In the rubber game of the season series between the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team and No. 20 Maine, the Black Bears edged the Terriers, 3-1, and completed a weekend sweep. Maine is the first team this season to win a season series against BU.
Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan turned in another strong performance for the Black Bears (14-8-3, 11-7-2 Hockey East), totaling 38 saves on Saturday to bring his weekend total to 66 stops on 69 shots. BU senior goaltender Kieran Millan recorded 34 saves for the Terriers (15-8-1, 12-6-1 Hockey East) on Saturday in the losing effort.
“[Friday night], it’s 3-2 and an empty-netter makes it 4-2,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Tonight, an empty-netter makes it 3-1. Sounds like the same thing, but it was like night and day. I was extremely happy with how hard we played.
“I was happy with my team. We just didn’t get a ‘W’ tonight, but I was happy with how hard we played.”
The Terriers had to play with extra effort and intensity Saturday because of two injuries that left the team undermanned on defense. Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera was out with a broken wrist and junior defenseman Max Nicastro did not play due to a left shoulder injury. Instead of playing with the usual six defensemen, the Terriers rotated five blueliners throughout the game.
BU further shortchanged itself in the first period when it took four penalties against a team with the second-best power play in the nation. The Terriers managed to hold Maine off the scoreboard in all four of the Black Bears’ power-play chances.
However, after running themselves ragged killing penalties, the Terriers were not able to keep Maine’s offense silent. With just 6.9 seconds remaining in the first period, Maine freshman John Parker hopped on a rebound out to Millan’s left and lifted it over Millan’s shoulder to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead.
“We buried ourselves a little bit in the first period by going to the box too much, and I think the message of playing harder and being more physical got the guys a little jumpy in the first period,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “We were taking some unnecessary penalties, which ultimately delayed the start we wanted, but I thought the rest of the game the guys played really hard.”
BU evened the score with a power-play goal 2:41 into the second. After Maine captain Brian Flynn was sent to the box for a trip, sophomore defenseman and birthday boy Garrett Noonan tipped an Adam Clendening shot past Sullivan for the game-tying goal.
Maine regained the lead just over three minutes later when junior Nick Pryor blasted a slap shot from the point off the post and in to give the Black Bears a 2-1 lead. The goal was the first of Pryor’s career, and he is the 17th player this season to score his first collegiate goal against the Terriers.
Other than Pryor’s goal, however, BU controlled play in the second period. They entered the frame facing a 21-8 shot deficit but proceeded to out-shoot the Black Bears 19-6 to even the shot total to 27-27 at the end of two.
In the third period, the Terriers continued to pepper the Maine net with shots from all angles, but Sullivan seemed to be prepared for every attempt and barely gave up any rebounds.
“Dan Sullivan just had a tremendous weekend,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “Without a doubt, I think he was the difference tonight, for sure . . . We know we dodged a bit of a bullet there to get out of here with two points, so it feels good.”
BU had a golden chance to tie the game at the end of the third period when, with Maine on the power play, Flynn took a high sticking penalty. Senior captain Chris Connolly held onto the puck on the delayed call long enough to run down the Maine power play to 29 seconds, giving the Terriers a longer man advantage after the end of 4-on-4 play. BU could not get set up until the end of the power play, however, and failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
The Terriers seemed frustrated at the end of their power play by an embellishment call on Noonan following Maine defenseman Ryan Hegarty’s cross-check on Noonan after a whistle. The BU frustration grew after sophomore defenseman Clendening broke up an empty-net bid with some stick-work along the boards, but was called for a slash on the play.
Parker pulled Millan on Maine’s resulting power play, but Maine junior Matt Mangene clinched the win when he netted an empty-net goal with 4.6 seconds left in the game. Parker was ejected from the game for yelling at the referees following the empty-net tally.
“I know it’s frustrating to play that game and lose, but you’ve just got to look at the big picture and realize we’re back to playing the same type of hockey,” Connolly said. “We’re proud of the guys and proud of the way they played, and credit to their goalie. He played real well all weekend.”