In a win-or-go-home Game Two of the Hockey East quarterfinals, the Boston University men’s hockey team bounced back from its series-opening overtime loss with a 4-2 victory over the University of New Hampshire on Saturday at Agganis Arena.
After struggling to keep up with the speed and effort of New Hampshire (15-18-3) in Friday night’s affair, BU (22-13-1) found its legs Saturday night. BU coach Jack Parker mixed up the lines a bit, and the team seemed to respond well.
“[Saturday’s win] was a college hockey game. [Friday’s loss] was a massacre,” Parker said. “Even though it seemed like it wasn’t because of the overtime, but it was a different game. Tonight was a real good college hockey game.”
It was the extra effort that helped BU score its first goal of the game on the power play. After a low shot from freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera, junior forward Alex Chiasson shoved a rebound through UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith’s pads, where senior captain Chris Connolly poked the puck into the empty net to give BU a 1-0 lead.
The goal came almost 12 minutes into the first period, and the Terriers held the lead until UNH forward Stevie Moses tied the game in the second period. Moses carried a feed from linemate Kevin Goumas to BU senior goaltender Kieran Millan’s right, where he rifled a wrist shot into the top right corner. The goal was Moses’s 22nd of the season.
Seven minutes later, BU sophomore forward Sahir Gill put the Terriers back on top. Gill took a long pass from sophomore defenseman Patrick MacGregor, split the defense and went in on a breakaway. Gill was tripped up from behind, but as he fell to the ice, he slammed a backhanded shot under DeSmith’s blocker to help BU to a 2-1 lead.
The Terrier’s lead was threatened when BU, which had been successful at staying out of the box through most of the first two periods, were bit by the penalty bug in the third. Despite killing off a tripping penalty from junior defenseman Sean Escobedo early in the frame, the Terriers earned another penalty less than 30 seconds later when Gill was called for hitting from behind.
The Wildcats capitalized on their power-play opportunity, as junior defenseman Connor Hardowa blasted a slap shot past Millan to tie the game at two. Goumas again was credited with the assist, while junior defenseman Brett Kostolansky also provided a helper.
The Terriers wasted no time in responding, as sophomore forward Matt Nieto scored an answering goal only 50 seconds later. Nieto took a pass from freshman forward Evan Rodrigues as he entered the offensive zone and quickly snapped a shot that rang in off the left post to lift BU to a 3-2 lead.
“Once they made it 2-2 I thought the biggest goal was Nieto coming back and getting that goal,” Parker said. “That kind of got us all jacked up again . . . From then on I think we did pretty well.”
Junior forward Ryan Santana sealed the victory for the Terriers when he tipped home a pass from Gill underneath DeSmith’s pad on a 2-on-0 rush. Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening set up the play with a long pass that caught the Wildcat defense off-guard.
The primary assist on the goal went to Gill, who was named the first star of Saturday’s game. Gill recorded a goal and two assists on the evening.
With the two-goal lead, BU relied on solid goaltending from Millan to advance to a third game in the quarterfinals. After a 47-save performance the night before, Millan stopped 35 of 37 shots in the BU win, including saving 17 of 18 in the third period.
“He looks like he is in a zone. He has been in a zone for a long time for us here,” Parker said. “When he is on top of his game you think, ‘Geez, they scored a goal on Kieran? How did that happen?’ It’s almost like a shock.”
Millan and the rest of the Terriers will face New Hampshire again Sunday at 5 p.m. in a game that will send its winner to TD Garden for the Hockey East semifinals.
“I expect a real hard-nosed, hard fought game [tonight],” Parker said. “Whenever you get beat you always come back and play harder. I hope my guys realize that and come back – we have to play harder than we did tonight to beat them tomorrow night. That’s for sure.”