By Gillian McMahon
The Boston University men’s hockey team (19-11-3, 13-7-3 Hockey East) traveled to Orono, Maine for their final regular season series against the University of Maine Black Bears (6-21-4, 4-17-2 HE). From the rowdy Alfond Arena, BU put together a strong 60-minute performance on Friday night, winning the game with a final score of 5-1.
Right from the puck drop, the Terriers controlled the puck in the offensive zone, not giving the Black Bears much room to organize in their offense. But as both teams set up and figured each other out, Maine maintained more control of the puck and got off to the races in terms of shots on goal in the first period.
“On balance, it’s hard to win here, and to win 5-1, especially after the first eight to ten minutes –– they were really jumping, the crowd really got them going,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said of the first period in the postgame press conference.
“We couldn’t win a face off. They were really physical and we couldn’t really match them. We didn’t really get our legs until the second half of the first period and then we played pretty well once we scored the goal,” he said.
The Terriers got on the board first with a power play goal from freshman defenseman Ty Gallagher. After an interference penalty on Maine’s Simon Butala, Gallagher scored on the one-timer from the faceoff dot with the two minutes winding down. Gallagher was assisted on the play by captain Logan Cockerill and junior forward Ethan Phillips.
BU showed their poise during their power play opportunities. They used their time on the man-advantage looking for the right shots and being patient. Gallagher’s goal in the first woke the Terriers up and recentered the effort back to the aggressive, firing shots left and right, style of play.
After a clipping penalty on Dawe, the Terriers found themselves on the power play again with 24.4 seconds left to play in the first. Into the second period, back-and-forth hockey ensued with good opportunities off the rush for both sides.
Junior forward Sam Stevens put in the second goal on a wide-open drive from the right side past the Maine goalie. The goal was a momentum shifter halfway through the second period to give the Terriers the 2-0 lead and was assisted by junior forward Matt Brown and grad student Joseph Campolieto.
Less than two minutes later, junior forward Wilmer Skoog put in another goal for the Terriers. Sophomore forward Luke Tuch slid the puck across the front of the net, and all Skoog had to do was redirect the puck into the back of the net. Phillips was also credited with an assist for his second of the night.
From a cross-checking penalty on Edward Lindelow, junior forward Robert Mastrosimone appeared to have scored a penalty play goal while Butala was hanging all over him. The play was reviewed for goaltender interference as Mastrosimone fell into the crease and the call on the ice was changed –– no goal.
After what would have been the fourth goal of the game, junior forward Jay O’Brien scored to actually extend the lead to 4-0. From the slot, O’Brien was assisted by junior defenseman Domenick Fensore and Skoog. The Terriers kept up the attack throughout the second period as they notched a few more goals to cushion their lead.
The game proved to be a strong showing for sophomore goaltender Drew Commesso. His level of play demonstrated that he hasn’t missed a beat in the last month since playing in the Olympics, traveling home, and the extended break before getting the start in the second game of the BC series last weekend. Though he didn’t get the shutout, Commesso’s 28 saves earned him his first win since returning.
With 40.8 seconds to play in the second period, Gallagher was issued a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for contact to the head of Maine’s Adam Dawe. This was an undisciplined play made by the freshman and unnecessary going into the third period with a 4-0 lead.
“Tough to lose Gally there, with the five-minute major, but on balance, I thought we did a decent job killing,” O’Connell said. “They obviously scored the power play goal but that five-minute kill was pretty big for us.”
Drew Commesso looked sharp blocking shots from the Black Bears forwards and combined with a defensive effort playing hard in front of him, the Terriers defense finished the game strong despite the five-minute major.
Junior defenseman Case McCarthy made a diving block at one point and the level of competition displayed the level of focus this team has right now and how much they want to win as well.
To finish off the scoring for the Terriers, Skoog collected his second goal of the game with a backhand move all alone in front of the net after receiving a pass from Max Kaufman. Junior defenseman John Copeland also assisted on the play, earning his first career point. In a three-point night, Skoog now leads the team in goals on the season, with a current tally of 14.
Speaking of Copeland, O’Connell said, “He actually played pretty well last game, he just had the one bad play. [Vlasic] kind of left him on an island there in the neutral zone (…) but I think he did bounce back and he played pretty well tonight, and almost scored a goal at the end (…) he’s been good for us this year.”
Jay O’Brien’s tripping penalty at 10:45 in the third was another example of a somewhat undisciplined play and learning point going into the postseason. With a significant lead, the Terriers don’t need to commit frustration penalties and have to play smarter hockey.
Towards the end of the period, junior forward Ben Poisson finally got Maine on the board during a power play opportunity. He found an opening in the top left corner of the net as Commesso was a bit out of position.
Getting enough puck movement to draw Commesso out of the net that late in the game is something Maine will need to dial in on in Saturday evening’s rematch. The back end of the series will no doubt be challenging, but maintaining focus and poise will be two keys to the success of the Terriers game.
With the win, the Terriers have clinched a spot in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
The Terriers and Black Bears will face off from Alfond Arena at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night. The Boston Hockey Blog will have coverage on all platforms including on our Instagram @boston.hockey.blog and on our Twitter @BOShockeyblog.