By James Garrison
Although shaky at times, the Boston University men’s hockey team (17-6-0, 11-4-0 Hockey East) managed to capture their third Hockey East sweep of the season. The Terriers struggled defensively without captain Domenick Fensore, but pulled away from the Black Bears (9-12-2, 3-7-1 HE) in the third period with a 9-6 win.
Fensore’s absence was noticeable, as neither Drew Commesso nor the Terriers blueline did themselves any favors. For about 25 minutes, the two sides found themselves locked in a back-and-forth high-scoring affair comparable to this season’s sole Battle of Comm Ave.
The newly cemented top line of Matt Brown, Wilmer Skoog and Devin Kaplan continued their dominant weekend for most of the first period. The trio combined for eight points, producing three of the Terriers’ four first period goals at five-on-five.
“That line has clearly found some chemistry,” Pandolfo said post-game.
Skoog opened the scoring just 36 seconds into the opening frame, collecting an ankle-breaking tally identical to one last Wednesday against UMass. Just under four minutes later, Skoog doubled his scoring output.
The red-hot center changed his angle and wired home a wrister from the left circle to collect his ninth of the year. Ever since the turn of the Thanksgiving break, the senior forward has been on quite the tear, collecting 15 points in the 11-game span.
“[Skoog]’s been excellent…He seems like he’s having some fun,” Pandolfo said. “When the puck starts going in, you start feeling good about yourself and it helps.”
Brown sniped his 11th of the year on the power play, and Lane Hutson cleaned up the loose change in front of the net; all was well and good for the scarlet and white at 14:45 of the first period.
After almost an entire period of dominance, a very clear roadmap presented itself to the Terriers. 45 minutes of structured play and solid goaltending would see BU skate out to a weekend sweep and a fourth consecutive victory.
It was not a night for simplicity.
Maine jumped on a complacent Terrier group, scoring three times in the final 2:28 of the first period.
“I thought the first 15 minutes of the game we’re playing pretty close to as well as you can,” Pandolfo said. “We got that penalty, they scored that funny power play goal, we ran into Drew and then never really recovered. Next thing you know, they’ve got a little momentum.”
Maine’s first piece of momentum was grabbed on the man-advantage. Black Bear junior forward Donavan Villeneuve-Houle got one past a down-and-out Drew Commesso, who was taken out by some friendly fire from Dylan Peterson.
Commesso was given no favors by his penalty-killers on the initial strike, but the junior goaltender was no help to the five white sweaters in front of him on the ensuing Black Bear tallies.
“We got away from our game a little bit,” Skoog said. “We took some damage, so next week we’ll have to come out that way and continue playing like we started the game.”
Having seemingly righted the ship with a strong start to the second period, the Terriers’ ‘kid line’ re-established a two-goal lead. Ryan Greene fed Jeremy Wilmer for a bang-bang sequence. With eight points since the turn of the new year, the undersized freshman has continued to grow early in the second semester.
“When I find my spots in the d-zone, pucks find me, find my linemates,” Wilmer said. “I think that played a lot into that game and the offense we certainly created.”
The all-freshman line turned in yet another beyond-their-years performance, combining for eight points in the highly offensive outing.
The dogged Black Bears once again did not quit, capitalizing multiple times in short order. Maine’s two goals in 1:55 officially ended Commesso’s night. Commesso, who undoubtedly had an off night, should share the blame with a Fensore-less backend.
“We had some D in there that don’t get a lot of minutes,” Pandolfo said. “You can’t really replace Dom; you’ve just got to have some guys step up and take some of the minutes.”
One of the Terriers forced to step up in lieu of their captain, Ty Gallagher, got the monkey off his back just 1:43 later. The Terriers’ response pinballed its way into the net, giving the sophomore defenseman his first of the year in bizarre fashion.
“Overall, his game’s been pretty good,” Pandolfo said. “He doesn’t really have to worry about scoring, he has to worry about just playing his game. If he does that, goals will come eventually.”
After the Gallagher goal, the Terriers finally found a lead they would not relinquish. The Terriers not only held on but skated away from Maine in the third period. Quinn Hutson buried a stretch pass from his brother, Jeremy Wilmer collected his second of the game and Luke Tuch continued his recent scoring output.
Despite grabbing six valuable points in the Hockey East standings, the Terriers will have to do what they’ve done all year: bounce back before facing a hungry Eagles team next weekend. With BC suffering a home sweep at the hands of UVM, BU will need all hands on deck, including Fensore.
“I’m not sure [if Fensore will play], I certainly hope so,” Pandolfo said. “Knowing Dom, he’ll be ready to go.”
The Terriers will enter the Battle of Comm Ave next weekend with Friday night’s game set for 7:00pm at Agganis Arena. The Boston Hockey Blog will have continued full coverage of the team so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.