Sixth-ranked New Hampshire and fifth-ranked Boston University were both undefeated going into Sunday’s game, but the Wildcats skated out on top — for the fourth consecutive time, as UNH swept all three games versus BU last season.
The 2-1 win over the Terriers put UNH at 3-0-0 overall, 1-0-0 in Hockey East. The ‘Cats clawed their way through this one, as the combined penalties for both teams totaled 19 (nine for BU and 10 for UNH). BU went 1-9 on the power play and New Hampshire 2-8.
As soon as the puck dropped in the first, it looked like it was BU’s game — physically dominating, quick puckhandling, and hard shots. But the momentum trickled down once the Terriers gave up five consecutive penalties. In the first five minutes of the game, the Terriers got the first five shots on goal, but for the remainder of the period, BU could only pull off two more shots.
The Wildcats accumulated 13 shots on BU freshman Grant Rollheiser during their five power-play opportunities, eventually sending one past him. Just under 11 minutes into the first period, the Wildcats had a two-man advantage thanks to BU’s Joe Pereira and Eric Gryba who were in the box for hooking and holding respectively.
The ‘Cats made their imprint when sophomore Phil DeSimone hung out by the right corner of the Terrier net. Getting the puck from defenseman Kevin Kapstad, James vanRiemsdyk fed it from center to DeSimone, who slipped it in glove-side past the BU newcomer at 11:58.
BU raced into the second period, keeping the pressure and physical domination going in the UNH zone. But the physicality backfired when BU’s Brian Strait got caught at 3:45 for crosschecking and UNH once again took control with the man-advantage. On the breakaway, vanRiemsdyk was too fast for BU defenseman Matt Gilroy and he lifted the puck into the upper left corner of the net over Rollheiser’s shoulder.
With the Wildcats up 2-0 and starting to rack up the penalties (seven in the second period), the Terriers got their chance to strike back with two five-on-three power plays. BU missed out on the first shot at cutting the score in half, but nailed it the second time around.
When vanRiemsdyk was put in the box at 12:51 for cross-checking (joining teammate Peter LeBlanc, who was in for hooking), BU head coach Jack Parker grasped the opportunity to wake up his club by calling a timeout. Lesson learned: the pep talk worked because at 13:06 senior Jason Lawrence got revenge, delivering the puck to the upper left corner past Brian Foster. BU made it look easy with the two-man advantage as Colby Cohen had plenty of time, passing the puck to Colin Wilson, who then dished it to Lawrence to put BU on the board.
For the remainder of the second period, BU kept the puck out of its zone, forcing Foster to grace the crowd with his calm, yet brick wall-ish nature in net.
The last 20 minutes of the game was quick as both teams were out for blood. However, the blood ended up in the sellout crowd of 6,501 at the Whittemore Center when BU sent a bullet over the boards, smashing a fan in the jaw. As the emergency occurred off the ice, BU was praying for a miracle on the sheet. The Terriers played hard to the last minute when Rollheiser was pulled and the extra man was put on — but they weren’t successful.
“This was a game we’re going to have to get adjusted to, I guess,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “I think they [the referees] called five straight penalties on BU in the first period. There was constant going to the box, more five-on-threes than I’ve seen. That’s how we’ve been instructed it’s going to be called, and we’re not adjusting as well as we can.”
Parker added, “We have two units that play the power play, and a lot of those guys who play the power play also kill penalties, so they got worn out a little bit.”
BU had the strength to outshoot UNH 32-24, but it was the Wildcat defense and solidarity in net that enabled the win. In three games, Foster has only given up two goals.
“They [BU] move the puck real well, but he [Foster] just sits right in there,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile. “A lot of those shots were outside, but he stands up there, he’s aggressive out at the crease, and he played solid. He’s obviously giving us an awful lot of confidence there.”
Despite Foster prevailing over the BU freshman between the pipes, both teams were put to the test, physically and mentally challenging one another in only the first few weeks of the season.
“That just tells you what it’s going to be like in Hockey East this year,” said Umile. “I mean this is our first Hockey East game, so it’s going to be a long winter.”