WALTHAM — Lane Hutson’s celebration said it all.
The sophomore defenseman raised his arms in triumph after scoring the overtime winner for the Boston University men’s hockey team, which sealed a 3-2 win over Bentley in Waltham Saturday night. But Hutson hardly cracked a smile as his teammates skated over to celebrate.
The reaction resembled relief, not jubilation.
BU, tabbed as the number one team in the country by preseason polls, found itself in a dogfight with lowly Bentley, an Atlantic Hockey foe the Terriers disposed of, 8-2, in last season’s opener. By the skin of their teeth, the Terriers survived.
“I thought we were sloppy through a lot of the game,” said BU head coach Jay Pandolfo postgame. “We definitely have to tighten up. It wasn’t our best, but we found a way to win.”
Hutson’s comments carried a similar tune.
“They came at us hard, and that’s how games are going to be,” he said. “There’s a big target on our team, and we obviously love it. We want every team’s best, and Bentley definitely showed out. We’ll only learn from it. We can do a lot better.”
From the opening face off, it became clear that BU would not be able to simply walk all over the Falcons.
Nonetheless, graduate defenseman Case McCarthy broke through at 11:40 of the frame, ripping a slapshot past Bentley netminder Connor Hasley to earn the Terriers a 1-0 lead. That score held through the end of the period.
Bentley continued to play the Terriers tight into the second period, and the Falcons killed off a five-minute BU power play with ease after sophomore forward Stephen Castagna was whistled for a game misconduct major.
But a few minutes later, Macklin Celebrini announced his arrival on the NCAA stage in emphatic fashion, finishing off a 2-on-1 with Quinn Hutson by deking to his backhand and slipping a goal past Hasley to make it 2-0.
“Once he got his legs going, I thought he was really great,” Pandolfo said of Celebrini postgame. “His game really got better over the course of the game.”
Bentley remained unfazed. The Falcons rallied back with spell of offensive pressure, and their hard work paid off with just over three minutes to go in the second. Freshman forward Kolby Amici gathered a loose puck in the slot and ripped it past BU goalie Mathieu Caron to bring Bentley within a goal. It was a sign of things to come.
The Falcons carried their momentum into the final stanza, and A.J. Hodges capitalized with a one-timer from the top of the circle on the power play to tie the game at two, sending the Bentley faithful into a frenzy.
From there, BU turned up the intensity — seemingly in desperation mode to seal a win in regulation. Lane Hutson weaved through Bentley players on zone entries. Macklin Celebrini generated chances with his speed and incisiveness, even drawing a penalty on Bentley’s Nick Bochen at 10:42 of the third.
The Falcons’ defense stepped up to hang on. Bentley blocked 13 BU shots in the third period alone — and 25 in the game — diffusing several efforts from the Terriers’ most dangerous offensive threats.
So, despite BU’s last-ditch efforts to knot the game up in the final minutes, the Falcons forced overtime.
The two squads traded chances in the first few minutes of the 3-on-3 period, but the tables shifted firmly in BU’s favor after Bochen was sent to the penalty box for a holding penalty at 3:03 of overtime.
Lane Hutson ended the contest nine seconds later with a top-shelf wrister that beat Hasley glove side. The goal marked his sixth game-winner at BU, and his fourth overtime tally with the program.
“He enjoys big moments, clearly. I think we saw it last year.” Pandolfo said of the star defenseman. “He wants to be a difference-maker, he was then and I’m sure he’ll continue to be.”
Next, BU will face off against New Hampshire next Friday in Durham, N.H. in the Terriers’ Hockey East opener.
The Boston Hockey Blog will have full, on-the-ground coverage on Friday. Follow along on Twitter @BosHockeyBlog, Instagram @bos.hockey.blog and our website, hockey.daily freepress.com.