By Mitch Fink
Domenick Fensore leapt up into the air to high-five a fan. Sam Stevens swept his stick against the ice like a broom. Stoic Wilmer Skoog cracked a smile.
That elation, which took place as the BU men’s hockey team walked back to the locker room after completing a sweep of the University of Vermont, captured why this weekend was so important. BU’s two wins over UVM injected life into a locker room that was beginning to reel.
The six Hockey East points are huge. But the confidence a series like this gives BU is, arguably, even more important.
After BU put forth disappointing showings for the better part of February, the Terriers’ two wins this weekend were crucial. To be clear, this was a must sweep weekend. If BU dropped even one of these two games against UVM, I think we’d all keep sounding the alarm bells.
Instead, we saw a return of the Nation’s Best Offense™ (eight goals over two games), and a big-time bounceback game from Drew Commesso (a shutout on Saturday night).
BU knew it was better than Vermont. Vermont knew BU was better than Vermont. Everyone inside Gutterson Fieldhouse knew BU was better than Vermont. And, for the first time in what feels like forever, the Terriers put their foot down and were, unquestionably, the better team.
What does this mean moving forward? That sour taste in BU’s mouth — forged by hearing thousands of Northeastern fans singing “Stacy’s Mom” after the Huskies salted away the Beanpot semifinals — is firmly washed away.
BU’s nightmarish February is in the past. With a win under their belts, the Terriers can move on to Providence, on to the Hockey East playoffs, and on to the NCAA tournament.
In the Beanpot and, at times, against Merrimack, the game seemed to speed up for BU. Against UVM, the pace slowed back down. BU’s power play returned to form after a brutal slump. The Terriers had several good looks on the first man-advantage, before Jay O’Brien found a look in the slot and buried it.
The confidence seemed to return after Friday night. As Dylan Peterson put it after the first game of the series: “We’re gonna start rolling here and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.” That’s the swagger this team has been missing. Say it, believe it and execute it.
Next weekend’s series against Providence presents its own set of challenges. Of course, the weekend will decide the final seedings in the Hockey East tournament. For now, BU is holding onto first place by a thread, with Merrimack and Northeastern trailing by one and two points respectively.
But beyond that, the final series of the regular season is a chance for BU to head into the playoffs on firm footing and with confidence. A loss would obviously shake that. When last year’s team got shellacked, 8-1, by Maine in the last game of the season, the year was effectively over. I don’t think anyone — fans, players or coaches — felt confident about BU’s chances in the Hockey East tournament because of how deflating that loss to Maine was.
This year’s team is better, more mentally tough, and in a better spot in the standings. Still, this final series will have a significant impact on the Terriers’ confidence heading into the postseason.
As we saw this weekend, belief can be a real difference-maker.
- Drew Commesso had an important bounce-back weekend. The junior netminder has conceded a few soft goals in recent weeks, but the sweep and shutout this weekend should help his confidence.Vermont has struggled to score all season, but Commesso still made timely saves and recorded a shutout on Saturday night.
- It’s been well documented by now, but Dylan Peterson was tremendous in this series. Before Friday, Peterson hadn’t recorded a point since the BC series in late January. He notched two goals and an assist in Vermont, and was a key catalyst for the Terriers both nights.
- Quinn Hutson had been visibly frustrated the past few weeks. Great to see him get on the scoresheet, and get some of his own personal confidence back up.