AMHERST – On Oct. 4, the Boston University men’s hockey team derailed the University of St. Thomas in a 12-1 game. BU’s offense scored five goals in the third period. In an exhibition game against a Canadian school at home, this result was not all that much of a surprise.
Outperforming that third period against a Hockey East school in a regular season opener on the road would be something that most would not expect.
But the Terriers did just that.
A six-goal third period, which included two goals each from junior winger Danny O’Regan and freshman center Jack Eichel, propelled BU (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) to an 8-1 win over the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Friday.
“Obviously two important league points,” said BU coach David Quinn. “Didn’t expect this, to be honest with you. Obviously a pivotal point, we go into the third period, up 2-1, they get that late goal in the second, and we kill the penalty off. We get two quick ones, Jack makes a great play to make it 3-1, then he gets another great play to make it 4-1. And all of sudden we’ve got momentum.”
Without some help from the Terriers freshman goaltender, though, a win over UMass (0-1, 0-1 Hockey East) might never have happened. Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor was injured during Thursday’s practice and netminder Connor LaCouvee got thrown into the mix Friday afternoon. A winnable game on the road could have easily slipped away from the Terriers. Instead, LaCouvee kept his composure and collected 31 saves in his collegiate debut.
By the game’s end, Quinn almost forgot to mention his rookie goalie because of the offensive outburst.
“I thought that every time they were on the ice, they were generating scoring chances,” Quinn said. “And our goalie, I thought our goalie played great. I know you win 8-1 and you don’t mention your goalie.”
The goal explosion came in the third period, but from the outset, BU’s first and second lines peppered Minutemen goalie Steve Masatalerz. A week after missing a game due to injury, O’Regan joined Eichel and junior forward Ahti Oksanen on the first unit. They generated multiple opportunities early, though it was BU’s second line that got the scoring started.
Sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon, who led BU in points last season, scored the Terriers’ first goal of the year when he chipped in a pass from in front from senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann. The Terriers continued to cycle the puck well and controlled the flow for the remainder of the period. Mastalerz, however, robbed BU of any more chances in the frame, as he collected 17 saves.
“All four lines contributed, I thought the Baillargeon-Hohmann-[senior forward Evan] Rodrigues lines was unbelievable for the first two periods,” Quinn said. “I thought that every time they were on the ice, they were generating scoring chances.”
Both teams battled back-and-forth in the early stages of the second. Again, it was the Terriers who got on the board about halfway through the period.
Rodrigues skated the puck into the offensive zone and fed freshman forward Nikolas Olsson on a drop pass, who deposited the puck into the net at 10:33 for a 2-0 BU advantage. It looked as if BU would go into the second intermission with a two-goal edge, but freshman Jake Horton pulled the Minutemen within one in the final minute of the second frame. The late goal and BU’s third penalty of the game could have shifted the complexion of the game. BU’s offense, on the strength of six unanswered goals in the final frame, did not let this happen.
After UMass failed to capitalize on its power-play chance at the start of the third, the Terriers then took over. From an opportunity in the center of the slot, freshman forward Jack Eichel scored his first collegiate goal just under two minutes into the period on a feed from his classmate, defenseman Brandon Fortunato.
The top lines continued to apply pressure throughout the rest of the third, leading to Mastalerz’s exit from the game. Eichel added one more, and coupled with O’Regan’s two markers and a goal each from Hohmann and freshman forward A.J. Greer, a once close game got out of hand.
Quinn credited his team’s penalty kill for helping the Terriers make such a big push at the end of the game.
“We had a lot of great chances for the first two periods, it’s 2-0 and they get a late one in the second, and all of a sudden the whole momentum could change, and we killed the penalty off and we’ve got some guys that are burying the puck, put a lot of work into it,” Quinn said.
LaCouvee made all the necessary stops, and by the time the final buzzer sounded, the game was already a foregone conclusion. The Terriers skated to the dressing room with a comfortable win in their Hockey East opener.
“That game could’ve been 5-3 in a hurry, but I think that’s our youth,” Quinn said. “All 10 freshmen were in the lineup tonight, and all of a sudden we get up to 5-1 and we think it’s going to be point night, I think the way we played got away from us a little bit once we made it 5-1, but our goalie played great.”