The Boston University men’s hockey team (5-3-0, 3-2-0 Hockey East) faced the UMass Amherst Minutemen (5-4-1, 1-4-0 HE) tonight at the Mullins Center to resume conference play. BU put on an impressive offensive show in the 7-2 victory and will look for the sweep tomorrow at Agganis Arena.
“We’ve had a tough time on Friday nights up until this point of the season,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said in the post-game press conference. “I knew our guys were going to be ready tonight to play the right way, and they came out and did that.”
After what felt like the longest two weeks of our lives, the Terriers finally took the ice for the first time since beating UMass Lowell in overtime at Agganis on Oct. 29. Coming off of the bye-week, BU took their game up a level against a desperate home team that was swept by Providence College (6-2-2, 4-0-2 HE) last weekend.
Junior goaltender Drew Commesso got the nod between the pipes for his second straight contest since returning from a hamstring injury. As expected, Commesso supported his group with his trademark calm and collected play and 24 saves.
Notably out of the lineup were junior forward Dylan Peterson and freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer. In their absence, junior forward Nick Zabaneh was slotted into the first line with seniors Jay O’Brien and Ethan Phillips. Sophomore right-wing Brian Carrabes skated alongside senior forward Matt Brown and Wilmer Skoog on the second line.
Pandolfo said Peterson was sick and Wilmer is dealing with a previous injury and that was the only reason for the changes.
Freshman defenseman Lachlan Getz made his collegiate debut for BU on the blueline with junior D-partner Cade Webber. Getz put together a solid performance in his fight for a consistent lineup spot.
During his mid-week media availability, Pandolfo stressed “starting on time” as one of his groups’ main focuses this weekend, and tonight, they did just that. BU had an aggressive forecheck from puck drop and threw looks on net from all over the offensive zone. They had their legs from the get-go and were able to set their own tone for the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought our forecheck was much better, that was one of the things we worked on the past week,” Pandolfo said. “I thought that helped us a lot, I thought it helped us in the offensive zone –– we created more.”
Freshman forward Ryan Greene got the Terriers on the board at 5:39 with a backhanded breakaway goal in his career-high five point night. Unassisted, Greene poked the puck past UMass freshman defenseman Mikey Adamson and streaked down the ice on the right side to then fake a shot and tuck it past the left pad. His third tally of the season was one of confidence and poise as the first-year continues to be a difference-maker for the BU bench.
“It was just me and the goalie so I kind of decided I was going backhand once I hit the blueline,” Greene said post-game. “I knew what I was doing so I’m just happy it worked out.”
Despite captain and senior defenseman Domenick Fensore and sophomore forward Ryan Lautenbach getting matching roughing penalties with 1:51 remaining on the clock, the Terriers showed a different level of discipline in the opening frame.
Leading up to tonight, BU had been short-handed in the first period in six of their first seven games. A surprise to no one, staying out of the box results in a more cohesive period, and one of the better starts the scarlet and white have had in the 2022-2023 campaign –– on the road, nonetheless.
Skoog came into the second ready to entertain and made a good case for renaming “the Michigan” to “the BU.” At 18:42, the forward scooped the puck up behind the net and –– midair –– wrapped it around, dumping the rubber over sophomore goaltender Luke Pavicich’s right shoulder to make it 2-0. The play showcased the swagger BU entered with, and sustained, during the matchup.
“If I’m getting in that situation I’ll do it,” Skoog said post-game. “When I’m behind the net, it’s just natural at this point.”
A slashing call on the Minutemen at 8:09 gave the Terriers their first power play of the game where freshman forward Quinn Hutson unleashed an absolute snipe for a 3-0 advantage. His second of the night came soon after from a pretty passing sequence on the rush from junior forward Luke Tuch to Greene who then dished it to Hutson down low for the knock-in lamplighter at 12:40.
Just ten seconds later, Greene would cash in for his second tally to make it 5-0. He seemed to be dumping the puck to the crease for Tuch to tap home, but it deflected off of Pavicich’s pad and made its way to the back of the net. This was the Terriers’ fourth unassisted goal, proof of the hard-on-pucks mentality Pandolfo has been preaching. UMass pulled Pavicich and put junior netminder Cole Brady in thereafter.
“I think I’ve continuously gotten better, just getting familiar with the playing style of Hockey East,” Greene said. “Just learning to protect the puck against bigger guys.”
The Minutemen got on the scoresheet with 1:39 left in the second on the man-advantage. Tuch’s holding penalty led to sophomore defenseman Ryan Ufko’s blast from the point to close the period out 5-1. UMass used a coach’s challenge in the intermission against O’Brien for a take-down play in the defensive zone. It resulted in a five-minute-major and game misconduct for the veteran who’s still searching to bury his first of the season.
“I looked at it quickly,” Pandolfo said. “I don’t think he should’ve been kicked out of the game for it, that’s all I’ll say.”
A penalty for “protocol violation” was assessed to UMass prior to the start of the third, giving way to two minutes of four-on-four hockey before BU was tasked with killing off the remaining three minutes of O’Brien’s major. Senior forward Reed Lebster garnered his squad’s second power play goal at 3:21 for a 5-2 deficit before the Terriers regained full-strength.
BU maintained their momentum and sent the flagship flooding for the exit signs with an empty-net goal from senior forward and team point leader Brown at 15:39 and a rebound shot from freshman forward Devin Kaplan at 19:24, reaching the final 7-2 score.
While the lead after the first period was only 1-0, you could feel that BU was going to win this game. The program set high expectations for themselves at the beginning of the year, and their effort tonight was one step closer to reaching this new standard of Terrier hockey.
Up and down the lineup, every player was bought-in to the mission, giving BU the chance to complete their first sweep at Agganis Arena tomorrow. Not to get too far ahead of myself, but with so much parity in Hockey East, the Terriers could begin to separate themselves from the pack with a six-point weekend.
“Puck protection and being strong on pucks –– we really want two wins in a weekend,” Skoog said on what to carry over into tomorrow. “We haven’t swept a weekend yet, so we’re off to a good start.”
The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of tomorrow’s rematch so make sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.