The Boston University men’s hockey team (20-6-0, 14-4-0 Hockey East) braved the cold and headed up to Orono for a matchup against the University of Maine Black Bears (11-13-2, 5-9-1 HE) where they completed the season sweep with a 5-3 victory and extended their win-streak to seven.
Led by Jay Pandolfo, the Terriers’ 20th win of the 2022-2023 campaign is the most for a BU head coach in their first year.
“The guys, they’re determined to play well every night. This is a tough place to play,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said post-game. “We ended up sticking to it and finding a way to get the win, so it was a huge win for us tonight.”
The Black Bears know how to shut it down at Alfond Arena and came into the night with a 8-3-1 home record. A road-game against a lower-ranked opponent three days before the Beanpot gave BU much room to slack off, but they still managed to collect three conference points in a back-and-forth competition.
Captain Domenick Fensore returned to the lineup after suffering an upper body injury against Maine on Jan. 20 and got right back to leading by example on the ice with a classic sturdy performance.
“It felt great. Nice being out there with the guys. It was a good test for us on the road here –– it was a fun atmosphere,” Fensore said post-game. “I’m feeling a hundred percent now, for sure.”
Missing from the BU bench were seniors Jamie Armstrong and Case McCarthy. Pandolfo said Armstrong aggravated his previous injury, is week-to-week and will not be available for Monday. McCarthy’s injury is upper-body after getting banged up in practice –– tonight was more precautionary in hopes that he’ll be ready for the Beanpot, the head coach added.
Reshuffling the defensive pairs, John Copeland slotted in with Lane Hutson while Lachlan Getz skated alongside Cade Webber. Senior Sean Driscoll dressed for his first game of the season as the extra defender. Sophomore Brian Carrabes filled in for Armstrong on the fourth line.
Despite a 1-0 Terrier lead, Maine had the stronger opening frame of the two teams. The Black Bears leaned on their physical edge, were hard on pucks in the corner and hemmed BU in their own end for much of the last ten minutes of the period.
BU got on the board at 4:12 when L. Hutson dished it off the backhand to forward Devin Kaplan from the blueline. Kaplan collected it in the high slot and released a snapshot that darted past junior netminder Victor Ostman for his eighth of the year.
Junior goaltender Drew Commesso continued his back-end heroics and kept the Black Bears off the scoresheet when BU’s structure collapsed –– especially on the penalty kill. He was dialed in from puck drop and showed great rebound control in the first period. He ended the night with 25 stops.
Maine opened the second with the same intensity and found the equalizer on the power play following a Dylan Peterson boarding call. A shot from sophomore forward Cole Hanson hit senior winger Ben Poisson in front and the rubber trickled past a screened Commesso. Now 1-1 at 6:53, the Terriers needed to find their game to quiet a buzzing Black Bear squad.
Senior Matt Brown brought some energy back to the scarlet and white just under two minutes later with a gritty-goal down low. The forward worked through three Maine defensemen and tucked the puck past Ostman while circling the crease for a 2-1 advantage at 8:43. The lamplighter marked Brown’s tenth multipoint game of the season. Round of applause?
“I think just sticking to our game plan,” Fensore said of handling the pinball scoring. “Everybody on the bench knows when we play the right way good things can happen. It was just get back to our game right away, and we did.”
The Terriers did a solid job of handling the ebbs and flows of the second period and never let the momentum swing too far out of their control –– even while the Black Bears worked to claw their way back.
Maine’s Lynden Breen knotted the game at two with a knock-in goal at 15:40, but the Terriers were once again quick to respond and cashed-in on the power play with 2:02 left in the middle stanza. Freshman forward Ryan Greene netted his first tally since Nov. 19 and put his group up 3-2 heading into the last 20 of regulation.
“It felt so good,” Greene said post-game. “It’s been a while since I’ve scored obviously but got the monkey off the back so I think it’s good going into the Beanpot as well –– I was excited.”
BU needed to play a simple, shutdown third. Instead, they let the Black Bears back into the game a minute into the period. A failed clearing attempt from Copeland caused a flurry of Maine shots and sophomore Nolan Renwick was able to sneak one past from behind the net. Bouncing in off of Copeland’s skate in the crease, the goal made it 3-3 at 1:11.
While the Terriers proceeded to look a bit sluggish, Wilmer Skoog erased all wrong with an unreal play that was so characteristically him. The senior forward traded in the lacrosse-goal for a spin-around backhander by the right post. No words will give the goal justice, so I’ll link it here for you to watch…and then watch again.
Freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer added to the lead with 1:32 remaining on the clock, collecting his fifth goal in four games to bring the contest to its final 5-3 score. While it wasn’t the prettiest 60 minutes, BU was able to come together late and put together a gutty road-win against a hardworking Black Bear team.
Oh, by the way, L. Hutson had four apples tonight –– a stat that somehow got buried because of how causally consistent he is.
“I think we are playing just such a good team game,” Greene said. “We’re playing together right now, we’re playing for each other. We want to win every night no matter what rink we’re in.”
The Terriers will be back in action this Monday as they take on Northeastern in the first round of the Beanpot at TD Garden. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage of the tournament so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.