It took until November, but the Boston University men’s hockey team finally has a tally in the win column.
Behind two goals from junior defenseman and assistant captain Dante Fabbro and a brilliant 37-save performance by junior goaltender Jake Oettinger, the Terriers (1-4-1, 1-2-1 Hockey East) shook off the demons that had haunted them through the first three weeks of the season and beat No. 13 Northeastern, 4-1.
Playing in front of a boisterous Agganis Arena student section, BU head coach Albie O’Connell said the crowd left the team more energized against the Huskies (4-3-1, 1-1-1 Hockey East) than they had been all season.
“The fans were really loud and that was one of the best crowds I’ve seen in awhile,” O’Connell said. “That was exciting to have them and that gave the guys a lot of energy.”
The BU team held a players-only meeting earlier in the week to discuss their winless start and it paid dividends.
“Just kind of going over the first few games and we weren’t happy with the outcome of those games,” Fabbro said. “After that talk, our practice was the best it has ever been since I’ve been here.”
One thing the Terriers had struggled with going into Saturday night’s game was getting off to slow starts.
They had yet to score first in a game and had pitted themselves into numerous holes early on in contests. In their first game of the season against Minnesota State University, Mankato, BU found itself down 3-0 after the first period. Versus Merrimack College, the Terriers were trailing 2-0 at the end of one.
In the opener of the two-game series at Matthews Arena, BU was down 2-0 before the team could even blink three minutes into the game.
“When you are digging yourself a hole in the first minute of the game, you are chasing the game the rest of the time,” Oettinger said. “The whole day, I was kind of focused on getting out of the first five minutes.”
This time, BU flipped the script.
With 5:58 remaining in the first period, junior forward Patrick Curry corralled a pass from junior defenseman Chad Krys near the blue line and sauced it ahead to a cutting Fabbro.
The Nashville Predators draftee collected it in the middle of the offensive zone with not a soul ahead of him but Northeastern goalkeeper Cayden Primeau.
Fabbro released a wrist shot and squeezed the puck past the goaltender for his second goal of the season.
“It’s huge, especially in your home arena which we haven’t played good in up to this point,” Oettinger said. “Just getting the fans involved.”
Another key factor in the Terriers strong start was Oettinger. He had his best period of the season with 13 saves, including some close calls.
“The start was huge for us,” Fabbro said. “With the team playing the way they did, [Oettinger] making some big saves when we needed it, that was huge.”
The second period was more of the same for Oettinger. He made nine saves in the scoreless stanza.
During one two-minute minor served by freshman forward Matthew Quercia in the middle of the frame, Oettinger made an excellent save on a shot by Huskies forward Zach Solow before fending off a plethora of Northeastern deflections around the net.
Fabbro then doubled his efforts to begin the third period.
Once Northeastern redshirt senior forward Brandon Hawkins went to the penalty box for interference 47 seconds into the frame, the Terriers power play unit was licking their chops.
Six seconds later, they had a two-goal lead as Fabbro potted a one-timer from near the blue line for his second goal of the game.
After being set up by Krys (three assists) and senior forward and assistant captain Bobo Carpenter, Fabbro had loads of time to shoot his shot.
He pump-faked, inched a little bit closer to the net and strung it past Primeau’s glove side to give the Terriers some insurance.
Carpenter was not done etching his name into the score sheet. With just under seven minutes remaining, the captain got loose down the right side of the ice.
He loaded the puck onto his stick, reached back and ripped it past Primeau to give the Terriers a commanding 3-0 lead.
It was the fourth goal of the season for the North Reading native, who also recorded a goal and an assist in Thursday’s tie.
With 2:42 remaining and the Terriers on the penalty kill, sophomore forward Logan Cockerill drove down the right side with Curry on his left.
With only one defender to beat, Cockerill sauced the puck across the ice to Curry, who deposited it in the back of the net to accentuate a tough night for Primeau.
“Overall, I thought we played well,” O’Connell said. “It’s a relief. The guys deserve it. I’m happiest for the players. They are the ones who go out there and compete.”