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.