The Boston University men’s hockey team (16-6-0, 10-4-0 Hockey East) hosted the University of Maine Black Bears (9-11-2, 3-7-1 HE) at Agganis Arena tonight where they put together a 5-1 victory.
“I liked our start to our game, get up 2-0 pretty quickly. I thought after that we got away from our game –– I didn’t think our execution was very good tonight,” Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “At the end of the day we got the win so that’s important. Not overly happy with our effort but we did enough to win tonight, but we’re certainly going to have to be better tomorrow night.”
The Black Bears got on the penalty kill just ten seconds into the first period after sophomore forward Nolan Renwick was sent to the box for holding. The Terriers’ second power-play unit took advantage of the early opportunity and put together one of the most beautiful goals of the season.
In the tic-tac-toe sequence, Quinn Hutson dished it to Jeremy Wilmer at the top of the key who then passed it to Ryan Greene in the slot. Greene sent the puck behind two Maine defensemen on his backhand, finding a wide open Luke Tuch stationed by the right post to dump the rubber in at 1:53. I’ll link the replay here so you can rewatch it as many times as I have. The tally was huge for Tuch who only had one goal in the last 12 games coming into tonight.
The BU faithful (and members of BHB in the press box) held their breath a few minutes later as captain Domenick Fensore went down hard on the boards in the corner of his defensive zone. The senior defenseman was crushed by two Maine players at once and stayed curled on the ice while the delayed penalty was signaled.
As junior goaltender Drew Commesso left his crease, team point leader Matt Brown streaked up the left side on a two-on-one with Devin Kaplan and wristed it to the back of the net to make it 2-0 at 4:05. This was the Hobey Baker nominee’s tenth of the season, marking a new career high.
“I think it was how I approached the year, everything I did in the summer,” Brown said of his change in preparation. “I put a lot more care in my body, how I’ve been eating and how much work I’ve been putting in so I feel like that’s taken me to another step.”
Following the goal, freshman winger Thomas Freel was dealt a five-minute-major and game misconduct for hitting-from-behind on the Fensore play. Fensore was able to shake the sting off and return a few shifts later.
BU was unable to convert on the ensuing power play which was cut short by a Greene tripping penalty at 6:32. Nonetheless, the Terriers continued to be hard on pucks and put forth a strong forecheck for the remainder of the opening frame –– a good example of “starting on time.”
Junior Nick Zabaneh extended his team’s lead 3:52 into the middle stanza, connecting with senior forward Sam Stevens for his fifth of the 2022-2023 campaign. Off the rush, Stevens sauced the puck across the crease for Zabaneh to knock in on the doorstep. No. 10 has really proved himself in the past month and found a new consistency in his game that we haven’t seen from the forward before. He has really developed into a difference-maker for BU.
“I don’t really pinpoint one thing,” Zabaneh said post-game. “I think it’s just keep working in practice, find chemistry with your linemates and just compete every day. The bounces have been going for me as of late so just try to keep it going.”
Jay O’Brien got back on the scoresheet for the first time since Dec. 3 with a wonky floater from above the right faceoff circle. The 9:23 lamplighter was reviewed for goaltender interference but was ultimately deemed a good goal and widened the gap to 4-0. O’Brien is another guy you love to see get rewarded.
A delayed tripping call on junior defenseman Cade Webber at 17:55 gave way to Maine’s first tally of the night. Sophomore forward Cole Hanson’s snapshot made it 4-1 but the Terriers were able to kill off the rest of the minor as the period ended.
Fensore was not on the bench for the final 20 minutes of regulation after skating in the second period. Pandolfo said he does not know Fensore’s availability for tomorrow’s tilt.
“I haven’t got a full report yet,” Pandolfo said. “I don’t know if it was precautionary or not. We’ll have to reevaluate and see how he is tomorrow.”
Following a delayed penalty call on Maine, Kaplan garnered his ninth point in seven games with a nifty backhander that he released while circling around the front of the net. Assisted by Brown and Lane Hutson, Kaplan’s goal put the matchup at its final 5-1 score.
“I’ve really liked his development. He has kind of earned everything he’s gotten,” Pandolfo said. “I’ve seen more and more offense from him. I’ve seen him become more comfortable, more confident, moving his feet more.”
While the Terriers weren’t happy with their full 60 minute performance, they found a way to win by a hefty margin. As past tales have proven, Maine is not a team to underestimate, so BU will have to make some adjustments for tomorrow night’s 6:00pm contest at Agganis.
“We were turning a lot more pucks over than we normally do –– we were just overcomplicating the game,” Brown said. “Just keeping it simple, playing fast, using our speed and executing our passes are going to be a big difference for us.”
The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of the rest of the series so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.