they were forced back onto the penalty kill, with junior forward Jamie Armstrong heading to the box for tripping with 1:20 remaining in the second. The Minutemen would capitalize with only 0:33 remaining in the period as captain Bobby Trivigno was able to swing momentum back in UMass’ way before the third.
In the final frame, the Terriers looked to re-take the lead as they went on their third power play of the game. Freshman defenseman Ryan Ufko was able to pick off the puck at the blueline and head in on a shorthanded breakaway. Ufko deked around Commesso and put the Minutemen up 3-2 with 14:48 remaining in the third period.
It did not take long for the Terriers to respond, though. Freshman defenseman Ty Gallagher crashed down from the point and found the loose puck in a scrum inside the crease and was able to put it past Minutemen goaltender Murray to tie the game up at three. It only took the Terriers 1:18 to respond, with now only 13:30 left in regulation.
“We weren’t really too worried on the bench, to be honest with you,” O’Connell said when asked about the Terriers’ mentality after going down 3-2. “We were playing a good game and we just wanted to stick with it.” The Terriers and Minutemen would finish the rest of the third scoreless and head into their second overtime in just as many days.
The overtime period opened up slowly, with both sides taking their time to try and set up winning plays. The Minutemen’s best chance in overtime would be thwarted by an excellent save by Commesso, who stopped 20 of 23 shots faced, and had his best of the night when it counted.
At 1:31 of overtime, the game would finally be ended. Fensore circled behind the Minutemen net and found Case McCarthy for a one-timer in the high slot that found its way past Minutemen goaltender Murray.
“It just speaks to the character of the guys in the room,” McCarthy said post-game when asked about the resiliency of the Terriers throughout the game. “We’re gonna stick together and we’re gonna do the right thing. We’re gonna stick to our game plan and obviously that paid off tonight.”
For McCarthy, it was his fourth goal in his past five games. “A lot of guys make a lot of plays and me getting lucky,” McCarthy said when asked about his recent offensive production. “I just have to get myself in an open spot and hit the net, luckily it went in”.
After a four-game skid and a concerning start to the season for the Terriers, this weekend served as a template and a marker to show what this team is capable of. The Terriers and their fans will hope to keep this strong play going into next weekend and further on.
Looking on to next weekend, the Terriers will play a home and home series with one of their Hockey East rivals, Northeastern University. The puck will drop Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Agganis Arena and 7:00 p.m. on Saturday at Matthews Arena in Boston, MA with coverage on Twitter @BOSHockeyBlog and on Instagram @Boston.Hockey.Blog.