Following a decisive 7-2 victory on Friday night, the Boston University Terriers’ men’s ice hockey team (6-3, 4-2 Hockey East) returned to Agganis Arena to secure a 5-1 victory against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen (5-5-1, 1-5-0 HE). Saturday’s game marked the Terriers’ first Hockey East and weekend sweep of the young season.
After Friday’s win, the attention turned to Saturday to secure the sweep — a top priority for the Terrier team.
“That was a point of emphasis for us coming into the year to get off to a strong start and just take it game by game, and we’ve had a tough schedule,” senior forward Jay O’Brien said postgame. “As a captain of the team, I’m really proud of this group with the way we’ve handled ourselves.”
The Terriers came out of the gates hard with the same level of intensity they showed in Friday night’s contest in Amherst. Neither team had secure puck possession for the first few minutes, but the Terriers soon found their rhythm.
Sprawling saves from junior goaltender Drew Commesso kept the Minutemen at bay following a flurry of shot attempts. The Olympic netminder didn’t appear to have missed a beat despite his recent absence dealing with an injury.
Freshman forward Ryan Greene put the Terriers on the board first for the second night in a row after finding an opening in the center slot on a rebound from freshman forward Quinn Hutson’s shot. Junior forward Luke Tuch got a stick on it before Greene eventually capitalized.
On the defensive end, BU’s effort was solid. Because of the Terriers’ shot blocking, puck clearing, and successful disruptions of the Minutemen’s plays, UMass was unsuccessful in getting on the board in the first period. The Terrier squad was fast and looking to get off to the races, pushing the puck up ice every chance they got.
With about three minutes left to go in the first, senior forward Jamie Armstrong scored on a rebound following a shot from sophomore defenseman Ty Gallagher for a 2-0 Terrier lead.
The Terriers managed to go the entirety of the first period without committing a penalty. The team has struggled to stay out of the box so far this season, and it was an important facet to focus on during the bye week.
“It hurts the flow of our game when we’re in the box too much because we have a lot of depth and we want to use that depth,” said Pandolfo.
Early in the second period, both teams exhibited more chaotic play as they tried to get things going in their respective offensive zones. It started getting chippy as the Terriers and Minutemen continued looking for their chances and not seeing much success.
The first penalty of the game came halfway through the second period on UMass junior forward Ryan Sullivan. The Minutemen penalty kill worked hard to disrupt the skilled Terrier powerplay. As a result of the rush upon returning to five on five play, BU senior defenseman Case McCarthy found the back of the net from the right circle on a clean feed from senior forward Wilmer Skoog.
With five minutes to go in the second period, UMass freshman defenseman Owen Murray was called for a hooking penalty, giving the Terriers a second chance to score on the power play. However, the Terriers found themselves going four-on-four after a slashing call against Greene. Big blocks by Gallagher and junior defenseman Cade Webber kept the Minutemen from scoring and allowed the Terriers to take a 3-0 lead into the locker room ahead of the final period of play.
The Minutemen finally found a way to beat Commesso at the start of the third period. Freshman forward Kenny Connors drew the goaltender to the right side of the net, leaving an opening on the left for senior forward and captain Eric Faith to get his team on the board.
The Terriers followed up by successfully killing off a Hutson slashing penalty soon after, even taking an opportunity to shoot the puck while down a man.
When it seemed like not much was materializing for the Terriers for much of the third, they sealed the game with two quick goals midway through the period. The first came from junior forward Nick Zabaneh, who found the back of the net from the center slot on a crisp set of passes from senior forward Ethan Phillips and O’Brien for a 4-1 lead.
O’Brien followed up with a goal of his own on the power play from senior forward Matt Brown and McCarthy. The assistant captain had been hunting for his first goal of the season, and after hitting the pipes twice, he finally found the back of the net to close out Saturday’s game.
“Our players were really happy for him,” Pandolfo said. “Our team knows that those guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to produce for our team.”
The Terriers showed their ability to dominate this weekend, and it seems that the bye week came at an opportune time to evaluate the season so far and make adjustments moving forward.
“I think we just looked at a lot of different things as a team with video sessions with the coaching staff,” O’Brien said. “That bye week felt like forever. We were all chomping at the bit to play this weekend and obviously it showed.”
Next weekend, the Terriers will face off against the Northeastern University Huskies in a home-and-home series in what should be a highly competitive matchup against the team they edged out 1-0 in the 2022 Beanpot Championship.