The victory could not have been narrower, but the No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey team defended a one-goal lead for about 53 minutes on Saturday against the University of Maine, winning 1–0 in its last home game of 2012.
Freshman goalie Sean Maguire had 28 saves in the shutout, his second straight at Agganis Arena. The Terriers (10–5, 8–4 Hockey East) had just 21 shots to the 28 taken by the Black Bears (2–10–2, 1–6–2 Hockey East), Hockey East’s last-place team.
BU coach Jack Parker opened his post-game press conference with an understatement: “Well, that wasn’t easy.”
At first, it seemed it might be. BU opened the game with three and a half minutes of puck possession in Maine’s defensive zone. The Black Bears could not clear the puck or even catch up with BU’s quick passes, and their first line had to remain on the ice for about three times the length of a normal shift.
Junior defenseman Garrett Noonan then opened the scoring at 7:13 of the first. On BU’s second power play of the night, he took a cross-ice pass from sophomore forward Danny O’Regan and ripped a slap shot past goaltender Martin Ouellette for his third goal of the year.
“I was really concerned, because the way the game started, it looked like it was BU playing the Belmont Bantams,” Parker said. “We had complete control of the puck. … Then they got their legs and started playing a little better by the end of the first, and then they came out pretty hard after that.”
Late in the first, sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues became the latest in a long string of Terriers to be called for embellishment. Maine defenseman Brice O’Connor hooked Rodrigues as he skated into the Maine zone, but the official ruled Rodrigues exaggerated his fall. The call was the sixth embellishment or diving call against BU since Nov. 3.
After BU’s dominant start, the balance began to shift. Maine picked up its pace and finished the period even with the Terriers in shots, 9–9. Then they outshot BU 11–8 in the second.
At the 15:08 mark in the second, sophomore forward Cason Hohmann cut in on the Maine net and was hooked by Maine forward Steven Swavely. He drew a penalty shot, the first of the season for BU.
“I was really fortunate to get a penalty shot,” Hohmann said. “I didn’t think it was much of a penalty at all.”
Hohmann veered slightly to the left as he came in on goal, then snapped off a wrister that Ouellette gloved without much trouble.
“I was kind of thinking about going five-hole, but then he gave me the whole glove-side high,” Hohmann said. “I just shot it up there and he made a really good save.”
Halfway through the third period, BU had a scary moment when freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk took a puck off of his left ankle. He fell to the ice and got up slowly, in apparent pain. Freshman forward Wes Myron and senior defenseman Sean Escobedo helped him off the ice.
Fortunately for the Terriers, Grzelcyk returned to the ice after a few minutes of rest. Parker said the injury was just a bruise.
All six BU defensemen, Grzelcyk included, became penalty-killers in the waning minutes of the game. At the 14:28 mark of the third period, senior forward Ben Rosen received a five-minute major penalty for boarding when he knocked down Maine captain Mark Nemec.
The Black Bears recorded three shots on that five-minute power play, but Maguire hung onto the rebounds and kept Maine off the scoreboard as capably in the last five minutes as he had in the 55 before.
While Maguire was strong in net, the Terriers’ defense was just as stout.
BU blocked 21 shots in the game, including five blocks from Escobedo. Hohmann was second on the team with three blocks.
With the win, BU enters the winter break with twice as many wins as losses, and with its season series against Boston College, the University of New Hampshire and the University of North Dakota complete.
According to USCHO.com, the Terriers have faced the toughest schedule in the nation so far.
“We’re a team that’s going north, as we say,” Parker said. “We’re going in the right direction.”