Game Recaps

BU swept by Merrimack in 4-3 overtime loss

Photo by James Garrison

It’s not as bad as it looks. 

The Boston University men’s hockey team (20-10-0, 14-6-0 Hockey East) hosted the Merrimack College Warriors (18-21-1, 13-8-0 HE) tonight at Agganis Arena where they lost 4-3 in overtime and got swept for the first time this season. 

Now four deep in their losing streak, the Terriers can still take some positives away from a more hard-fought effort than we’ve seen in a while. It wasn’t a complete 60 minutes, but BU chipped away and got closer to the way they need to be playing this time of year. 

“I thought we started finding our game, there’s no question,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame. “I thought tonight we definitely played a more desperate game so I was happy with that, obviously not happy with the result.”

The Terriers’ first period play addressed much of what Pandolfo stressed in last night’s postgame –– battling for pucks down low and getting bodies to the net. BU came out with more bite and jumped on second-chance opportunities below the circle. 

While the top three lines were shuffled with freshman forward Devin Kaplan joining the kid line and Quinn Hutson slotting in with Luke Tuch and Jay O’Brien, it was the untouched fourth line that set the tempo for BU early on. Junior forwards Dylan Peterson and Nick Zabaneh were strong on the forecheck and had some of the Terriers’ better looks on the rush in the opening frame. 

Despite a comparably better start to yesterday in North Andover, BU still found itself down by two heading into intermission. A knock-in shot from sophomore forward Matt Copponi at 13:30 made it 1-0 before the goal –– that arguably got Drew Commesso pulled –– from graduate forward Mick Messner bounced in with 2:20 on the clock. It wasn’t pretty. 

The Terriers had trailed after the first in their last three losses and were never able to find their footing again. Tonight was different. BU showed its mental toughness, put their heads down and got right back to work in the middle stanza. Junior netminder Vinny Duplessis took over the crease, relieving Commesso for the fourth time this season. 

“Just a spark more than anything else,” Pandolfo said of the decision. “Just one of those things where you try to get a spark for our team.” 

I’m not trying to turn a game recap into an opinion piece, but you can’t tell me this team doesn’t play differently in front of Duplessis. That’s not to say Commesso isn’t the number one guy, but things shifted in the second. 

Team point-leader Matt Brown changed the complexion of the contest at 4:34 when he stopped the puck at the blue line, walked three Warriors and snapped it low, glove side. With the deficit cut to 2-1, the BU bench got the spark it’s been desperately searching for since the Beanpot semifinals. 

“It gave us a little life. We got down 2-0 again so that’s always difficult,” Pandolfo said. “I thought we were playing okay at the time and we just needed one to get our confidence.”

Almost like a switch was flipped, there was a new level of confidence in the Terriers’ stride –– and a deep sigh of relief from the press box.

Merrimack’s senior defenseman Liam Dennison was dealt a five-minute-major and game misconduct after elbowing O’Brien in the head at 9:03 –– it was non-negotiable, BU had to score here. Ryan Greene delivered on the man-advantage and slapped one home from the slot to knot it two a piece. Greene’s ninth tally of the year was BU’s second power play goal in as many games, showing slight improvement in a previously slumping special teams. 

“I know we scored two power play goals but at the end of the day, I don’t think the power play was good enough,” Pandolfo said. “Having two late in the third, we just have to capitalize.” 

Tensions rose towards the end of the period with seven penalties dished out at 15:06. Between another Merrimack game misconduct and a handful of roughing minors, Peterson, Zabaneh and Gallagher found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder in the sin bin. And I’m all for it. Those guys brought emotion back into the series and a gutty edge back to a BU squad that has just rolled over the past two weeks. 

Lane Hutson topped off the turn-around period with his second buzzer-beater of the season. The blueliner deked the Warrior in front of him and snapped the puck from the right faceoff circle to give the Terriers their first lead in a game since Feb. 3 in Maine.

Hutson broke the program record for most goals scored by a freshman defenseman, garnering the tenth of his rookie campaign with less than a second remaining. What’s more, Duplessis collected the secondary assist on the play. 

“I think our guys have been squeezing their sticks a little bit lately. You know the goals haven’t been going in as easy for us,” Pandolfo said. “It was nice to see our guys respond and come back.” 

A Sam Stevens interference penalty 11 seconds into the final frame allowed Merrimack to find the equalizer with a greasy goal from senior winger Ben Brar. Spotty coverage by the Terriers down low left the net open and brought the score to 3-3. The matchup remained tied through the last 20 and overtime ensued. 

BU’s best chance during the extra hockey came on a O’Brien breakaway that was stopped by sophomore Hugo Ollas with less than a minute left. A delayed penalty was called on the Terriers and Merrimack got going on the other end immediately. With 0.1 on the clock, Brar netted his second of the night and secured a 4-3 win for his group. 

Four straight losses is not good. Getting swept is not good. But the Terriers showed glimpses of their old selves tonight and a type of compete we haven’t seen in nearly three weeks. The team is no doubt hitting the inevitable season rut –– albeit, unfortunate timing –– but they’re one step closer to getting their game back. 

BU will look to get back in the win column next weekend on the road against the University of Vermont. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on the ground coverage so be sure to follow along on Instagram and Twitter @BOShockeyblog.


  1. I’ll spare you another novel tonight and keep it short. I think the wear and tear on our 5 defensemen (and I say 5 because it’s clear the coaches don’t think we have a 6th D1 defensemen on the roster) is finally catching up to us. We rely so much on the D in everything we do so when they’re a step slow or mentally fatigued it trickles down throughout our play. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do at this point (just poor roster construction this past offseason – some of it unavoidable due to past commitments) so it’s up to some of the other players to step up their games down the stretch.

    Go BU

    • Spot on, Mike.

      Throughtout the season the coaching staff has shown no confidence in whomever is dressed as the 6th D. I wonder how much (or how little) the coaching staff has actually done to develop Copeland, Jarman, Getz, etc. where they could improve and play more minutes.

      Fensore has not looked 100% since returning from injury. Opposing teams are figuring out how to contain Hutson. With them not playing their best, the team is struggling in all zones and look very out of sync. Gallagher is trying perhaps a bit too hard and trying to do too much. Imagine how having Alex Vlasic or even Joseph Campolieto this season would help the D manage their minutes.

      All season long I felt the lack of quality depth on D was BU’s biggest risk. Fensore’s injury made that very apparent, despite BU winning every game he was out. Unfortunately this risk is surfacing into a real issue that I’m not sure how the coaching staff can resolve this late in the season.

  2. i agree an overall much better effort by the terriers and they would have won but for some spotty goaltending by Commesso in the 1st period. However the old fightback spirit was there and a garrison finish seemed to be in the cards at the end. it didn’t happen. But this is the problem when you play in a lot of close games especially one that shouldn’t have been if the Terriers hadn’t started the game in the hole again 0-2. Duplessis also , while not to blame specifically for the goals he gave up, seemed to be also a bit jumpy due also to the fact that he hasn’t been in a game for months. Its tough to come in cold and be at your best ( Pando should have started him more before IMO). Hopefully they can build off this effort and get back on to winning ways.

  3. crickets from Rui

  4. also, if Pando and his staff want to be competitive, he needs to address the goalie situation for next year. Vinnie and Chambre are not the answer. we need a top flight goalie, not one who ranks 41 among ncaa goalies. it is just a waste of the other high-end talent coming in. i rarely say this, but I just hope the blackhawks take DC at the end of the season.

    i also think vinnie is better suited to start the game rather than come in relief. so start him vs VT.

  5. No knock on Commesso but Vinnie should get a start at VT. Either game but probably the 2nd. I agree that next year’s goalie situation doesn’t look great.

  6. And I am glad you we are bringing in some bigger dmen who are physical. Right now Hutson and fensore are too small and Gallagher and McCarthy just don’t like to mix it up. They don’t clear anyone out and they make camping in front of our goalie easy.
    (Hope Webber stays. )
    As for Copeland and Jarman and Driscoll and #15 goes, bring back Juha Viori (sp). Sheesh

  7. i could be wrong but this is what i came up with:
    0-8 when other team scores first

    goals against in overall games – league and out of conference – only better than 4 other teams in HE: umass, unh,vermont

    now that the offense has been trying to find their mojo, that defensive weakness becomes more glaring; aka losses

    perhaps the frosh have hit the wall finally. i do not blame them. they have all done spectacular. but the heavy grind of second half/playoff hockey catches up to most freshman

    i just hope the year ends more positively than in past years. adapting and turning this around will be the key

  8. 15-0 when we score first. 5-10 when our opponent scores first. 1-7 when trailing after 2 (which is probably a common stat).

    Vermont will be interesting. They’re playing better than they did earlier in the season and they’re on average a full year older than our roster.

    They can’t score and their PP is dreadful but they concede the same amount of goals we do. Both of our goalies have save %s just above .900 but part of that is we don’t play a structured defensive game so the goalie has to do a lot in his own (and when Drew is off he’s OFF)

    Anyway. Need to play well, sweep, and get back on track. If we don’t then I’ll really atart to worry. Hopefully it’s just a blip but the D-core is concerning (not that it’s their fault. Just too many minutes and wearing down as the season goes on).


  9. Im here don’t worry vinniei ain’t goimg no where .. Excuses made for vinnoe i see.. Way of position on 1st goal and need a save 5 hole so u can relax .. Effort was there not thr finish .. We still on great shape.. Go BU 🐾 glad u like it name buddy keep it going ..

  10. Glad to see you made a contribution- Big Rui. Always love to read your comments. Go BU

  11. I enjoyed seeing a return of the good natured banter-and-parry from Terry Err, Vito, Vinnie, TK1180, Mark My Word (earlier post), and of course Mike and Rui. I am still missing Larry (Frozen Out), and one or two other MIA’s. I just wish that this participation was not precipitated by a losing streak. PSD

    Rui, Please stock the car with snacks, we have a long ride to VT.

  12. Ok boys goaltending is 80 percent of hockey unless you don t have one then it’s 100 percent

    For the Most part over the first 26 games our offense was able to out score most of our issues. Let’s hope that comes back