The Boston University men’s ice hockey team (6-2-0) picked up four points in the standings this weekend in the latest installment of the Battle of Commonwealth Avenue: a two-game series against No. 1 Boston College (11-3-1). The No. 15 Terriers dropped the first matchup of the home-and-home series 4-3 in overtime Friday before picking up a 3-1 win the following night on home ice.
The Terriers rolled without a handful of key players for both games this weekend, including starting goaltender Drew Commesso and team points leader David Farrance. Forwards Ethan Phillips, Jake Wise, Logan Cockerill, Ty Amonte and Jake Witkowski have all been missing since before the BC series with varying, undisclosed injuries.
Terriers head coach Albie O’Connell did not disclose what is ailing his players in a press conference, but said Cockerill and Wise will hit the ice again soon.
“I’ll try to be very vague,” O’Connell said. “The others are kind of day-to-day, week-to-week.”
The first game Friday was a back-and-forth affair in Conte Forum, where the two Hockey East powerhouses traded shots until the last second. BC forward Jack McBain opened the scoring 12 minutes into the first period, redirecting a long blast from linemate Colby Ambrosio that trickled through the five-hole of BU netminder Ashton Abel.
Already short-handed, the Terriers flexed their scoring depth to get back on top, with fourth-liners Jack DeBoer and Markus Boguslavsky each scoring in the second period, pushing BU to a 2-1 lead.
“I thought our fourth line was terrific,” O’Connell said. “They played the right way the entire game.”
DeBoer rebounded a Sam Stevens wraparound attempt that BC goaltender Spencer Knight left on the doorstep 3:15 into the second, and Boguslavsky ripped a high shot from the left faceoff circle to beat Knight on his glove side less than three minutes later.
The Eagles spent the rest of the second period battling back, with their league-worst power play unit cashing in on their fourth man-up opportunity of the night, aided by the return of last year’s leading scorer Alex Newhook, who had missed nearly one month of this season with an upper-body injury. BC forward Matt Boldy got the power-play tally off a Newhook feed 11:56 into the second period, tying the game at two goals apiece.
With 2:24 left in the second, Ambrosio put the Eagles back on top, jamming the puck past Abel during a scrum at the net. The Eagles carried the 3-2 lead into the final frame.
BC started the third with momentum, racking up five consecutive shots early without BU getting any looks, but a penalty for too many men on the ice put the Terriers on the power play, where sophomore defenseman Alex Vlasic netted his first collegiate goal in his 41st game, tying the score 3-3.
The two sides went back and forth with chances, but the score remained knotted at 3-3 to force the game to overtime. The five-minute overtime period trickled down to the end, and it looked like the game would be decided by a shootout instead, but BC defenseman Drew Helleson was able carve through two Terrier defenders and put the puck past Abel with just 0.1 seconds left to secure the 4-3 overtime win.
“We showed a lot of resilience, we had a lot of fight, and I’m just pretty proud of the group,” O’Connell said. “That was just a tough ending, but their guy [Helleson] made a big play, and it’s hockey … you got to tip your cap at times.”
DeBoer and Boguslavsky led the Terrier scoring with a goal and assist each, while Abel made 25 saves and allowed four goals. On the BC side, Knight made 18 saves on 21 shots against, while Helleson, McBain, Ambrosio and Eagles captain Marc McLaughlin each finished the night with two points each.
The two sides reconvened in Walter Brown Arena the following night with no injured Terriers returning. The only key personnel difference was freshman goaltender Vinny Duplessis, who was tapped to make his first collegiate start.
“We had a freshman goaltender who’s never played,” O’Connell said of Duplessis. “Not the easiest thing to do, coming in to play one of the top teams in the country, but he stood tall, he was poised.”
With Commesso out, O’Connell wanted to give both reserve netminders a chance this weekend, starting Abel — who had experience against BC — on the road Friday, before giving Duplessis his debut at home Saturday.
The Eagles tested Duplessis early, firing four shots on goal before the Terriers could get one. BC got on the board 11:41 into the first period, with BC defenseman Eamon Powell managing to squeeze the puck past Duplessis in a flurry around the crease to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. It was the team’s second power play goal of the weekend.
The Terriers fought back and responded within two minutes, getting a power play chance of their own just 12 minutes into the period. With 6:25 left in the period, Vlasic slunk into the Terrier offensive zone with plenty of space and unloaded a powerful wrister to beat Knight on the top right corner and tie the game 1-1.
BC’s Marshall Warren was assessed a game-misconduct penalty with 1:13 left in the first period with a contact to the head hit, giving the Terriers a five-minute power play chance and disqualifying Warren from the rest of the game. The penalty chance bled into the second period and passed by without a Terrier goal, but it did give the team momentum.
A two-on-one rush by forwards Wilmer Skoog and Luke Tuch culminated in a Tuch goal, giving the Terriers a 2-1 lead halfway through the second period. Tuch’s older brother, Alex, plays for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and is a Boston College alum, making it a special night for the younger Tuch.
“Alex was a great mentor for me, and he still is,” Tuch said in an interview with Boston Hockey Blog in June. “He had a great time [at BC], but I kind of wanted to pave my own path, too.”
The second period wound down without any more scoring, but Tuch wasn’t done yet. Just 23 seconds into the third period, the freshman redirected Skoog’s centering feed to beat Knight again and put the Terriers on top 3-1.
The Eagles spent the rest of the third period peppering Duplessis in net, but he stonewalled everything coming his way. The third period trickled to a close, sealing a 3-1 victory to snap BC’s seven-game unbeaten streak. Duplessis was the star of the show in his debut, making 39 of 40 saves in the winning effort.
“It feels unreal,” Duplessis said in a postgame conference Saturday. “Those guys in front of me were just unreal tonight, blocking shots, just putting their body on the line. It was unreal, feels amazing.”
Tuch and Skoog led BU with two points each, while three Eagles notched one point apiece, with two assists and one goal total. Knight allowed three goals on 20 shots.
With Hockey East updating schedules on a weekly basis, it’s unclear who each team will play next until Tuesday, but this was a statement weekend for the Terriers.