The Boston University men’s hockey team (22-10-0, 16-6-0 Hockey East) came out hot, looking more like themselves than they have since early February. We can all thank God and Dylan Peterson for that. A dominant offense headlined by BU’s veteran players and backed by Drew Commesso gave BU its first weekend sweep since Jan. 29 with a 3-0 shutout victory over the University of Vermont Catamounts (9-18-5, 4-15-3 HE).
“It was a big weekend for us,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said after the victory. “To get back on the winning track and get six points, it’s important.”
In the very beginning of the season, the Terriers struggled to find their game early with a consistent stretch of Friday losses followed by Saturday wins. Just as they did last night though –– and what we were missing through most of February – – BU got on the board first and early.
75 seconds into the game, freshman defenseman Lane Hutson drew a hooking penalty and sent Catamount sophomore Isak Walther to the box. While the power play still needs some work, the Terriers used the extra skater to their advantage with some solid cycling and improved physicality. Senior captain Domenick Fensore headed the goal from the blue line with a pass to Jeremy Wilmer in the circle. Wilmer, who suddenly (and silently) sits fourth on the team in points, made a quick tap-pass to a skating-in Jay O’Brien. OB’s clapper from the slot gave BU an early lead, again showing their much-needed revival.
BU played the most complete, cohesive, and detail-oriented period we’ve seen since Maine. I’ll probably write that sentence at least three more times in this recap. L. Hutson pulled off the toe-drags he hasn’t been able to complete recently, Ethan Phillips made some key blocks and the confidence this team is known for is back. BU looks good again.
“I think every team goes through ups and downs during the season,” Commesso said postgame. “We just had to believe in each other and get back to playing our game, and I think we played great this weekend.”
Within the opening minutes of the second, Fensore collided with Vermont freshman forward Dawson Good at an awkward angle. Good fell to the ice out-cold in a terrifying fashion, with Fensore waving over the medical staff immediately. Good got back to his feet and skated to the locker room, but the scary hit seemed to ignite the Catamounts, who play a much better game than their record indicates.
The Terriers maintained offensive pressure though, doubling their lead halfway through the game. Much of BU’s offensive spark is credited to the newly shuffled lines, with the third line of Wilmer, Nick Zabaneh, and Peterson accounting for two of BU’s five goals yesterday. Tonight, Zabaneh’s up-ice pass connected with Petey in the neutral zone before making its way over to the captain. Fensore collected the rubber and snapped it over graduate goaltender Oskar Autio’s glove for his fourth point of the weekend.
“They’ve been great from day one,” Pandolfo said of O’Brien and Fensore. “They hold themselves accountable [and] they hold everyone else accountable… It helps us.”
The Terriers’ offensive depth has been one of their best assets all year, but it seemed like we were missing goals from much of the junior class, with guys like Petey and Luke Tuch being kept from the scoresheet. This weekend’s awakening saw those two veterans, along with Fensore and O’Brien, push through the Beanpot-induced dry-spell. Fensore carried momentum through the entirety of Saturday’s game –– his goal was a long time coming.
“Yeah, I think it’s confidence for both those guys,” Pandolfo said of Peterson and Tuch. “Both those guys are powerful, they’re hard to contain, they get to the net. They’ve really helped us out, and they’ve been doing a lot of that.”
BU’s complete game was backed by Commesso in net. Commesso, who has given up a few questionable goals recently, looked solid tonight. I was too superstitious to write this as it happened, so now, after the game, I can say that Commesso made 22 saves for his first shutout of the season.
A tripping call on Will Zapernick put BU back on the power play for their second man-advantage of the game. The Terriers cycled well and had the time to set-up, as L. Hutson sniped one from the point. A deflection down-low from Tuch sent the puck over the goal line for a three goal lead, and his second goal of the weekend. Tuch’s six-game pointless streak came to a close last night, with another insurance point tonight.
Despite improved discipline across the season, the Terriers still manage to take penalties at the worst possible times. Freshman Ryan Greene was sent to the penalty box on a cross-checking call, and 1:49 later, Jamie Armstrong joined him for boarding. The Catamounts’ five-on-three was held off as BU stood tall for Commessso, who was looking for his first shutout of the season. Again, I wrote this before the game ended. It has since ended, and Commesso did that.
The Terriers closed out a two-game road trip with wins that gave them the confidence and swagger they had been lacking recently. With two more games remaining in the regular season, BU controls their fate to win the Hockey East regular season title and to carry their momentum through the postseason.
“Biggest thing is just continuing to play the way we did this weekend… back to being consistent every night,” Pandolfo said. “To have that, we have enough talent and skill to take us through the rest of the season, but we have to make sure we’re playing consistent hockey.”
The Terriers will next face the Providence College Friars in the last home game of the season with a pregame ceremony to honor an impactful senior class. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm with full coverage on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.