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Three takeaways from Northeastern series

Photo by Caroline Fernandez

Despite a Friday loss, the Terriers’ weekend series split with Northeastern highlighted some important bright spots for BU as they hit the 11 game mark. There is no quit in that locker room and it has translated on the ice, setting the scarlet and white up for a promising winter stretch. Here are three takeaways from the matchups against the Huskies.

Domenick Fensore and Ty Gallagher elevated their game

Senior defenseman Domenick Fensore has flourished as a true captain these past two weekends. He brought his consistently-steady style of play to a new level and led by example in two hard-fought contests –– acting as the spark his squad needed against Northeastern. His right side guy, sophomore defenseman Ty Gallagher, has also found a new confidence while playing alongside the veteran blueliner. 

“Dom always competes –– he’s always going to be good,” Pandolfo said in the Nov. 18 presser. “He doesn’t have too many bad games. I thought he was skating really well tonight.” 

Friday’s 2-0 loss had its problems, but Fensore and Gallagher weren’t one of them. During the slower start, they were still hard on pucks and displayed an extra hustle that fueled BU through 40 minutes before they really found their groove in the third. The two D-men tapped into their offensive game, without abandoning their duty on the backend, and did a solid job balancing each other out. The chemistry was there. 

Gally had five shots on Friday –– second most behind senior forward Jay O’Brien who had six –– and four blocked shots. Dom let off four shots in his gritty performance; as the clock wound down, it felt like if anyone was going to get on the board for BU, it was going to be the captain. Heading into Matthews Arena on Saturday, Fensore said his group wanted to focus on a “better team commitment to winning,” and with his help, the Terriers did just that. 

Fensore’s efforts were finally rewarded as he opened the competition’s scoring with a snapshot from the left circle, which Gallgher collected a second-assist on. Fensore also set freshman forward Ryan Greene up for the pivotal tying tally in the third period.

As a pair, Gally and Dom are seeing the ice incredibly well, slotting in where they’re needed and inserting themselves into the offensive rush when necessary. They had the heart-and-soul element for BU this weekend and it made all the difference.

“Personally, I was feeling better with the puck –– had more confidence, so that’s always good,” Fensore said after Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory. 

It takes time for any captain to truly find their leadership style, and this weekend was a turning point for Fensore. He continues to make the players around him better and represents the program with humility and hardwork. Gallagher has proven to be more than reliable in his position and adds an edge to the Terrier roster. It’s exciting to watch when they’re both on the ice.

When asked if Saturday was his best game of the season, Fensore paused, “Yeah, I think so,” he then admitted. “I’ve got more ahead of me I think though, but it’s a good start.” 

Drew Commesso is dialed in

One luxury of being a Terrier fan is that you never have to sit up, worrying about goaltending. Since arriving on Comm Ave, Commesso –– paired with his obvious talent–– has led with his cool, calm and collected persona and given BU a stability between the pipes that great teams need to be successful. 

Following his return from injury, Commesso hasn’t let in more than three goals in a night and has acted as a buffer for his squad when they’re struggling to find their game. The netminder gives BU a chance to win each and every matchup, and that was evidently clear this weekend against the Huskies. Friday’s 2-0 loss could’ve been far worse, but Commesso’s puck tracking and control held the Terriers within striking range for the full 60. 

Saturday’s 30-save showing was instrumental to securing the win and avoiding a weekend sweep that would’ve deflated a rolling Terrier team. The momentum ebbed and flowed on both sides of the rink, and there were stretches there where the Huskies completely cycled BU in the offensive zone. While the Terriers trailed for parts of the game, it was never by more than one goal, and Commesso had an important part in that –– Northeastern is not an easy team to go down by two against. 

No. 29 is the obvious starter for the Terrier team, but due to circumstances, has not been in the crease for some of his groups’ biggest victories. He was in Beijing for the Olympics during the Beanpot and was injured for the second game in Michigan.

However, Saturday was a major must-win for BU and Commesso made it happen. His stop against senior defenseman Jayden Struble in overtime momentarily stopped my heart from beating before the rush of relief when the lamp failed to glow red thanks to his nifty glove save. 

It’s no hot-take that Commesso is a core part of the BU roster. But, as so many of his teammates have worked to do this season too, he has brought his game up a notch and committed himself to being a consistent difference maker in big moments.

Terriers finding strength in offensive depth

No one is taking a back seat this season. Thus far, 16 players have contributed on the scoresheet as BU has been able to rely on their entire roster to contribute. This shined through on Saturday –– Pandolfo rolled all four lines and everyone, no matter their position, was out there with the intention to put the puck in the back of the net. 

“It’s been huge for us to have depth,” O’Brien said. “We knew that coming into the year, that we were going to have a ton of depth.” 

In the 4-3 night, the Terriers got goals from Fensore, senior forward and second-liner Matt Brown, freshman forward and third-liner Ryan Greene, and in the grand finale, freshman defenseman Lane Hutson. O’Brien, on the first line, tallied nine shots on the weekend and cultivated high-danger chances with senior forward Ethan Phillips and freshman forward Devin Kaplan. 

“We have a lot of guys who can score and a lot of guys who have been doing that so it’s been good,” O’Brien said. “That’s what makes teams successful as the season goes on.” 

There’s a heightened believability that anyone on the bench can be the game hero, and that trust has made space for players up and down the lineup to put their talent on display. This depth is critical in close games like Saturday at Matthews when hunting for the equalizer, and eventually, the game-winner. Hockey East, not only Northeastern, has teams that will wear you down, and sharing the responsibility of offensive production has landed BU some big W’s this month. 

“I think anybody that hops over the bench is capable of making a difference and especially if we’re down one –– I think everybody’s confident in each other you can go out there and make a play,” O’Brien said.  

And it’s true. Senior forwards Jamie Armstrong and Sam Stevens have been two of BU’s most consistent competitors this year and that fourth line has often been the momentum shifter in tight matchups. Looking back to the sweep against UMass, the Terriers had nine different scorers in the 12-goal weekend –– there’s far less individualistic play than we saw in the 2021-2022 campaign which directly mirrors Pandolfo’s mantra of “playing for each other.” It will be important for the scarlet and white to keep this up as the season progresses. 

Bonus

I know I said three takeaways, but just one more thing –– this Terrier team is having fun. The celebration of L. Hutson’s overtime goal in the faces of an (unbearable) Northeastern student section showed some of the best vibes of the season, and it’s all well-deserved. 

“It obviously feels good,” O’Brien said. “They’ve got a well-known student section so it definitely feels good to quiet them. And we’ll see them again down the road at the Beanpot so hopefully we’ll do the same thing.” 

BU’s schedule lightens up here after break, but the group cannot take their foot off the pedal. Playing down to their competition is not an option as the Terriers will look to rack up some important Hockey East points in the coming weeks. 

For continued full coverage of BU hockey, make sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.

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