Terriers’ coach Jack Parker benched a couple of sinners and came up with a win against the Saints.
With Jason Lawrence and Colby Cohen out of the lineup as healthy scratches following a poor effort on Tuesday against Holy Cross, No. 8 Boston University rebounded with a solid effort, beating St. Lawrence 4-1 in front a small crowd of 4,322 at Agganis Arena. It was the first truly good game for BU since a 3-0 win against Northeastern on November 16.
Freshman goalie Kieran Millan led the way with 24 saves while senior co-captain John McCarthy was the improbable offensive catalyst, factoring strongly in both the opening goal and a short-handed back-breaker at the end of the second period. Mike MacKenzie had the lone goal for the Saints.
“I was much more pleased with my teamâ€™s effort tonight,” Parker said. “This team is a very hard team to outwork; Joe Marsh teams don’t get outworked very often; Joe Marsh teams pride themselves in outworking their opponent. This team beat UMass and UNH, two things we couldn’t do, so we were fortunate to play well and get a win against a very good team.”
With St. Lawrence playing their second game in as many nights as well having to go without Brock McBride (high ankle sprain), one of the team’s top offensive threats, it was tough going for coach Joe Marsh’s charges.
“Like I said to Jack after the game, it sort of felt like the men against the boys,” Marsh said. “Unfortunately, they’re one of those teams that if you make a mistake and turn the puck over, they can make you pay for it. A couple of their goals were the result of weak turnovers on our part. I felt we worked hard and competed, but they were just that much better tonight.”
Millan was almost fooled by a wraparound at 4:20 of the first period. MacKenzie looked to have him beat, but Nick Bonino, back in the lineup tonight after being scratched on Tuesday, hustled on the backcheck to break up the shot.
At 8:13, BU took the lead. McCarthy raced in on the left wing and slipped the puck to Bonino crashing the net. The centerman decided to forego the shot, dropping it to Brandon Yip trailing the play on the right wing. Yip fired a 15-foot wrister in low on the glove side.
St. Lawrence tied it on a power play off of an offensive-end draw. Jeremiah Cunning won it to MacKenzie off the right-wing dot, and the junior beat Millan glove side.
Just when it looked like the Saints might get to the first intermission with a tie, BU went ahead with 19.7 seconds left in the period. Vinny Saponari fed it from the right-wing boards out to Matt Gilroy at the point for the shot with Zach Cohen waiting in the slot.
“I was just in front of the net and Vinny and [Luke] Popko were making a nice play in the corner, got it out to Gilroy,” Cohen said. “He took a shot, and I got a little stick on it, went off the post and in.”
“Those kill you, don’t they?” Marsh said of the last-minute goal. “We had about three different breakdowns. One, we didn’t get it in deep. Two, we had poor coverage positionally, and we didn’t have that guy’s stick. You can be standing next to a guy, but it looked like we were running an escort service there, really not covering anybody.”
It was the third goal of the season for Cohen, who hadn’t cracked the lineup through the first four games of the year.
At 5:40 of the second period, Colin Wilson stickhandled deftly around the slot before shooting. Senior Chris Higgins had half the net to shoot at, but put it right into the pads of goalie Kain Tisi.
BU looked a little careless midway through the period, and Matt Generous, Mark Armstrong, and Shawn Fensel responded with chances for the visitors, only to have BU make it 3-1 at 14:41. The Terriers looked great on a power play, dominating territorially before scoring. David Warsofsky passed from the left point to Higgins low on the same side, and the right wing crossed it through the slot to Colin Wilson for the goal at the far post.
It was Higgins’s 100th career point.
“It’s an honor just to be in such great company,” Higgins said. “I had a couple chances tonight. I figured when I missed that shot in the second period that maybe itâ€™s not my night tonight, but I was glad to get it out of the way tonight so I can just start focusing on BC [next weekend].”
St. Lawrence showed great tenacity and character by responding with their best pressure of the night. Armstrong redirected a shot into the net, only to have it waved off because of a high stick. At the 18-minute mark, Millan was both lucky and good: Kevin DeVirgilio fanned on a power-play rebound, only to have Casey Parenteau swoop in for a great shot that Millan stopped.
“I was very, very impressed with Kieran Millan,” Parker said. “The last eight or nine minutes of the second period was the turning point of the game. We were up, but they were really coming after us [after BU made it 3-1 at 14:41]. Millan came up with two or three ten-bellers, and I think they had about six grade ‘A’ shots, so he had to make some big saves.”
At 18:52, BU put the final nail in the coffin with the short-handed tally. McCarthy hustled up the right wing with the puck before crossing to Kevin Shattenkirk and the far post to make it 4-1. Millan made a nice toe save in the last seven seconds of the period, but the Saints seemed to be out of gas after that. Zach Cohen and Andrew Glass worked well together in the third for a few chances, but the game was basically over at that point.
“They had the puck a lot,” Marsh said. “They just seemed to have the puck for about 75 percent of the game. Some of the opportunities we had, we just weren’t able to make plays. We haven’t lost a game like that all year to where we were dominated the way we were tonight.”
BU (8-4-0) now will go into a home-and-home series with archrival BC next weekend. With goalie Grant Rollheiser nursing a groin injury, it’s possible that Millan will play both games. Lawrence and Colby Cohen will be in the lineup. Parker said that Lawrence was benched purely for a dumb penalty late in the last game, and he said that Cohen needs to be more physical and not get too carried away offensively. However, he was confident that both players would respond well, as Bonino clearly did tonight after his imposed layoff.
“It’s been tough for us the past couple of weeks,” Higgins said. “We know that we haven’t been playing well. We’ve been in kind of a rut. It definitely took a toll on our confidence, but it also brought us back to earth a little bit; maybe guys were getting a full of themselves when were number one in the nation.”
St. Lawrence (5-6-1) plays at Colgate and Cornell next weekend.