In the 100th game of junior goaltender Jake Oettinger’s collegiate career, the Boston University men’s hockey team kept the University of Connecticut scoreless en route to a 2-0 victory Saturday, splitting a weekend series with the Huskies and bringing an end to BU’s six-game losing streak.
“It was important to bounce back,” Oettinger said. “It definitely feels good to get a win at home.”
After conceding two goals in the opening frame of Friday’s game, the Terriers (11-15-3, 9-8-2 Hockey East) showed early improvements on Saturday, keeping the game scoreless through 20 minutes.
UConn (10-18-2, 5-13-2 Hockey East) attempted nine shots on goal in the opening stanza while BU put up 14 — nearly tripling the five shots on target the Terriers tallied in the same amount of time the night before.
“We protected our net,” BU head coach Albie O’Connell said.
The Terriers were the closer of the two sides to breaking the deadlock in the first. Junior forward Patrick Curry, who scored a late game-tying goal in the Friday leg, found a hole in the Husky defense with four minutes remaining. This time around, though, the Illinois native was unable to beat freshman keeper Tomas Vomacka, and the sides stayed 0-0.
“Their goalie in the first made some highlight reel saves,” O’Connell said of Vomacka.
The deadlock would persist through the second period, with both teams struggling to establish an offensive rhythm. BU came up inches away on multiple opportunities, including a two-on-one chance for Curry and freshman linemate Joel Farabee late in the frame. Farabee looked to feed Curry on the rush, but the play was broken up just outside of Vomacka’s crease.
“That line’s got some pretty good chemistry,” O’Connell said regarding the partnership of Farabee, Curry and sophomore linemate Shane Bowers. All three of these players created chances for the Terries throughout the weekend.
Play became more chippy into the final minutes of the second frame as the Terriers and Huskies pushed for a late go-ahead goal to grab the lead at the break. The game was halted three separate times for penalties — twice for BU, once for UConn — but even in special teams, nothing could separate the sides after 40 minutes.
“It was hard to get open ice,” O’Connell said of the tight play through two periods.
The ice was finally broken in the third, though, as sophomore forward Ty Amonte lit the lamp for BU just over a minute into the final frame.
Sophomore defender Cam Crotty’s shot was knocked down by Vomacka following a pass from senior forward Ryan Cloonan, but Amonte was there to sweep it in and give BU the lead. The goal was Amonte’s fifth of the season, and his first in eight games.
“I think we’ve been competing real hard,” said Oettinger, whose team was rewarded for their efforts by scoring the opener for just the second time in 11 games.
Oettinger was solid throughout the game, standing tall when the Terriers were defending their one-goal advantage. With BU in search of a second on the power play seven minutes into the period, UConn leading scorer Alexander Payusov snuck in for a breakaway. However, the forward was denied by Oettinger’s glove.
“That definitely was nice for me to chip in a little bit,” said Oettinger, who made 26 total saves in Saturday’s game. “I didn’t think I had a ton of work tonight.”
Oettinger and the Terrier defense would survive long enough for their attack to double the lead.
Working on the penalty kill, Cloonan made a diving stop to win the puck for BU. It fell to sophomore defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo, who fed it forward for a streaking Joel Farabee. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect did the rest, firing high to the blocker side to put BU up 2-0 with 4:18 remaining.
“Capitalizing on those chances is huge,” Oettinger said. “[The Farabee goal] gave us a little bit of breathing room.”
A final attempt to rally would come up empty for the Huskies, and BU would finish the 2-0 winners. It was the Terriers’ first victorious shut-out of the season, and put an end to the team’s six-game losing skid.
We can breathe,” joked O’Connell about finally ending the losing streak — the program’s longest since 2014.
The shutout was the 11th of Oettinger’s career with BU, putting the junior just two away from reaching the program record. With a flawless performance in his 100th game, Saturday was a special night for the Minnesota native.
“It’s crazy that it’s already been 100 games,” Oettinger said. “It feels like I was playing my first one yesterday. It’s definitely a cool milestone and nice to get a win in the 100th game.”
Despite their struggles as of late, the Terriers still find themselves four points shy of the second spot in Hockey East.
O’Connell said he was optimistic about the games to come in the final stretch of the season.
“Guys were committed to doing the right thing and playing the right way,” he said. “There was a lot of buy-in, so that’s a positive sign for sure.”
Oettinger said the team environment has been positive, as well.
“Top to bottom I think it’s a really close-knit group,” the goaltender said. “It’s just really fun to be around the room.”
The Terriers will look to keep things moving in the right direction as they travel for a two-game set at the University of Vermont next weekend.