Ice Hockey, Sports

O’Connell-less BU blanks Vermont in series opener

With head coach Albie O’Connell serving a one-game suspension, the Boston University men’s hockey team shut out the University of Vermont 3-0 on Friday night at Agganis Arena.

“Our guys stuck with it,” said BU associate head coach Paul Pearl, who took the lead on the Terrier bench for the night. “I thought tonight we did a really good job with the simple plays.”

After a fast-moving first period, BU (4-4-4, 3-3-3 Hockey East) broke the ice when freshman defenseman Domenick Fensore opened his collegiate account 4:21 into the middle frame.

With Vermont (1-8, 0-6 Hockey East) shorthanded, junior defenseman David Farrance and freshman forward Ethan Phillips combined on the rush to set up Fensore at the doorstep.

“It was good to get that first one out of the way,” Fensore said, becoming the first Terrier freshman blueliner to find the back of the net in scarlet and white.

The Terriers made it two with nine minutes on the clock when senior forward Patrick Harper circled the attacking zone and picked the top corner for his fifth goal of the season. Farrance assisted again along with graduate goaltender Sam Tucker, marking the first point of his career.

“I just had a good amount of time and space and saw a little bit of room upstairs,” Harper said.

Farrance’s second assist of the night made for his sixth multi-point game in 12 contests this fall, continuing to set the pace as the top-scoring defenseman in division one hockey.

“David’s just so good with the puck,” Pearl said. “It’s not just the points either. He was really good on the penalty kill tonight.”

Farrance and the BU shorthanded corps would be tested to start the third period. In the final seconds of the middle frame, freshman forward Trevor Zegras was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing the head of sophomore defenseman Carter Long.

“He’s a special player and no one’s really gonna replace what he brings to the table,” Harper said, who was without his first-year linemate for the final 20 minutes.

With the major penalty carrying over into the third, the Catamounts began the final frame on the front foot en route to a 12-5 shots on goal advantage in the period. The Terrier defense stood strong, thanks in part to a team-high five blocks for sophomore forward Matt Quercia.

“When you see that, you know the guys are really into it,” said Pearl on Quercia’s defensive effort.

“I think their players did a better job of sacrificing to keep the puck away from their goaltender,” said UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon, whose offense was kept quiet all night. “Our power play’s really struggling, man. Right now everybody’s squeezing the stick pretty tight.”

Late in the third, the Terriers experienced a scare when senior forward Patrick Curry went hard into the attacking endboards and was slow working his way back to the bench.

After catching his breath, the captain was right back on the ice and was rewarded for his persistence with an empty-netter in the final seconds of the game.

“He got a little payback, I guess,” Pearl said.

The assists for Curry’s ninth goal of the season came from freshman forwards Sam Stevens and Robert Mastrosimone. It was Stevens’s first game since picking up an injury in the season opener and sophomore forward Jack DeBoer also returned for his 2019-20 debut.

Backed by 26 saves from Tucker, the Terriers secured the 3-0 shutout of Vermont.

Pearl said winning without Coach O’Connell was all about the team effort.

“We all chipped in a little bit,” the former Holy Cross boss said. “We’re very, very happy to have Albie back tomorrow.”

The Terriers returned to face off against the Catamounts at Agganis Arena on Saturday afternoon.

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