Following a deflating 9-6 loss against cross-town rival Boston College, the No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey team (11-5-0, 8-4-0 Hockey East) headed across I-90 to the XL center in Hartford, Connecticut for their third matchup with the No. 8 University of Connecticut Huskies (11-5-3, 8-4-2 HE) this season. BU came out with a 3-2 win.
The XL center was the site that ended the Terriers’ 2021-22 campaign in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, and after their 15-goal contest Friday, there was no way the Terriers were leaving Hartford without three points.
“Friday nights haven’t been our night, and again tonight, credit to our guys,” Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “They bounced back.”
In their last series, BU left with five of a possible six points from an overtime loss and a regulation win in October. UConn came into the series with nine days to recover after falling 7-3 against Merrimack on Dec. 2.
Sophomore goaltender Logan Terness let in five goals, making freshman Aresenii Sergeev the primary candidate for the UConn net. On the other end of the ice however, junior Drew Commesso took the crease despite letting in seven of his own two days prior. While the defense collapsed in front of him, it seemed that junior Vinny Duplessis might get the nod today.
“He’s our starting goalie –– you go back to him, and that was the decision,” Pandolfo noted of his goaltender who had a solid performance with 28 stops.
The Terriers came out hot, clearly taking whatever Pandolfo said in practice after Friday’s BC loss to heart. BU dominated the opening minutes of play, with UConn unable to get even a shot on the board until 11:03 of the first period.
Even with only 75 seconds of sustained zone time, graduate forward and former Terrier Ty Amonte got his group on the board first. Sophomore winger Chase Bradley’s shot from the top of the crease was blocked by Quinn Hutson, and while Commesso was preparing to make the stop, Ty Amonte picked up the rebound with a backhander into a wide open net for a 1-0 lead.
Whatever momentum the Terriers had in the first half of the opening frame quickly collapsed into prime scoring chances for a Husky team also looking to get back into the win column.
“I think the guys have a lot of pride,” Pandolfo said of his group’s resiliency. “They take ownership when we don’t play well, and they respond.”
The visitors started the middle period with a player-advantage, after senior captain Domenick Fensore drew a cross-checking penalty and UConn forward Ryan Tverberg was sent to the box. Both teams exchanged chances but the once dominant play BU was holding onto turned chippy in the opening minutes of the second period.
Freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer gave the Huskies a golden opportunity when his slash was called as a delayed penalty. Senior Wilmer Skoog ended the play with Sergeev skating off the ice, but an unnecessary shove by junior John Spetz sent his team down a player at the same time.
During the ensuing four-on-four, junior forward Nick Zabaneh drove the net through a pile of UConn defenders to net his second in as many games with a slick backhander to tie the game at one.
Minutes later, freshman Lane Hutson added a second tally for the Terriers. Senior Jamie Armstrong’s initial shot rebounded in front of the UConn crease and L. Hutson was there to pick up the rebound. Holding onto the puck for just the right amount of time, Hutson’s backhander doubled his group’s score to two.
While BU got back into the swing of their game, UConn’s systems fell apart for much of the second. Tverberg got his second penalty of the night for tripping and Bradley got one 54 seconds later for roughing. BU saw some good chances during the five-on-three, but UConn ultimately made the kill. Once back to five-on-four, Tverberg had a shot that was primed to go in, but Fensore dove with his stick out to keep the score 3-1.
After just 35 seconds of even strength, junior Dylan Peterson went to the box on a questionable interference call. More than anything it looked like a UConn embellishment, but the Terriers were composed on the penalty kill and left unscathed.
At 16:05 of the second period, Skoog got his fourth of the season. A long shot from point-leader Matt Brown was deflected up front, giving the Terriers their third goal in 20 minutes. With the primary assist, Brown rose to take first place in points in Hockey East.
As the horn sounded to cap off the second period, freshman Quinn Hutson took an unnecessary slashing call, giving UConn a man-advantage to start the third. BU killed the penalty off with ease, but this type of undisciplined play proved costly for the Terriers at the start of the season and seems to be creeping back into their style of play in their more recent games.
UConn intercepted a pass and drove the net on what looked like a sure goal, but Fensore’s second dive of the night kept his group’s lead as it was. Despite the save, high emotions earned junior blueliner Cade Webber a penalty of his own five minutes after the Q. Hutson call expired, but again, the Terriers PK remained perfect for the night.
Husky frustration caught up with them in the third as junior Andrew Lucas skated off for slashing. While plenty of people (including myself) were skeptical of Commesso’s start, he played a shut-down game, quieting many grade-A chances for the Huskies, including a short-handed off-the-rush bid from Bradley, and a sports-center quality save from Webber to keep the Terriers in.
“Cade has had so many blocks, I definitely owe him a big dinner… or a few,” Commesso said of his defenseman.
The only Husky to get on the board –– Ty Amonte –– took his team’s sixth penalty of the game on a boarding call against former teammate Fensore. 12 seconds later, Fensore’s careless kneeing call gave UConn a chance to skate five-on-four with their goalie out of the net. Tverberg and Lucas combined however, making way for freshman Matthew Wood to climb back within one at 17:54 of the final period to cap off the night at 3-2.
BU will next face Harvard at Walter Brown Arena in another top-10 matchup on Dec. 30 on ESPN+. Unfortunately for Terrier fans, but fortunately for the players, both Lane Hutson and Ryan Greene have the chance to wear their nation’s jersey on the global stage at World Juniors and will miss the Harvard game.
“I can’t wait to watch him there,” Commesso said of Hutson’s departure to Team USA. “I think he’s one of the best defenseman in the country already as a freshman… I’ll definitely be rooting for USA.”
Despite some back-and-forth discipline issues, the Terriers stuck to their game and came out top dog for their final game of the semester. Be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog for continued coverage over the break of all things BU hockey.