The Boston University men’s hockey team (12-5-0, 8-4-0 Hockey East) was back in action tonight at Walter Brown Arena against the Harvard University Crimson (8-3-1, 7-1-0 ECAC) in a top-10 matchup where the Terriers came away with a 2-1 overtime victory.
“I thought it was a great college hockey game,” Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “Overall, our effort from top to bottom was excellent. It was great to see us stick with it after we gave up a goal late.”
It felt like old-time hockey in a sold-out Wally B where Pandolfo skated during his time on Comm Ave. The crowd was in it from puck drop as the greater-Boston rivalry ensued in the old barn.
The Terriers had some lineup changes tonight with freshman forward Ryan Greene moving up to the second line center and senior forward Jay O’Brien swinging over to the right wing on the first line. Sophomore defenseman Jack Page got his first start of the season, skating alongside John Copeland as the third D-pair.
Senior forward Ethan Phillips was out of the lineup due to injury, Pandolfo said. He was seen in a knee brace at the game.
“Phillips got hurt in the UConn game, he actually finished the game but he has a lower body injury that’s going to keep him out at least a couple weeks here.”
Freshman defenseman Lane Hutson’s absence due to World Juniors opened up some ice time and lineup spots for other guys on the squad, namely Ty Gallagher who slotted in on the first power play unit. Per usual, Gallagher was steady and reliable through the full 60-plus minutes.
Expectedly, junior netminder Drew Commesso got the nod between the pipes after a bounceback performance over UConn on Dec. 11 following the BC loss (that we don’t need to discuss again). Commesso put up 33 saves and was one of BU’s best players tonight.
BU got on the power play early after a scary hit from senior defenseman Henry Thrun on Dylan Peterson coming out of the offensive zone. The blow caught Peterson up high and he was unable to make it back to the bench, nearly collapsing on the ice. Looked like a sure concussion, but he was back less than ten minutes later.
Called as interference, Thrun watched from the box when freshman forward Quinn Hutson netted his seventh of the year off a snapshot from just above the left faceoff circle. Earlier this week Pandolfo said the group wanted to sharpen their special teams, and they did just that as the first tally of the competition came at 2:02 with 26 seconds remaining on the man-advantage.
The Terriers were able to break through a Crimson penalty kill that’s ranked best in D1 hockey and kept the opportunities coming for the rest of the opening frame. They matched Harvard’s hard-hitting tempo, leaned on their speed in all three zones, and worked hard on the forecheck. Up 1-0 on the scoreboard and 11-7 in SOG at the end of 20 minutes, BU headed into the second period with a strong start to build off of.
BU maintained the clean sheet in the second by playing a tight defensive game which in hand strengthened their chances on the other end. Penalties from Ty Gallagher and Ryan Greene tested the Terrier PK and it came up big against a usually productive Harvard power play.
“I think the special teams were great,” Pandolfo said. “I think our penalty kill was more aggressive tonight and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Commesso faced more high-probability shots in the middle frame and made some key stops, especially down low. Senior defenseman Ryan Siedem had a promising rebound look on the doorstep that Commesso slid over to block, fully returning to his usual caliber of play. BU’s structure in front of the net was much better tonight too, which was good to see after some slips at the end of first semester.
O’Brien closed out the period with a breakaway chance, streaking down center ice with 18 seconds remaining, but couldn’t beat senior goaltender Mitchell Gibson who gloved the shot and kept the game 1-0 going into the last 20 of regulation.
The Terriers killed off another Crimson power play early in the third period after senior forward Sam Stevens was sent off for holding at 5:28. BU did a solid job getting in passing lanes and it resulted in a two-on-one with Jamie Armstromg and O’Brien but Gibson came up big once again. BU got their turn on the man-advantage around four minutes later, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
BU gave Harvard a fourth opportunity to get back into the game at 13:02 when Peterson went off for hooking. Sophomore forward Matthew Coronato dumped in the rebound of junior winger Alex Laferriere’s shot to tie it up with one second left on the power play.
Discipline has been a big topic of discussion this season, and the Terriers put themselves in too many short-handed positions tonight when trying to lock down the competition –– it sent this one to overtime.
Domenick Fensore stepped up –– as he has so many times this season –– and was the extra hockey hero, securing the 2-1 win for the Terriers with 32 seconds left on the clock. Senior forward Wilmer Skoog swung the puck to the captain from the right side and Fensore’s snapshot from the slot called game.
“In overtime we wanted to end it and good thing we did, it was a big win for us,” Fensore said post-game. “We were going glove on him all game so decided to shoot low blocker and it went in.”
BU put together a cohesive and gritty performance against some tough competition and held their composure when things got close. It seems they’ve picked up right where they left off before break and will get back to work for the upcoming out-of-conference play.
The Terriers will head to Arizona next week for the Desert Hockey Classic where they’ll first take on Air Force on Jan. 6.
“For the most part we out-played them most of the game,” Fensore said. “When we play the way we know we can play, it’s hard to play with us and skate with us. If we bring that to Arizona hopefully we can get our first trophy of the year.”
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