The Boston University men’s hockey team (14-10-3, 10-6-3 Hockey East) welcomed the University of Maine Black Bears (4-15-4, 2-11-2 HE) to Agganis Arena tonight and sent them right back home after a dominant 4-0 Terrier victory.
BU had some big names return to the lineup this evening, strengthening a roster that’s already been on a roll. Junior forward Matt Brown took his slot on the second line, sophomore forward Nick Zabaneh returned to the fourth line, and junior defenseman Case McCarthy was reunited with Alex Vlasic on the top-D-pair.
In the squad’s first game without Drew Commesso, sophomore netminder Vinny Duplessis got his chance to prove himself between the pipes tonight and did exactly that, posting a shutout on 27 saves. The dogpound cheered the new starter on all night.
“It gave me a lot of extra energy today,” Duplessis said in the post game press conference. “I heard a couple Vinny chants here and there––that’s always pretty funny.”
BU got on the board early with a power play goal after junior defenseman Dawson Bruneski was dealt two for tripping at 0:45. McCarthy got right back into the groove of things after injury, showing poise and patience on the tally’s setup that senior captain and forward Logan Cockerill knocked in on the doorstep.
The 1-0 lead marked the tenth consecutive game in which the Terriers have striked first––a comment on their “start right” mentality throughout the second half of the season.
“When we play the right way, we’re hard to deal with,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said in the post game press conference. “Guys are pretty focussed right off the drop of the puck. When you score first––percentage wise––you have a better chance of winning.”
“Guys are pretty focussed right off the drop of the puck. When you score first––percentage wise––you have a better chance of winning.”
The Black Bears didn’t have a shot on goal until almost halfway through the opening period. BU did a good job of taking control of the game from the beginning and giving up limited chances for the opponent to find an equalizer.
The student section brought their “SKOOOOG” signs on the right night––he gave them something to cheer about at 11:49. Elevating the puck behind the net, Skoog looped around and tucked it under the crossbar, completing the infamous “Michigan” to double the Terriers’ advantage.
“I tried it a lot of times this season before and I figured I would try again, and it worked out this time so that was fun,” Skoog said in the post game press conference.
A goal like that is not only a shoe-in for the highlight reel, but shows the true confidence this group is skating with right now. They’re having fun, being creative, and getting results.
The BU bench was buzzing after Skoog’s theatrics and dominated the rest of the period. They got another level of jump and added more physicality to their game as the first dwindled down and a solid 20 was written down in the books.
Maine was met with an onslaught of Terrier chances to start the middle frame, and junior forward Robert Mastrosimone made one count at 5:21. Graduate student forward Max Kaufam zipped a pass netfront across to Mastro who tapped it in to garner his 10th goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.
Five minutes later, junior defenseman Domenick Fensore helped Mastro collect his second of the night with a strong shot from above the faceoff circle that the forward deflected past sophomore netminder Victor Ostman. Mastrosimone has points in four of the last five games.
Brown took a hooking penalty at the very end of the second, but for the most part the scarlet and white continued to set the tone as the period closed with the score at 4-0 and BU up 34-11 in SOG. Maine only had two shots the entire 20 minutes.
The Black Bears had no luck on the man-advantage to open the third. Both teams had another power play chance but the score remained 4-0 until the buzzer, rewarding Duplessis with his second career shutout and first star of the game.
In terms of the strong play and turnaround the Terrier squad has seen since the new year, O’Connell gave a lot of credit to the upperclassmen.
“We’ve got great leadership,” O’Connell said. “Those guys have kept the group together and their message has been really good. It’s nice to have some veteran guys that step up and played really well.”
BU now heads into the Beanpot tournament on Monday at TD Garden. Facing a competitive Harvard club, the matchup will hopefully bring out the best of both sides. The countdown is officially on and I don’t think players or fans can wait until Feb. 7.
“The key is just to make sure we’re even mentally––we don’t burn too much energy getting too excited and ramped up,” O’Connell said of the team’s preparation. “We’ve got to make sure we’re loose and ready to go because it’s going to be a tough task to beat the Crimson.”
The puck will drop at 5:00pm on Monday. We’ll have a preview, recap, and live coverage of the entire tournament on the blog and our social media channels––Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.