Saturday night at Walter Brown Arena, it was a tale of two locker rooms.
In one locker room, players were pumping up the volume on the radio, chowing down pizza and soda and feeling relieved for having finally snapped the program’s longest losing streak in more than 30 years.
In the other locker room, you could smell the frustration amongst the sweaty uniforms. This was a team looking forlorn, kicking over garbage cans and second-guessing itself more than Bill Buckner. They’re 3-10-2 and passengers on a ship sinking faster than the Titanic.
Because both the hockey teams of Boston University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were severely struggling heading into this weekend, either squad could have found itself in either of these two locker rooms as of Saturday night.
“Everyone in the locker room, we all totally thought we could take two. They were slumping. We’ve been slumping. It just didn’t happen,” said frustrated Minuteman defenseman Brad Nizwantowski.
However, it did happen for the Terriers (4-8-1, 3-4-1 Hockey East), who were victorious twice this weekend over the fledgling Minutemen, 4-2 Saturday at Walter Brown Arena and 5-2 Friday at the Mullins Center. More importantly, BU seems to have emerged from this weekend sweep with a captain out of a slump, a set of line combinations which looked like it could carry the Terriers to a national title, and a roster which can boast one of the most lethal power plays in the country.
“It’s a little sigh of relief to get four points in the league and get back to the middle of the pack anyway,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I thought it was a real solid weekend for us. We got steady goaltending from both goaltenders. We played great on the power play both nights. I think we’re leading the league now. We still had some struggles killing penalties, but we’re working hard on it. Overall, I thought we played well offensively and defensively.”
For the weekend, BU was 6-for-12 on the power play and now leads Hockey East with a 31 percent success rate. Twenty-two of the Terriers’ 39 goals this season have come with the man advantage.
Individually, it was the new second scoring line for the Terriers that provided some standout performances. Senior captain Carl Corazzini broke out with six points over the two games, including a career-high four points Friday on the road. Couple his two-goal, two-assist effort Friday with his one-goal, one-assist effort Saturday and Corazzini now stands only three points shy of 100 for his career.
Junior left wing Jack Baker collected four assists over the weekend while sophomore defenseman Freddy Meyer also registered four points, a goal and assist in each game.
Meyer, who now has three career goals, all on the power play, has scored all of his career tallies against the Minutemen. His other career goal beside this weekend came last February at Amherst when it was Meyer’s third-period, power-play goal which capped a furious, late-game comeback by BU, which won the contest, 3-2.
“I thought Freddy Meyer had a hell of a weekend. Carl Corazzini had a hell of a weekend. I thought [sophomore center] Brian Collins really played well both nights, really played hard,” Parker said.
Rounding the new second line was freshman forward Frantisek Skladany, whose speed helped him collect two assists Friday and tie rookie forward Gregg Johnson for the team lead in points for freshmen with three.
Speaking of Johnson, he’s now on the first line with junior center Dan Cavanaugh and sophomore right wing John Sabo, who assisted on the game-opening, power-play goal by Cavanaugh just 2:33 into Saturday’s game.
Almost 10 minutes after Cavanaugh’s initial tally, Corazzini put BU up 2-0 when he turned on the jets, circled around the Minuteman defenseman, waited until Amherst goalie Mike Johnson had committed to his right and wristed the puck over the sprawled goalie for the Terriers’ second goal. The goal was Corazzini’s team-leading ninth of the season.
Sophomore defenseman Mike Bussoli then tacked on another for the 3-0 lead 1:45 later by blasting a shot from the point on the power play which sailed past a screened Johnson. Bussoli was playing with the reunited third line of the Terriers: Collins centering with junior left Mike Pandolfo and senior right wing Nick Gillis on each side. Both Gillis and Collins assisted on what was Bussoli’s second of the season.
Nizwantowski spoiled freshman goalie Sean Fields’ bid for a home shutout when he scored 10:23 into the second period, but Meyer gave BU some much-needed insurance 5:58 into the third period with his power-play score.
Minuteman forward Kris Wallis scored 2:22 after Meyer to cut the deficit to 4-2, but some crucial stops by Fields late in the game prevented Amherst from getting any closer.
“Sean had to make a huge save on the semi-breakaway and it would have been a 4-3 game and we’d all be pulling hair out of our heads,” Parker said of Fields, who finished with 21 saves on 23 shots.
Friday at Amherst, things started poorly for the Terriers, who fell behind 1-0 just 2:39 into the game after Minuteman captain Jeff Turner’s fourth goal of the season. From there, BU went on the score five unanswered goals over the next 40 minutes of hockey. Along with Corazzini’s two and Meyer’s one, Collins and Gillis each added scores to put BU up 5-1 a minute into the third period. Junior goalie Jason Tapp stopped a season-high 33 shots to secure his second win of the season.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time to get a couple of W’s,” Parker said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time that we got some offense.