By James Garrison
An overtime victory against the UMass Lowell River Hawks saw the Terriers salvage their third consecutive weekend split after falling short the night before. If Michigan was happenstance and UConn was a coincidence, Lowell marked a trend for the scarlet and white.
Collecting splits against quality programs proved to be a serviceable formula to remain in the National conversation — if nothing else, an upgrade from last year. By no means was the sky falling.
For a team with the aspirations of a national championship though, much was left to be desired
“I think everyone in our room knows how good we can be and right now we’re not there,” junior goaltender Drew Commesso said following the victory against Lowell. “We’re certainly going to use this week as a week to build… It’s definitely not going to be a week that we take off, it’s going to be a very important week for us.”
And build they did.
13 days stood between the Terriers’ Saturday victory against the River Hawks and their first of two contests against the UMass Minutemen. A well-timed respite in BU’s pre-Thanksgiving schedule gauntlet allowed Jay Pandolfo’s group to address as many areas as possible.
“We’ve been working on pretty much every part of our game,” Pandolfo said prior to the weekend. “Working on our breakouts, being a little cleaner there. Working on our d-zone coverage, focusing on our forecheck a little bit…I think if our forecheck gets better it’s going to help our offensive zone play.”
The Minutemen struggled breaking the puck up-ice early on Friday night, causing them to spend the majority of the first period without the puck. After a productive two weeks of practice, BU’s forecheck was one of many frustrations that the Minutemen experienced over the weekend.
Wilmer Skoog’s lacrosse-style goal put the Terriers up 2-0 early in the second period and made waves nationally for obvious reasons. Skoog’s goal received well-deserved praise but was only made possible by the work done away from the puck by Matt Brown and Brian Carrabes.
Off of a center-ice faceoff, UMass defenseman Scott Morrow was immediately forced to slide the puck to his defense partner because of Brown’s tenacious forechecking. Mikey Adamson, who had just received a pass from Morrow, was forced to send the puck up the boards to avoid the pressure of Carrabes. Jumping on the puck was Skoog, who protected the puck below the goal line before performing his magic just seconds later.
“I thought [the forecheck] helped us a lot,” Pandolfo said. “We created more because we were good on the forecheck. We were able to pressure them, get the puck back and then work from there. I thought it really showed tonight.”
Quinn Hutson’s second goal of Friday night began 200-feet away with solid work down low by Domenick Fensore and Ryan Greene. Fensore tied up UMass forward Josh Nodler below the goal line and waited for Greene to provide support as the center.
Greene dug the puck out of a pair of skates and led the charge out of the Terriers’ zone. As Luke Tuch entered the offensive zone, he connected with Greene, who quickly found Hutson, who made no mistake.
Tenacity along the boards and in the corners led to a large volume of high-danger chances throughout the weekend for the Terriers. Their high-end skill and vision took over at the right times, capitalizing on many of those chances for an outburst of 12 goals in two games.
“I’ve trusted all our guys. I think upfront, we have a ton of depth,” Pandolfo said. “Whoever’s in the lineup, I trust and know they can contribute offensively and that’s what everyone’s doing, certainly tonight for sure.”
Tuch, a 6’2, 203-pound second-rounder fits perfectly with this medley of skill and heavy hockey. A three-assist weekend – one of his best as a Terrier – showcased the power-forward’s ability to use his size and skill to his advantage.
To open the scoring on Saturday, Tuch’s line once again won the physical contest against UMass and let their finishing ability take care of itself. Following a point shot from Q. Hutson, Tuch secured body positioning in front and handed the puck off to Greene, who buried his sixth point of the weekend.
“I think [Greene] and [Q. Hutson] have taken another step in the last couple of weeks,” Pandolfo said. “They’re both very good offensive players and they’re dialed in to the defensive zone as well. I think it’s helping their offensive game because of that.”
BU’s statement weekend recharged the energy of dominance that was slowly fading with each successive weekend split. A group that was flirting with underperformance just over two weeks ago has reasserted themselves as a potential national threat.
“We have a really committed group,” Jay O’Brien said. “We have a lot of older guys and you know, guys that just want to win.”