Game Recaps

Behind complete effort, BU rolls past Western Michigan in NCAA regionals, 5-1

By Mitch Fink
Photo by Caroline Fernandez

MANCHESTER, NH — Boston University faced the pressure of elimination, the heat of an offensive juggernaut and the challenge of an unfamiliar arena on Thursday.

Somehow, someway, it culminated in the Terriers’ most complete effort of the season: a 5-1 romp over Western Michigan in the NCAA regional semifinal in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“Great overall effort by our team tonight, from the goaltender on out,” BU head coach Jay Pandolfo said postgame. 

Western Michigan’s ever-threatening top line of Jason Polin (30 goals), Max Sasson (42 points) and Ryan McAllister (49 points) scored once, but never found its rhythm. Drew Commesso was locked in, BU’s offense clicked, and the Terriers’ backcheck was effective and consistent throughout. 

BU’s defensive-oriented fourth line deserves much of the credit for slowing down the Broncos’ top line. Jamie Armstrong, Devin Kaplan and Sam Stevens put on a backchecking clinic. The trio was quick enough to stay in front of Polin, Sasson and McAllister, and strong enough to outmuscle the Broncos’ standout line. 

“They’re a great defensive line,” Pandolfo said of BU’s fourth line. “They work back to the middle of the ice. That was the big thing, trying not to let them get to the middle of the ice on us.”

After a Western Michigan (23–15-1) goal was called back for goaltender interference, BU snatched the momentum, cashing in on Lane Hutson’s snipe from the slot. 

The goal earned the Terriers their first lead since the Hockey East quarterfinals against Vermont, and sparked a renewed level of confidence and swagger for BU (28-10-0), which only grew as the game went on.

But the Terriers didn’t truly gain control of the game until a pivotal stretch in the second period. 

First, Quinn Hutson ripped a wrister past Western Michigan goaltender Cam Rowe to extend BU’s lead to two at 11:08 of the second frame. Then, a minute and a half later, Matt Brown found an opening in the slot and hammered in a slapshot. 

In what seemed like an instant, the Terriers grasped onto full control of the game. Western Michigan could hardly clear its own zone, let alone generate scoring chances. Even after Polin scored on an odd man rush to put the Broncos’ on the board, BU stayed aggressive, composed and in control.

BU responded to Polin’s tally with another offensive flurry, which eventually led to Wilmer Skoog’s snapshot from the left dot that gave BU a 4-1 advantage. 

From there, BU played one of its best defensive periods of the season. Against one of the top attacking teams in the country, the Terriers hardly gave an inch. Western Michigan outshot BU, 10-6, in the final frame, but the Terriers still found ways to contain the Broncos and remain aggressive.

Western Michigan pulled its goaltender with just under five minutes to go in a last-ditch effort to get back into the game, but Ethan Phillips — one of BU’s best skaters Thursday  — aptly scored an empty-netter with under three minutes to go in the game to seal the win. 

“Ethan Phillips was excellent tonight. I think it was probably the best game he’s played all year,” Pandolfo said. “Give him a lot of credit. I was really happy for him to find a way to get the empty-netter at the end.”

Commesso finished with 24 saves. 

BU will take on either Denver or Cornell with a chance to clinch a berth in the Frozen Four on Saturday afternoon in Manchester. 

The puck will drop at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, and the Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage. Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Twitter @BosHockeyBlog.


  1. I love how we won puck battles and how Philips picked this game to be everything we had hoped he would be … and way more! And I am hard pressed to remember a more impactful pair of BU Hockey brothers than the Hutsons.

  2. Maybe the Lachance brothers but not really

    Wow were we clicking. That was thorough

    Dom looked like his skating is close to being back

    Copeland hung in there. How come no Getz?

    One thing I think yesterday’s game proves is that when you get eliminated in the quarterfinals of your conference playoffs like WM did and have a two week layoff, it is hard to get untracked. It’s happened to us. Everyone talked about BU’s short week, but I think it served as an advantage.

    That fact that Phillips is picking up his game, especially with the injury to NZ is huge

  3. i think what we saw in both games of this regional was 2 eastern teams , the champs of hockey east, & ecac power cornell outclass & shutdown 2 clubs , one the defending champ, from the more nationally regarded western leagues. the terriers & the big red limited the 2 western ncaa reps to one goal over 2 games & that by western’s polin, the nations leading scorer the last 2 years. the fact that western lost 4 of their last 6 games & that the terriers are currently the hottest team in the nation, are more a factor of the broncos demise than the layoff. now another edition of red hot hockey to decide which of these 2 eastern powers will represent their conference in the frozen four

  4. Please do not forget the three Meagher brothers–all Captains . Rick a 3 time All American when you were only eligible for 3 years.

  5. Glenn Carey Staub

    Good point Allan but those Meaghers were before my BUH awareness.

    • too bad the 3 meaghers wee terrific players, especially ricky ( 3 time all american) who along with BC’s joe mullen were the most electifying players in college hockey during the mid 1970s

  6. Harvard’s Randy Roth was also an exciting player in that era. Really fun times in college hockey.