By Mitch Fink
Records and polls be damned, the University of Maine is a good hockey team. And for the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team, Friday’s 5-3 victory was a great win.
The Alfond, in the frozen tundra called Orono, Maine, is one of the toughest buildings to visit in Hockey East. On Wednesday, BU head coach Jay Pandolfo called it a “tight building” where “things happen really quickly.” While the cold held some people off, many of the Alfond-faithful suited up and still made the trip in -43º wind chill.
The Black Bears (11-13-2, 5-9-1 Hockey East) are better than their record indicates and, as expected, gave the Terriers (20-6-0, 14-4-0 HEA) a run for their money. In the end, this wasn’t a “trap game.” But it was far from a cake walk.
Maine seemed to have an answer for each BU tally, and the Black Bears were clinical on the power play. Drew Commesso (25 saves) was good, BU’s Wilmer Skoog-Matt Brown-Devin Kaplan line (three goals) was excellent and Lane Hutson (four assists) did what Lane Hutson does.
BU won this game because it is battle-tested, confident and a goal-scoring machine.
This wasn’t the first back-and-forth game the Terriers have played in. Take the Cornell game in early January. The Big Red scored. BU responded. And again. And again, until the Terriers won it on Lane Hutson’s late winner. Last night didn’t take any heroics, but it helped that BU had been in a similar spot before. This group knows how to take a punch, recuperate and respond.
Confidence is another key to the winning recipe. It helps to come into a game like this on the back of a six-game winning streak. BU could concede a goal and feel good about its chances to respond, because that’s what the Terriers have done in 10 of their last 11 games. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have the highest-scoring offense in the country (tied with Western Michigan for most goals per game in the country with 4.2).
When BU turned up the offensive pressure, goals felt inevitable. Take the power play before Skoog’s winning goal for example. The Terriers flicked passes across the offensive zone with surgical precision. Maine netminder Victor Ostman was under constant duress. Lane Hutson buzzed around the blue line, constantly opening shooting lanes with his speed and craftiness. Luke Tuch relentlessly jammed rebounds into Ostman’s equipment. Ryan Greene and Quinn Hutson poured on pressure from the wings. The Black Bears, somehow, survived by a thread.
It didn’t matter. Seconds later, Skoog effortlessly lifted a backhand over Ostman’s pads for the lead. Like a well-oiled machine.
- Domenick Fensore returned to the lineup from injury, looked 100 percent and played a key role. That should only give Fensore — and BU — more confidence going into Monday’s Beanpot semifinal against Northeastern.
- BU needs to clean up the penalty kill. Maine has the worst power play in Hockey East, and still went two-for-three on the man-advantage. Northeastern will pose an even bigger threat in that category.
- Don’t overlook the defensive efforts of Fensore, Cade Webber and Luke Tuch. All three notched three blocked shots against Maine. They’ve been doing it all year long. It’s nice to have upperclassmen who are willing to sacrifice their bodies and set the tone physically.
- No more “trap game” talk. It’s officially Beanpot season. Northeastern lost, 4-3, to UConn in overtime last night at Matthews Arena. The Terriers will take on the Huskies at 8 p.m. Monday at TD Garden in the semifinals.
your lead to this story was spot on
Your comment said it all. Mitch’s article was an all-inclusive synopsis. That game was akin to grueling fight, and as Mitch noted; “This group knows how to take a punch, recuperate and respond.”
It was a heart-warming victory, that took the sting out of walking out to a -17 degree parking lot. PSD