It was senior night at Agganis Arena as the No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey team (23-10-0, 17-6-0 Hockey East) honored its 11 class of 2023 members ahead of besting the Providence College Friars (14-12-7, 9-8-6 HE) by a score of 6-4.
With Northeastern’s loss to UMass Lowell tonight, the Terriers clinched the Hockey East regular season title for the first time since 2017.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame. “This is a tough title to win –– I know it’s only a regular season title –– but it’s not easy, it’s a tough league. These guys earned it. They had the right mindset from day one and I give them a lot of credit.”
Sprawled out at center ice with their families, the seniors laced up for their last regular season matchup on Comm Ave. Not enough can be said about what that group of guys has meant to the program and this year’s success. Their leadership has been invaluable and has set a standard of excellence for the younger Terrier classes.
“It’s meant a lot to this group, having 11 seniors,” Pandolfo said. “They’ve been a big part of this team leading all year long, starting with Dom. They’ve taught me a lot being a first year head coach. They’ve kept that room accountable from day one and it certainly makes my job a lot easier.
It was a cumulative five-goal first period and rocky opening ten minutes for the Terriers. While BU was able to capture the lead by the end of the frame, the Friars’ 2-0 lead just 3:12 after puck drop was less than ideal. Heading into the playoffs, those kinds of sluggish starts become unacceptable –– BU’s a resilient team but consistent two goal deficits are, if nothing else, exhausting.
Junior forward Brett Berard opened the scoring after John Copeland stumbled over the blueline and rushed to get back. The New York Rangers prospect’s wrister from above the left faceoff circle darted past Drew Commesso for the 1-0 advantage at 2:18.
A Sam Stevens cross checking penalty put Providence on the power play 20 seconds later where junior winger Nick Poisson tipped a point shot from defenseman Max Crozier into the back of the net. The Terriers no doubt dug themselves a hole, but showed up for the latter half of the period.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start and then I thought we started executing our breakouts, executing in the o-zone,” Pandolfo said. “We just started playing a little faster and we started to get our chances.”
Nick Zabaneh and Ryan Greene were buzzing on the 8:53 PK leading up to senior forward Wilmer Skoog’s diving tally directly after the BU penalty expired. Junior defenseman Ty Gallagher broke into the zone and dropped the puck to Skoog who slung it over to the slot and snapped one home to make it 2-1 at 11:03.
BU, now energized by Skoog’s highlight-reel play, put its head down and got back to work. Freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer showed just how much he’s improved this second semester with a gutty play down low that set up Quinn Hutson for his 11th of the season.
Despite his smaller size, Wilmer battled for the puck in the corner, won it, and got it to the crease while fending off four Friars. Q.Hutson tapped the rubber in by the right post, completing the type of grinding play Pandolfo has been asking of his team and knotting the contest 2-2 at 13:26.
Providence switched out freshman goaltender Philip Svedebäck for senior Austin Roden towards the end of the first –– it seemed Svedebäck was still hurting from an earlier collision.
Dished the puck on the backhand from O’Brien, Lane Hutson welcomed Roden to the crease by knocking the puck in off the netminder’s back. L Hutson’s nifty 4-on-4 shot put the Terriers on top for the first time in the game. They headed into the intermission up 3-2.
The Hutson’s stole the headlines in the second period with each brother collecting their second goal of the night. Lane’s wrister from the top of the key widened the BU gap to 4-2 at 5:21, marking his 13th multi-point game of the year. Providence’s Liam Valente made it 4-3 a quick 30 seconds later, but the Terriers shut it down from there.
“It was pretty exciting, it was a really fun game,” L. Hutson said postgame. “We hung in there and got the job done.”
“I think it was a competition between us, so we had to score a couple more,” Q. Hutson added.
Q. Hutson put the score at 5-3 when Fensore launched a leading pass up ice from the defensive zone that the freshman caught by the opposite blueline on the breakaway. Quinn sniped the puck in glove side, officially reigniting not only his offensive spark, but his confidence too.
“I think it was just a slump,” Q. Hutson said of breaking his scoring drought. “They’re gonna go in at some point, I had the shots.”
The final stanza saw more back-and-forth scoring opportunities between the two groups. Junior forward Chase Yoder got his team within one at 3:20 with a shot right off the faceoff that seemed to catch Commesso off guard. However, 22 seconds later, Matt Brown restored BU’s two-goal advantage.
Senior defenseman Case McCarthy’s look from the point bounced around in front before Brown settled it and blasted the puck past Roden to make it 6-4. The team point-leader added two to his resume with this goal and prior assist, bringing his season total to 43.
Things got chippy for the remainder of the game –– there were a collective seven penalties assessed in the third. I’m not here to question officiating, but let’s just say if I were the one wearing the stripes, half of those wouldn’t have been called. Nonetheless, the Terriers kept just enough composure to make it to the buzzer unscathed.
Graduate goaltender Patrick Schena got between the pipes for the first time in his BU career with nine seconds remaining on the clock. In his second year with the team, Schena has been a big character guy in the locker room and the Dogpound was ecstatic about his ice time.
The Terriers will look for the weekend sweep at Providence tomorrow night in their final regular season game. Puck drop is set for 7:00pm –– the Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog.
“It’s still a really important game for us tomorrow night,” Pandolfo said. “We’ve got to go down and win that game as well. Every game matters with the Pairwise and all those things.”