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Before the season started, no one would have guessed that Massachusetts would come into tonight’s game with a four-game winning streak while Boston University would be looking to break a three-game losing skid. That said, it wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to predict that the Terriers would take this contest against the Minutemen at Walter Brown.
That’s exactly what happened, as the Terriers bounced back one night after a third-period and overtime meltdown resulted in a squandered 4-1 lead and a 5-4 OT victory for UMass. Tonight BU dominated, but they couldn’t break free of the stubborn Minutemen until two early third-period goals sealed a 3-1 victory for the home team in front of a crowd of 3,578.
Just 16 seconds into the third period, Brian McConnell got the game-winner for the Terriers but acknowledged that it wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty.
“Dave VanderGulik took not a really strong shot, and the goalie bobbled it a little bit, and it came right to me,” McConnell said. “I didn’t get too much on it either; it was kind of a broken play. But I was lucky enough that it went over him, and it slowly went in the net.”
Less than four minutes later, Mark Mullen converted a pair of gorgeous passes from Mike Bussoli and David Klema to seal it for BU (8-6-2. 5-4-0). Tim Turner scored the lone goal and Gabe Winer made 27 saves to keep it close for the Minutemen (9-6-0, 4-5-0).
“I was more than pleased with our effort after playing well for two periods and then stealing defeat from the jaws of victory last night,” Terrier Coach Jack Parker said. “I thought we did a really good job through center ice because they’re a team that really works hard — they keep you bottled up at center ice with a 1-3-1 trap that they do really well. A lot of teams — Maine, UNH — really had trouble with it, and I thought we did a real good job with it.”
UMass Coach Don “Toot” Cahoon thought his team experienced a bit of an energy crisis coming off the thrilling win the night before.
“I thought BU responded well coming off a loss last night, and they played with a little more energy than we did tonight,” Cahoon said. “They engaged us. they were here, and they meant business.
“I thought we responded in the second period — played a little better and had some chances, established a forechecking game, which does two things: It allows us to create some opportunities in the offensive zone and minimizes the time we spend in the defensive zone. However, the goal being scored the way it was in the third period kind of neutralized us, and we lacked energy from there on in.”
It was a sluggish start for the goaltenders, as BU’s first shot didn’t come until Winer saw a slow roller from the opposite blueline come his way at 7:20. Meanwhile, UMass failed to get a shot until 11:50, when freshman phenom Stephen Werner had a shorthanded breakaway, only to have Terrier goalie Sean Fields make a pad save on the late shot.
John Sabo stood out among the Terriers in the first period, though he didn’t get a point. He hammered Nick Kuiper into the boards at 8:10, grabbing the puck and almost scoring on a wraparound. Three minutes later, Sabo hit a post with a power-play shot.
At 16:35, BU took the lead off a faceoff just outside the Minuteman zone, as Brad Zancanaro nudged the puck onto Skladany’s stick. The Slovakian winger raced in and took a shot that appeared to go off the stick of Thomas Pöck, fooling Winer.
As Cahoon indicated, his team got untracked in the second period, and teams traded a few grade ‘B’ scoring chances until Tim Turner tied the game 1-1. Terrier blueliner Ryan Whitney coughed up the puck to Chris Capraro — reminiscent of Capraro taking the puck away from Jekabs Redlihs on the game-winner the night before. Instead of scoring, though, Capraro raced in on the left wing and slipped a pass to Turner for a one-timer and a goal.
That set the stage for McConnell’s game winner in the third, though the insurance goal was really much more of a highlight reel goal. Approaching the red line, Mike Bussoli bounced a pass to David Klema off the boards in front of his bench. Klema raced in on the left wing and drove to the net before dishing a last-second pass to Mark Mullen trailing the play for an easy goal.
Basically, the two best offensive plays of the night were by Skladany and Klema; two players who had been healthy scratches the night before on the heels of the Terriers being swept by Cornell last weekend.
“They answered the bell — both of them,” Parker said. “I thought Klema really played great, but Faro Skladany got the big goal that got us the lead and got us going.”
UMass mustered little offense the rest of the way. Cahoon tried an interesting gambit by pulling Winer with over three minutes left, but the Minutemen couldn’t sustain much of an attack in the BU end.
“I told the guys before the game that it would be a battle of wills, that Coach Parker would challenge their will, and what we were doing was testing ours,” Cahoon said. “Tonight they won that battle.”
The Terriers travel to Rensselaer on a Tuesday for a non-conference game before they have an extended break, as they won’t see action after that until they play Michigan State in the Great Lakes Invitational on December 28. UMass travels to New Jersey to play Princeton on Thursday; subsequently, they also will be off until holiday tournament time, when they go to Florida to play Ohio State in the Everblades Classic on December 28.