By James Garrison
The Boston University men’s hockey team (9-4-0, 6-3-0 Hockey East) looked to secure three very attainable conference points Friday night against the UNH Wildcats (3-12-1, 0-10-1 HE). The Terriers rode a strong third period to take down UNH, 6-3.
Junior goaltender Vinny Duplessis saw his first action in over a month after Drew Commesso was ruled out with a reported illness. Although shaky at times, the Terriers’ reliable second option in goal shut the door in the third period.
The Terriers seemingly got off to an early lead, as freshman forward Devin Kaplan went post-and-in for his third goal of the season. Not initially called a goal, Kaplan’s quick in-and-out shot required a review after 2:50 of elapsed time.
“[The review] came from the refs,” Terrier Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “We didn’t have to challenge or anything like that. Our video guy couldn’t tell.”
Senior forward Sam Stevens finished off a pretty two-on-one sequence with Dylan Peterson for his fourth goal of the year. With the goal, Stevens tied his collegiate career-high in points with seven.
The Terriers ran into some first period penalty trouble, but would head into the locker room with a comfortable 2-0 lead following a pair of strong penalty-kills.
Penalties were abundant on both sides in the second period, and the Terriers’ lack of discipline, which has been under control of late, reared its ugly head once again.
“We’re a much better team when guys aren’t sitting on the bench,” Pandolfo said. “I think [staying out of the box] just helps us. We’re a good five-on-five team.”
Cy LeClerc got the Wildcats on the board early in the second period with a power-play strike. Kaplan’s hit from behind late in the first period came back to hurt the Terriers and brought UNH back into the game.
BU’s first power-play opportunity of the second period yielded less than ideal results. Wildcat freshman Morgan Winters won the race to a loose puck and fired it past Duplessis, burying the shorthanded breakaway opportunity.
“I think we made some costly mistakes,” Pandolfo said. “We turn the puck over, they have a breakaway and they capitalize on it. Self-inflicted mistakes aren’t going to help you and that’s not a recipe for winning. We ended up getting away with it tonight.”
Immediately following the equalizer, Wildcat goaltender David Fessenden was given a game misconduct and five-minute-major for spearing Kaplan in the groin. Tyler Muszelik was forced to enter the game following Fessenden’s ejection and immediately face the Terriers’ two-man advantage.
After struggling to break into the Wildcats zone, the Terriers finally broke through on the five-minute power play. Freshman forward Ryan Greene broke into the zone and found Quinn Hutson for his fourth of the season. Hutson made no mistake putting the pack past the glove of Muszelik, re-capturing the lead for the Terriers.
“Our power play really helped us a lot,” Pandolfo said. “We got one goal there, but that was a little disjointed too. Give them credit, they did a really good job of blocking shots.”
Late in the second period, the Wildcats struck back with a power play marker of their own. LeClerc buried a one-timer from the far circle, bringing the contest back to even.
A second period with 27 total penalty minutes found the Terriers out of sorts mentally, surrendering three goals in the middle frame.
Forced to come up big in a crucial third period, the Terriers broke away from the Wildcats midway through the closing frame with goals from captain and senior defenseman Dom Fensore and senior forward Ethan Phillips.
“Dom, when he’s going, he really controls the game,” Pandolfo said. “[Fensore] and [L. Hutson] together are great with the puck and they’re both a threat offensively.”
Fensore capitalized from a near impossible angle, placing his wrister right past the left ear of Muszelik. Phillips doubled the lead just 1:12 later with a net-front tip off the feed from Q. Hutson.
Fensore iced the game with a power play marker in the final minute to cap off a statement third period. After a chaotic second period, the Terriers re-discovered their game in the third, propelling them to a weekend-opening victory.
“I just thought we had to play a more desperate game [in the third,]” Pandolfo said. “They were playing a desperate game, they were out-working us and out-playing us in the second period.”
Friday night was a far-cry from previous comfortable victories against the likes of Notre Dame and UMass. UNH’s aggressive style put the Terriers back on their heels in the second period.
With three points out of six weekend points secured, the Terriers will look to clean up their game heading into a Saturday night matchup with the Wildcats at Agganis Arena. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of the game so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.