Game Recaps

Drew Commesso carries BU to Hockey East Championship game

By James Garrison
Photo by Caroline Fernandez

The No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team (26-10-0, 18-6-0 Hockey East) made their return to the TD Garden after having seemingly recovered from the malaise that was onset by the Beanpot. After a sketchy 60 minutes, the Terriers found their game in overtime to beat the Providence College Friars (16-14-7, 9-9-6 HE) 2-1.

Captain Domenick Fensore played but was clearly not at 100 percent. Fensore’s lower-body injury limited his minutes and his ability, but the senior stayed in the Terriers’ defensive rotation.

Fensore had to log extra minutes after Case McCarthy sustained a scary injury. McCarthy crashed into the boards at full speed and had to be carried out on a stretcher. He reportedly has a broken collarbone. 

“It’s always scary to see one of your players and teammates going out like that,” head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame. “The good news is…he was alert, he’s got movement in all his extremities. He was transported to a local hospital. He’s doing very well.”

Having won five in a row and capturing the Hockey East regular season title, confidence should have been a strong suit for the Terriers this time around. However, BU fanned on passes and forced pucks to the middle when the play wasn’t there –– they gave Philip Svedebäck an easy night, until they didn’t. 

“We’re stubborn at times,” Pandolfo said. “Our puck management has to be better. It wasn’t great early, and even a little bit in the second period as well. I thought as the game went on, we started playing a little more direct game.”

Led by a fantastic performance from goaltender Drew Commesso, BU managed to kill off a first period five-on-three. The Terriers did a good job of keeping the Friars to the outside, only until Nick Poisson rang the crossbar in the dwindling seconds of the man-advantage.

If not for Commesso, the Terriers would have needed more than one shot to tie things up late.

“He was outstanding,” Quinn Hutson said of Commesso postgame. “Without him I don’t think we would have won that game.”

Another empty power play carried the Terriers’ slow start into the second period. It was at that point though, when BU finally decided to start testing Svedebäck.

BU’s bottom six provided most of the few chances that the Terriers had in the front end of the contest. Junior forward Nick Zabaneh continued his run as the Terriers’ most impactful forward of the last few weeks.

BU got better as the second period went along, but still looked too much like a group tensing up under the bright lights and a continually filling lower bowl of the TD Garden.

The Terriers generated almost no offense –– eight shots through two periods to be exact. At any point where BU was able to muster a shot on net, it was almost always one and done.

“Early on, they were winning more of the 50/50 puck battles and that hurt us as well,” Pandolfo said. “We didn’t have any sustained offensive zone time, especially in the first period.”

Commesso continued to be the difference in the second period, as the Terriers left the ice outshot 23-8. The netminder’s reaction save on Bennett Schimek headlined a stellar 40 minutes for the junior goaltender.

Everything stopped at 7:55 of the third period when McCarthy crashed into the boards at full speed. McCarthy remained down as a silent TD Garden waited for a sign from the defender.

“It’s always difficult to see that,” Pandolfo said. “When you see that he’s okay, he gave a thumbs up. I think all the guys saw that…credit to our leaders, they got the group together and they weren’t gonna be denied.”

The Terriers immediate response was far from the right one though, as Wilmer Skoog took a cheap retaliation penalty. The senior forward was lucky to only be given a minor penalty for a textbook board in a dangerous area of the ice.

After being robbed in the second period by Commesso, Schimek got his revenge midway through the third period. Schimek wisely placed his shot stick side after the Terriers’ goaltender had lost his lumber. With that, the Friars were off and running.

The Terriers received a late power play, where they came oh-so-close as Q. Hutson rang iron in search of the equalizer.

The Friars received an even greater scoring chance while on the penalty kill. Lane Hutson wiped out at the blue line, giving way for a breakaway from Poisson. Commesso stretched his right pad to stone the cross-crease move from the junior forward for a game-saving stop.

“We get the breakaway and Commesso made a big save,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said postgame. “We get that goal, it’s over.”

Down and out, having only mustered a mere 12 shots on net, the Terriers just needed one play, which is exactly what they got.

Building off of a strong past couple of weeks, Dylan Peterson brought back his TD Garden heroics with a clutch goal to tie it up. While he struggled to score early in the season, he’s been a big part of BU’s recent jump. Set up beautifully by Lane Hutson, Peterson found a crack to beat Svedebäck with just 2:32 to go in regulation.

“Lane kind of put it into that high slot where Peterson was coming in,” Pandolfo said. “It was a nice finish by him. I thought Peterson had great legs all night –– arguably one of our better forwards.”

The two sides headed off with one goal standing in the way of a berth to the Hockey East Championship.

The Terriers looked like a different group in the extra frame. They looked like the team that had gotten them to this point. Despite only placing 15 shots on net in regulation, the Terriers peppered Svedebäck in overtime. Their 10th shot of the frame was a memorable one.

Q.Hutson, without a doubt, was overwhelmed by the bright lights of the TD Garden in February. All nerves must now be gone for the freshman forward. A semifinal clinching goal can do that. Hutson tipped home Luke Tuch’s centering feed to seal the victory.

“It was pretty crazy,” Q. Hutson said. “I saw it go in and it looked kind of slow motion, I wasn’t sure.”

Let it not be lost in the excitement of the moment that the Terriers did not play well enough to win. Providence executed a winning formula against BU perfectly. The Terriers will have to play much better tomorrow if they are to call the Hockey East title theirs. 

“The guys stuck together, and they got themselves together,” Pandolfo said. “They wanted to win it for Case.”

BU will face the winner of the Merrimack, UMass Lowell game tomorrow night at TD Garden in the championship contest. The Boston Hockey Blog will have full coverage of the 7:00pm puck drop so be sure to follow along on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram


  1. Best wishes to Case McCarthy for a full recovery!

    It’s amazing how dominant Commesso can be when he is on his game.

    I can’t remember a season when there were so many freshmen to be excited about AND that they are freshmen who are all expected to return for at least one more season.

    On a final note, thank G-d Dom is back!

  2. A few thoughts before bed…

    Case’s injury is crushing to our tournament hopes. But the most important thing is that he’s going to be OK. It could’ve been a heck of a lot worse and thank god it wasn’t a major injury to his neck or back.

    Merrimack may be a team of destiny. I suspect the entire campus will be at the Garden tomorrow, and all neutrals will be rooting for them so it will feel like an NHL playoff road game for us. They are a feel-good story after the passing of one of their coaches and coming together as a true team with a lot of good transfer portal players joining this past offseason and gelling right away. They aren’t the thug Merrimack teams of the past.

    How do you beat a tournament team with only 3.5 defenseman? You have to be ready from the drop of the puck, score early and often, and have your goalie stand on his head like Drew did tonight. No reason we can’t do it. But I don’t see another way. The crowd and adrenalin of playing for a title will carry the Warriors. So we have to strike first and put doubt in their minds.

    (Side note: I am still perplexed as to how you can have 10 defenseman on a roster, only really play five of them, and not have one or two of the other 5 that are capable of playing regular shifts after a full season. It’s just odd.)

    A team with a healthy Dom and Case makes it to the Frozen Four. Little question in my mind. But it’s going to be an uphill battle with key injuries to the position we could least afford them. Most of those defensive legs already have a ton of miles on them. Playing 25-30 min a game won’t be easy.

    A lot has to go right for us to win on Saturday and make a run in the NCAAs. So let’s focus on the 1st period and figure it out period by period from then on out.

    Regardless of what happens in the Hockey East final and next weekend, this season has been a great one compared to where we’ve been. The future is bright. But let’s still win in the present 🙂

    Go BU!


  3. Heard that Skoog was suspended, for what IMO was a marginal call at best. Only its proximity to the McCarthy injury gave official(s) impetus to make the questionable call. Even then, it was not worthy of a suspension by any metric. Could it be that H/E wants to insure that the Cinderella story of Merrimac is assured? PSD

  4. didn’t know skoog was suspended, that’s bullcrap so its all hands on deck vs a merrimack who has beaten us twice. prayers for mc carthy. we can do it if we get ahead early vs a kitty bar the door team as mike said. i guess there are no more questions about commess in a big game but the terriers must play better & for 60 minutes not just with backs against the wall.

  5. To be fair. If you watch this clip in real time it was a pretty dangerous hit. Both guys at full speed. Skoog hits him square in the back sending him into the boards where he breaks his hand. If Lehman hadn’t burned his challenge on the neutral zone hit in the 1st period he probably uses it here and Skoog gets upgraded to a major and game misconduct. Who knows if it gets to OT after that. I know I’d want a major if the teams were reversed and Dom was hit like that and broke his hand.

    Anyway, we’re severely undermanned tonight. Need someone or multiple someones to really step up.

    Nobody from the media has asked Pandolfo this year why we can only play 5D and why not a single one of the other 5D on the roster can get regular minutes. Nobody has developed? Bad attitudes in practice? Poor recruiting because they simply aren’t good enough? It’s been our one area of concern this season and was never addressed.

    It’s going to be hard to play our game with only 3.5 defenseman and without our top line center. Mostly the defense issue. If they get tired as the game goes on due to all of the minutes, or if they choose to conserve energy on each shift as a result, we won’t see them get below the circles too often, which is what we rely on to set up a lot of our goals.

    But you never know. That’s why they play the game. Need Drew to be a wall again. We’ll see what happens. Go BU.

    Here’s the link. The key is to watch it in real time. The slow motion replay is deceiving.

    Regardless, like Vito said, all hands on deck, and they need to play much much better than they did last night – for a full 60 minutes.

    • Mike, Respectfully disagree. Caveat, I am a very biased homer. Nevertheless, Skoog initiated contact about five feet in front of the Goal Line, which is itself several feet away from the boards. It was a push, not a hit. It appeared to me that Skoog was not pushing him into the boards (especially given the distance from them when contact was first made), but rather simply pushing him aside as a tactical maneuver to get to the puck. PSD

  6. totally unnecessary hit by skoog. dirty play. happened right beneath where i was sitting in the balcony. jack parker would have suspended him. not a proud moment for the team.

    about JUST tonight, in my opinion, a win would rank right up there with some of the all-time CHARACTER wins for a BU team. they will need to channel the energy of the BU team that beat the Might Michigans in the NC semis

    the warrior team is excellent and hungry

  7. Mike and Vinnie, Respectfully disagree. Caveat, I am a very biased homer. Nevertheless, Skoog initiated contact about five feet in front of the Goal Line, which is itself several feet away from the boards. It was a push, not a hit. It appeared to me that Skoog was not pushing him into the boards (especially given the distance from them when contact was first made), but rather simply pushing him aside as a tactical maneuver to get to the puck. PSD

  8. PSD,
    I respect the way you worded your disagreement. I am a wicked homer too :). Skoog rides that delicate line between cheap and hard. too often i see him pushing and shoving after the whistle which i can not stand. i hope he does not try this at the next level, because he will get his head handed to him. luckily, for Skoog they do not drop the gloves in college hockey

  9. They need to play with real urgency from the first puck drop. Didn’t see that until PC got on the board 1-0. They also need to not get manhandled physically like they did for most of the first 2 periods.

    Where the Hutson bros go, so go the Terriers. Good thing they’re both playing an elite level of hockey. Lane will log Ray Bourque level minutes in the final. That’s not a bad thing. Good luck boys…and of course get well soon Case.

  10. one more thing. Going into tonight and the regionals, it sucks that Dom is playing on one leg, McCarthy is out for the rest of the year, and the 6th, 7th d-men are a liability (Where is Ryan Ruikka?)

    But tell me this. why do they play so disjointed in the Garden?? they were horrible last night: 15 shots after 3 periods?? It is all documented in the article above. Pando says they are “stubborn” What does that mean? the coaches tell the players to play a certain way and they say, “no, we are playing this way instead.” I do not get it.

    That concerns me as much, if not more, than the above mentioned issues

    Are the points i am raising irrelevant, because they won after all? Am i overreacting (be nice)?

    Can anyone enlighten me?

    Go BU!!

    • Not overreacting at all. Coach’s comments were a reiteration of his earlier concern about the team’s reluctance to adapt their style to fit the game at hand, rather than trying to force the their open ice offense against a trapping team. Therefore, his “stubborn” snipe.

  11. Vinnie,
    Your points are spot on, and completely relevant. Coach’s comment about being “stubborn” was his (again) voicing frustration with the team wanting to play an open ice highflying offense, when the game and opponent, require that pucks be dumped deep, and resultant one-on-one battles won. Shots on net and greasy goals can then be produced. A clogged center ice necessitates an adherence to the Coach’s instructions. Hence, the “stubborn” snipe. Once we made that adjustment last night, the game changed and O zone time and shots were greatly increased. Turnovers in the neutral zone are also diminished. PSD

  12. vinnie. “they don’t do that at the next level ? he’ll get his hand handed to him? ” Really ‘ how about Marchand and the crap he’s been doing for 15 years and he’s just a little bugger. Teams like Prov, Lowell, Merrimack, with inferior talent to the BUs and BCs just play defensive oriented systems designed to stop the other team from playing and hit you on the break. They’ve been doing it for years and they also try to push around and hit our smaller fast players to try to intimidate and slow them down. At least we have one big guy to respond to all of that. 40-50 ago yeah i would agree, when the enforcers were around , then a guy like Marchand would get his butt kicked for doing what he does.
    As far as tonite goes, yeah sure it will be tough being shorthanded, but i don’t think Merrimack is that good. They struggled mightily vs BC and Lowell who are by no means heavyweights and came very close several times to losing both games. You can bet it will be very low scoring and physical tonite and probably a toss up similar to what we saw in both games last night.

  13. Fair point Vito

    And for the record , I really like Skoog; just don’t like some of his after the whistle stuff. But some of that, I guess, is just plain hockey