In the 275th installment of the Battle of Commonwealth Ave., the Boston University men’s hockey team and No. 15 Boston College supplied no shortage of entertainment at Conte Forum. The Terriers (7-8-1, 5-4-1 Hockey East) emerged with a 7-4 over the Eagles (8-6-2, 8-2 Hockey East) in the first game of the home-and-home series.
Despite the final scoreline, BU found itself in an early 2-0 deficit in the opening frame of the contest. Freshman forward Aapeli Rasanen got the Eagles on the board early after dishing the puck past the Terriers’ sophomore goaltender Jake Oettinger’s left side at 1:32.
“Certainly very proud of our team in so many ways,” BU head coach David Quinn said. “It’s 2-0 before people can put cream in their coffee and get seated, and it looked like this was going to be a long, long night.”
Forty-four seconds later, BC struck again. Oettinger blocked graduate student defenseman Kevin Lohan’s shot, but sophomore forward Ron Greco buried away the rebound.
Quinn said a factor that likely played into the early goals allowed was nerves from the young players.
“You see the crowd and both the BU and BC fans so it was definitely nerve-racking at the start, but after the first shift, I felt fine,” freshman forward Brady Tkachuk said.
The Eagles maintained this lead as the two team’s traded penalties. However, it was senior defenseman and captain Brandon Hickey that got the Terriers’ offense going.
Hickey’s second goal of the season came off a pass from freshman forward Logan Cockerill, which the captain got top shelf past BC’s sophomore goaltender Joseph Woll.
This matchup marks the second game Hickey has played in since coming back from an upper-body injury that had him out for four games.
Cockerill’s point production did not stop there as he knotted up the game at 13:35 with a goal of his own. Freshman forward Shane Bowers passed Cockerill the puck from the right side of the net and he flipped it past Woll.
With the first period winding down, freshman defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo drew a penalty. Tkachuk had a short-handed chance on BU’s first penalty of the night, but Tkachuk made his second chance count after flipping the puck up from in front against the Eagles, who entered the matchup with an 83.8 percent success rate on the penalty kill.
“The past week I’ve been trying that high move,” Tkachuk said. “The first [chance] I was kind of panicking, I’m not going to lie. The second time, actually [freshman forward] Ty Amonte on the bench after that first breakaway was like, ‘You’ve got to go back to that move.’ Luckily I got that second breakaway.”
The Terriers, who were unable to tie up their game against Cornell University last weekend at Madison Square Garden, fired off three goals within a three-minute span over the second period.
Sophomore defenseman Chad Krys and junior forward Bobo Carpenter notched two power-play goals while Hickey got his second goal of the game after holding the puck in the slot and slipping it past Woll.
BU almost outscored BC 3-0 in the period, but forward Julius Mattila scored quickly into the Terrier’s penalty kill to bring the Eagles within two goals.
Although, BU only allowed one power-play goal from BC and scored two of its own.
“They stood tall. They did a really good job,” Quinn said of the penalty kill. “I thought [from] the third period on, we got smarter. I thought we managed the puck better. I thought we didn’t fool around with it in our own end. You play different when you’re up by two. You’re not as aggressive. Human nature can kick in.”
In the final frame, the Eagles had many opportunities to get back into the game, outshooting the Terriers 9-7, but were unable to find the back of the net once more.
Oettinger, who had 29 saves during the night, was an integral part in keeping the score 6-4 in favor of BU.
With 35 seconds remaining in the matchup, Bowers later sealed the win with an empty-netter after receiving a pass from sophomore forward Patrick Harper, who collected four assists over the three periods.
The Terriers will look to sweep BC on Saturday night at Agganis Arena to take home four Hockey East conference points.
Quinn stressed that the team needs to improve its puck management and D-zone coverage if they wish to take the second game of the series.
“This is a game [where] you’re constantly going from offense to defense and there’s plenty of times during the course of the game where you’re not sure,” Quinn said. “… Too often we’re assuming we’re on offense. If you don’t know what we’re doing, play defense.”