With playoff home-ice up for grabs in the last game of the regular season, the Boston University men’s hockey team fell flat at the University of Maine on Saturday night, falling 6-0 in their most lopsided loss since 2013.
“Give Maine credit, they played a really good game,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell.
The Terriers (14-16-4, 12-9-3 Hockey East) were in search of a crucial victory to secure home ice for next weekend’s Hockey East quarterfinal series with UMass Lowell. Meanwhile, Maine (15-15-4, 11-9-4 Hockey East) had little to gain from the contest, as their sixth seeding and matchup with Northeastern had already been confirmed.
However, as the Terriers would quickly learn, the Black Bears would not be an easy out on their Senior Night, and their final game of the season at Orono’s Alfond Arena.
“It’s the seniors’ last game in the building,” acknowledged O’Connell.
The Terriers conceded the opening goal to the Black Bears in the teams’ two meetings earlier this season, and this game was no different. The third time around, it was the Black Bears who struck first again, scoring less than two minutes into the contest.
Taking control from fellow defenseman Sam Becker near his own net, Brady Keeper lofted the puck forward into the BU end. Forward Brendan Robbins won the footrace to the bouncing puck and unleashed a laser to the far side to beat BU junior goalkeeper Jake Oettinger.
“They came out hot,” Coach O’Connell said.
The Black Bear lead would become two before the eight-minute mark in the period. After a hard hit by forward Mitchell Fossier on the forecheck jarred the puck loose from BU junior defenseman Dante Fabbro, forward Chase Pearson was right there to take advantage.
Alone in front, Pearson shoveled a backhand past Oettinger, collecting his team-leading 16th tally of the season and doubling the UMaine lead.
“[Maine] didn’t do anything fancy, they just outworked us,” said O’Connell.
To their credit, the Terriers would not hang their heads following the two early goals. BU gained the benefit of two power plays, and did everything but push one over the line on multiple scrums in front against senior netminder Rob McGovern, who was making just his third appearance of the season.
By the end of the opening frame, BU would lead in shots on goal 13-8, but trail on the scoreboard, 2-0.
According to Coach O’Connell, “if [BU] get a couple of goals in the first, it’s a different game.”
The glimmer of hope for BU following the first would quickly be diminished, as the Black Bears came out of the break with the same energy and, ultimately, output that they opened the game with.
It was Robbins again who lit the lamp for UMaine in the early stages of the period, streaking in and knocking home his second goal of the game just 2:28 into the frame. The play was set up by Becker and forward Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup, feeding Robbins for UMaine’s third goal.
“It [was] a back-breaker,” O’Connell said in reference to the second Robbins tally.
Nearing the halfway point of the period, Maine would extend the lead to four. The goal would come on Schmidt-Svejstrup’s second assist of the frame, sending the puck ahead after an initial pass from Robbins, whose secondary assist made it a three-point night for the senior.
On the receiving end of Schmidt-Svejstrup’s leading pass was forward Tim Doherty, who snuck one by Oettinger to give UMaine their fourth goal of the opening thirty minutes. Doherty’s tally marked the end of Oettinger’s night, as freshman keeper Vinnie Purpura came on in relief.
“Jake has played terrific for us,” reaffirmed Coach O’Connell, who voiced his confidence in the junior goaltender going into the playoffs.
Worn down by the relentless Black Bear attack, BU stumbled their way through the second half of the period, taking a 4-0 deficit into the second intermission.
Things went from bad to worse for BU as the third period progressed. On an inspired individual effort, Brady Keeper took in a pass from Mitchell Fossier and weaved his way through the Terrier defense, snagged his own rebound, and tucked it in from behind the net at 7:22.
“They had a high level of urgency,” O’Connell said.
The Keeper goal would bring the score line to 5-0, equaling BU’s worst deficit of the season, which came in a defeat against Providence at Agganis Arena back in October. Six minutes after the fifth tally, however, a sixth Black Bear goal would come.
It was Keeper and Fossier who linked up for the second time in the period to produce the final Black Bear tally. Taking in the puck from Pearson, Keeper fluttered one goal-bound. Screening Purpura, Fossier was there to tip the puck into the net, and bring the total to six.
In O’Connell’s words, “[Maine] stuck to their game plan.”
The teams would skate out the final minutes to finish 6-0, ending a game that had been decided well before the final horn sounded.
It was the worst loss suffered by the Terriers since November 15, 2013, which saw BU by a score of 7-0, coincidentally in a visit to Maine as well.
“That’s hockey,” remarked Coach O’Connell.
While the ugly loss was not what the Terriers had in mind to end their regular season, BU will have to rebound quickly as they open the first round of the playoffs at UMass Lowell on Friday, March 15.