Terrier offense stifled by Sun Devils in Purpura’s debut

Looking to build on a Friday night victory over the Sun Devils, the Boston University men’s hockey team was upended by #17/15 Arizona State 3-0 on Saturday night to split the weekend series.

“We have had a lot of benchmark wins this year. This one is going to rank at the top though,” stated ASU head coach Greg Powers.

Freshman Vinnie Purpura made his first start in goal for the Terriers (10-10-3, 8-5-2 HE), giving junior Jake Oettinger a well-deserved rest after appearing in every one of BU’s 22 games thus far. Coming from the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, Purpura was added to the Terrier roster during the winter break, and has already made a positive impression in his first few weeks with the squad.

“He looks good,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell. “He’s calm at practice, and he was really calm before the game.”

There was little to separate the two teams in the first period, and neither side could break the deadlock through 20 minutes. Purpura started the game flawlessly in the BU crease, turning away all ten Sun Devil efforts, while BU were kept off the board on their nine shots on goal by ASU junior netminder Joey Daccord.

In the second period, it was the Sun Devils (17-10-1) who tilted the ice and took control. Sophomore forward Filips Buncis drew first blood for ASU three minutes into the period, lofting a shot over Purpura in four-on-four play after a pass from senior forward Anthony Croston. It was the second time in as many nights that the duo linked up for a goal.

After an ASU onslaught that saw the Terriers pinned deep in their own zone for much of the period, sophomore forward Johnny Walker made the Sun Devil lead two at 18:46 with his nation-leading 20th goal of the season. Among a crowd in front of Purpura, Walker got a stick on a drive from freshman defenseman Josh Maniscalco, with the second assist credited to senior forward Dylan Hollman.

“It’s just what he does,” reacted Coach Powers regarding Walker.

Arizona State may have doubled BU in shots on goal 18-9 in the second stanza, but O’Connell knows his team left opportunities on the table in the middle period.

“We had a ton of chances,” said the first-year manager. “We could have had 50 shots tonight if we were willing to shoot the puck.”

With the Sun Devils holding a two-goal lead going into the final 20 minutes, it was Walker again who provided the Sun Devils with their third goal to all but seal the victory for Arizona State.  Nearing the halfway point in the period, the standout attacker tossed home a rebound opportunity, with the assists by junior Brett Gruber and sophomore Jacob Wilson.

With his star forward kept quiet the night prior by the Terriers, Powers knew that Walker was poised for a big night the second time around.

“Johnny’s always confident, trust me” laughed the 11-year veteran.

The game got scrappy in the end, but Arizona State would finish the 3-0 victors. It was the first win over BU in program history for the Sun Devils.

“The team that wants it more usually wins,” remarked Coach O’Connell. “Arizona State wanted the game more.”

As for the hosts, it was the first game in nine that the Terriers were held goalless through sixty minutes – a streak dating back to December 1st when BU drew with Boston College 0-0.

“Our goalie was our best player,” said O’Connell of Purpura, who made 36 saves in the loss. “It was a really good effort by him.”

The Terriers will face a tough test next Friday, as they host UMass to conclude their 5-game homestand.

Live Blog: BU vs. Arizona State, 1/25 at 7:30pm

In the first matchup of a two-game set at Agganis Arena this weekend, BU will face off against #17/15 Arizona State. The Terriers skated all over the Sun Devils last season, but these teams are very different from the two that met in 2018, so it is tough to tell which way this series will go.

Our live blog of the game will begin at 7:15pm, with the opening puck drop set for 7:30. Come join us!

Terriers begin tough stretch with home series against Arizona State

Having lost just once in the last seven games, the Boston University hockey team has merely started its climb back into the national polls.

Despite not having to leave Massachusetts until February 15, the Terriers (9-9-3, 8-5-2 Hockey East) will be tested sufficiently over the next few weeks. A Beanpot rematch with eighth-ranked Northeastern University is sandwiched by a home-and-home series against second-ranked UMass Amherst in the first eight days of February.

But, BU can’t afford to peek past this weekend. The squad will have its hands full with two home contests against 17th-ranked Arizona State University on Friday and Saturday night at Agganis Arena.

This Sun Devils team is a lot different than the one the Terriers swept with ease a year ago.

Last January, BU clobbered Arizona State by a combined 12-3 in two games in the desert. The Sun Devils won just one of their subsequent six games after enduring the sweep to finish the season with an 8-21-5 record.

This year, Arizona State has turned it around. They boast a stout defense, ranking 16th with 2.65 goals yielded per game. It’s nearly impossible to score against its penalty kill. The Sun Devils penalty killing unit leaves the ice without allowing a goal 85.34 percent of the time, the 10th-best mark in the country.

Considering BU scored three power play goals in a 7-2 home win over Merrimack College on Monday afternoon, this should make for an enticing affair.

“Special teams is a huge factor so it was big to get our power play going,” senior forward Ryan Cloonan said. “Especially conference-wise. Hopefully, we can carry that into the future.”

It’s going to be difficult to transfer Monday’s success into these two tilts against Arizona State. They head to Agganis Arena sporting a 16-9-1 mark and have managed to come to the east coast and defeat some respectable hockey clubs. In November, they shocked Penn State University, currently the 15th-ranked team in the country, with a 4-3 overtime triumph in State College, PA.

Two weeks later, they traveled to Allston and escaped Harvard’s Bright-Landry Hockey Center with a 3-2 overtime win over the Crimson in the second game of a two-night series. A few weeks later, they ventured east yet again and swept Princeton University in New Jersey.

Arizona State’s journeys eastward have not been perfect, as they are coming off a pair of losses at 12th-ranked Cornell University two weekends ago. However, this a dangerous unit.

The Sun Devils rank 17th in the country with 3.12 goals per game. The team is also 21st in the nation with 18 power play goals.

Terriers fans will need to watch out for sophomore forward Johnny Walker. Walker’s father, Jeff, was a goaltender for Boston College in the late 1980s and his son will look to continue his legacy and inflict some harm on BU this weekend.

Walker is the primary source of offense for the Sun Devils. He finished 2017-18 second in the country in freshman goal scoring with 17 tallies and he has already eclipsed that mark in his second season in college. Walker leads the country with 19 goals and is the only player on his team with more than 10.

He is also 10th in the country with 27 points and the only Sun Devil with more than 16 points. If you are going to the game, Walker is the guy to keep your eye on.

The Terriers will seek to limit Walker and build on the momentum they garnered in Monday’s bashing of Merrimack.

“It was a good win,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said. “We picked it up and got better and better.”