What a difference a year makes.
Last Oct. 27, the Boston University men’s hockey team returned to Commonwealth Avenue licking its wounds from back-to-back drubbings at the hands of the University of Michigan following a dreadful weekend trip to Ann Arbor.
One year later, it is the No. 6 Terriers who are smarting over a satisfying beatdown, as they throttled the visiting Wolverines Saturday in a 7-2 rout before a sell-out crowd of 6,400 at Agganis Arena.
Senior winger Jason Lawrence scored two goals and linemate Colin Wilson added three assists for BU (4-1-0), which completed a sparkling opening month of the season by reversing last October’s porous 1-4-0 start that played a key role in the Terriers’ eventual exclusion from the NCAA Tournament.
‘We have a good team this year,’ Wilson said. ‘I wasn’t expecting us to be this good at the moment, but we’re doing really well.’
First-period goals from freshmen forwards Kevin Gilroy (15:01) and Chris Connolly (18:49) ‘-‘- the first of their respective collegiate careers ‘-‘- set the stage for an offensive clinic that produced five power-play goals on nine chances to stun No. 5 Michigan (4-2-0), which swept BU in a two-game series last October by a combined score of 10-4.
The Terriers doubled their lead with two strikes in the second stanza before tacking on three more in the third to finish off the Wolverines, who were making their first trip to BU since the quarterfinals of the 1991 NCAA Tournament.
‘Their power play took over the game,’ Michigan coach Red Berenson said of the Terriers. ‘I can’t fault the refereeing, but I can fault our penalty killing. They were the better team and they proved that as the game wore on. They got stronger and we got weaker. It’s tough playing from behind in a building like this, but it’s a wake-up call. We realize how much better BU is right now than we are.’
Michigan’s inability to quiet the BU power play led to a frustration-filled final minute of regulation during which a fight broke out between Terrier freshman Vinny Saponari and Wolverine junior Brian Lebler. The two needed to be restrained by all three game referees before being sent off to their respective locker rooms for five-minute fighting penalties and 10-minute game disqualifications.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
‘That happens when two teams compete like that and one comes up with a lot more goals than the other one,’ Lawrence said of the chippy play at the end of the contest. ‘It’s hockey. That’s what happens.’
Armed with a 2-0 lead going into the second frame, the Terriers were saddled with a 5-on-3 Wolverine advantage that spanned 1:04 four minutes into the period. Led by freshman goaltender Kieran Millan (15 saves), who once again played with poise beyond his years in just his third collegiate start, BU killed off the Michigan advantage to jumpstart a significant swing in momentum.
‘Any time you kill a penalty, especially a 5-on-3, it really gets your team jacked up,’ BU coach Jack Parker said. ‘Their power play didn’t surprise us, and their penalty kill didn’t surprise us.’
Two minutes and 52 seconds later, Wilson slid a pass from just beyond the left post of the Michigan net to the right side of the crease, where Lawrence one-timed the feed past Wolverine goaltender Billy Sauer (19 saves) to the glove side for a power-play goal.
Wilson, chosen with the seventh overall pick in this summer’s NHL draft, facilitated the Terriers’ next tally at 17:20, sending a tape-to-tape feed from low in the zone to sophomore defenseman Colby Cohen at the left circle, where he lined a booming wrist shot over Sauer’s left shoulder.
‘Colin Wilson looked like an NHL-er out there tonight,’ Parker said of his sophomore center, who opted to return to BU for a second season instead of turning pro. ‘There are times out there when he can just dominate a rush or a shift. I think he did it almost the entire game tonight.
‘He was always on the puck, he did a great job killing penalties and he did a great job moving the puck on the power play. There were a few instances where he was just so determined to get the puck in the zone and just beat guys with speed.’
Trailing 4-0, the Wolverines cut into the sizable deficit in the final period with power-play goals from freshman center Robbie Czarnik (1:27) and sophomore center Louie Caporusso (16:43).
But Michigan’s comeback bid proved futile, as the Terriers’ scorching power play continued to wear out the woeful Wolverine penalty kill. At 5:49, Wilson, stationed at the right circle, swung the puck to defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the left circle, where the sophomore blueliner threaded a pinpoint pass to the right doorstep that Lawrence slipped past Sauer, who was then pulled in favor of sophomore Bryan Hogan (6 saves).
‘They moved the puck really well,’ Berenson said of the Terriers. ‘They knew what they were doing. We knew what they were doing, too, but we couldn’t stop it.’
Sophomore center Nick Bonino (12:52) and junior defenseman Brian Strait (17:32) closed out the scoring in yet another dominant showing for BU against a ranked opponent, prompting the Wolverines’ collective frustration to boil over in the final minute.
What a difference a year makes.