Having beaten the University of Massachusetts with 13 combined goals in its two previous games, there might have been an expectation coming into Friday night’s Hockey East playoff opener that the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team would steamroll over the Minutemen again.
But head coach David Quinn knew better. With a young group of players, Quinn said he wasn’t shocked to see his team slog through the first two periods of an eventual 2-1 overtime win.
“Well they’re 18-to-22-year-olds and you beat a team 7-2 and 6-3 and there’s 700 people in the building,” Quinn said sarcastically, as there were actually 1,752 people in attendance for a record-low crowd at Agganis Arena.
“I, without question, thought that human nature was a factor in the first two periods from our end of it.”
Through two periods, BU found itself in a battle with UMass, poor luck and inconsistent play. The score was also tied at one apiece, which is where it remained after three periods and halfway into an ensuing overtime, when freshman center Bobo Carpenter won it with his second goal of the evening.
There were ups and downs along the way, but BU (20-10-5) grinded out a win to start the best-of-three first-round series. A win over UMass on Saturday would clinch BU a berth in the quarterfinals.
“This time of year, you throw the records out. I don’t care what the records are, everybody digs a little deeper,” Quinn said. “I’ve always felt during the course of the season our two games with them might have been a little bit misleading. There are times when the puck finds its way in the back of the net, and it happened both times we played them.
“That certainly wasn’t the case tonight.”
It definitely was not the case in the first period, where BU outshot UMass (8-23-4) 15-7 but trailed by a goal.
UMass scored 8:07 into the frame, courtesy of captain Steven Iacobellis. Forward Shane Walsh skated into the offensive zone and fed Iacobellis, who cut down low near the net and shot the puck out of the reach of senior goaltender Sean Maguire’s outstretched left pad.
If not for a video review, BU could very well have been down two goals late in first period, when a puck snuck through a scramble in front of the Terriers’ net. Officials determined a UMass skater was in the crease before the shot, so the goal was disallowed, head coach John Micheletto said after the game.
Being the beneficiaries of the call helped BU for the moment, but the Terriers didn’t truly capitalize until 3:52 into the second.
Coming out of the penalty box after a high sticking call, senior assistant captain Matt Lane took the puck all the way on net, but was denied on an initial attempt by goaltender Nic Renyard. But Lane followed up his rebound behind the net and passed it to the top of the crease to Carpenter, who finished off the play with a goal.
There were plenty of other opportunities for BU to cash in during the second and third periods, but whether it was a blocked shot or Renyard making one of his career-high 46 saves, the Terriers were stymied for the rest of regulation.
“It was really frustrating because we all know we’re the better team,” said senior winger Ahti Oksanen, who finished with two assists. “But we just couldn’t score, we couldn’t get the go-ahead goal.”
But neither could UMass, as Maguire did his part to keep the game tied with 28 saves. That never became more apparent than in the early minutes of overtime, when Maguire — and his blocker — all but saved the day.
Before BU could touch the puck on a delayed penalty, UMass controlled the puck into the Terriers’ zone, and off a rebound chance, forward Ray Pigozzi shot into what looked like an open net. But Maguire scrambled across the crease and stopped the chance with his blocker.
“Our goalie makes an incredible save when they had the, during the delayed penalty,” Quinn said. “I mean I thought the game was over and he makes a phenomenal save to allow us to regroup.”
It took some time for BU to fully collect itself, but with the help of Carpenter, the game was finally put to bed. Sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato started what would become the decisive play near the left circle, with his shot getting redirected on net by Oksanen. While Oksanen couldn’t get a full crack at it, Carpenter did, rebounding the puck low into the net.
“We had a couple shorthanded chances that looked like we may have been able to put the game away and then we finally get a puck to the net,” Quinn said. “I didn’t think our D did a great job getting pucks to the net, and then Bobo Carpenter does what he does best and he buries a rebound.”
To avoid another frustrating game like Friday’s, it’ll come down to BU getting back to the fundamentals, according to Oksanen.
“We just need to focus on playing our own game, just hitting people and getting the puck, simple things, good, winning hockey,” Oksanen said. “And instead of just trying to get a nice point night, just play for the team and get the W tomorrow.”