In a game that was a lot closer than the score might indicate, the No. 3 Boston University Terriers topped the RPI Engineers, 6-2, in the first game of the Wells Fargo Denver Cup, behind two goals from Jason Lawrence. The Terriers will play the winner of the Denver-Holy Cross game in Saturday’s final.
The Terriers had a lot of jump early, using their superior speed to generate better offensive chances and keep the Engineers pinned in their own defensive zone. Within two minutes, the Terriers were able to grab an early 2-0 lead.
First, Zach Cohen, standing near the right post, took a pass from Joe Pereira in the right corner and tipped the puck past Engineers’ goalie Mathias Lange at 5:00 of the first period. Just 1:43 later, the Terriers repeated the play on the left side post. This time, it was Kevin Gilroy tipping in a pass from Corey Trevino in the left corner.
Despite dominating the early going, the Terriers did show some signs of rust, making the occasional careless play in their own zone. Near the halfway point of the period, this cost them when Engineers’ captain Matt Angers-Goulet got a pass in the slot and, as he cut to his left, poked it past Terriers’ goalie Grant Rollheiser.
“I think we got a little bit on our heels and got a little satisfied,” said Lawrence. “That will happen in any game, and this is the first game after the break. We battled hard and the guys did the right thing the rest of the way.”
Gaining momentum from the goal, the Engineers started to dominate for stretches, firing shots from the perimeter and crashing the net and using an aggressive forecheck to frustrate the Terriers.
“I think for 30 minutes, we had them on the run a little bit,” said Engineers’ coach Seth Appert. “We were a tough team to play against. We were physical. We used our speed and our forecheck was really good.”
Near the end of the period, Pereira took a bad retaliatory penalty. On a rush, Luke Popko dove for a pass in the slot to try and tip it past Lange, and his momentum took him into the net, where he knocked it off its posts. Engineers’ defenseman Christian Jensen hit Popko as he was going into the posts, and after the whistle blew, Periera stepped in and leveled Jensen from behind, drawing a five-minute major and game misconduct at 18:19 of the period.
The Terriers still had the best offensive chance at the end of the period when Chris Connolly got a tip in try from the left side crease, but Lange made the save.
“I think the game was little more physical,” said Terriers’ coach Jack Parker. “It was the first game back, and you get a little sloppy when you get tired. We happened to hang on a little bit more. We got a couple of hooking penalties; we got a stupid five-minute major penalty that was not called for. In general, they’re calling more in college hockey and I like that.”
Despite several good chances early in the period, the Engineers were unable to convert on the remaining three minutes of power play time, some of which was negated by a tripping penalty on Scott Halpern.
Halfway through the period, the Terriers got a five-minute power play of their own when Jeff Foss was whistled for hitting-from-behind in the right corner. Foss also got a game misconduct. The Terriers looked to have a golden chance to expand their lead, but instead it was Engineers who capitalized.
Right off the faceoff after the penalty was called, the puck squirted into the neutral zone and Alex Angers-Goulet won a footrace for the puck and broke in alone on Rollheiser and beat him with a quick wrist shot five-hole.
Buoyed by the tying goal, Lange stood strong on the ensuing power play and the Engineers blocked shots from the point, killing off the penalty.
It looked like the game would remain tied going into the third, but the Terriers capitalized on a quick play late. In the slot, Lawrence dived after a rebound and poked it just inside the right post past Lange at 18:06.
“We just had to get the momentum back and luckily the rebound was there and I took a whack at it and it found the back of the net,” said Lawrence.
Parker must have had some words in between the second and third periods, because the Terriers came out firing and buried the Engineers with three quick goals.
“We talked about the fact that we weren’t taking care of the puck and we didn’t look like a BU hockey team,” said Parker. “We looked like a team that was playing for our own individual stuff. We came out in the third period and played much, much better. We didn’t score on that five-minute major, but on the next power play we scored to make it 3-2 and then the next power play we scored to make it 4-2, so our power play came up pretty big time to help us out.
The Terriers got their two-goal lead back early in the third with a power play goal. Lawrence again pounced on a rebound near the left post, putting it on net. Lange dove back to try to make the stop, but the puck went in off his back at 2:24.
“Coach came in and said a couple of things, but I think as a group of guys we knew what we had to do,” said Lawrence. “We had to pick it up a little bit, and we got our legs a little more in the third and got our wind, and things started to go our way.”
“We can’t give a skill team like that that many power plays, because they’ll make you pay,” said Appert. “There was our combination of our resiliency inside probably slipping a little bit when they went up 4-2. That’s where we have to get a little stronger inside ourselves and get a little more resilient.”
Luke Popko gave the Terriers some more breathing room at 6:53, tucking in a shot from low in the right-hand circle off a pass from Cohen.
Just 30 seconds later, Brandon Yip made it 6-2 when he picked up a rolling puck at the top of the slot and fired it inside the left post. From there, the Terriers shut down any chances the Engineers had, keeping shots to a minimum. RPI only had three shots in the third period.