BOSTON — It was opening night for the Dream of Fields.
Boston University freshman goalie Sean Fields began his collegiate career in storybook fashion, making 25 saves — including several third-period gems — to lead the Terriers to a 3-0 victory over Merrimack on Saturday night in front of 3,507 fans at Walter Brown Arena.
Carl Corazzini and Mike Pandolfo each notched a goal and an assist for BU (2-2-1, 1-1-1 Hockey East), while Joe Exter made 33 saves for Merrimack (3-4-1, 1-2-0 Hockey East) in his third collegiate game.
Fields’ feat marked the first time since Nov. 4, 1989 that a BU goaltender had posted a shutout to begin his Terrier career. Scott Cashman was the last to pull it off — against the same team, no less — whitewashing the Warriors by the score of 8-0.
“I guess the big story was our goaltender,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “Sean played real well, looked real sharp as they came at us in the third period. I thought we played extremely well defensively.”
“At first, we had some shots but they weren’t even good ones,” Merrimack coach Chris Serino said. “But as the game went along, he made some great saves.”
The Terriers decisively outshot the Warriors for the first period but struggled to make anything of the advantage on the scoreboard. In fact, the closest call through the first 19 minutes came on one of Merrimack’s infrequent shots, when senior right wing Vincent Clevenger slipped a wrister past Fields and off a post.
BU finally capitalized with just 39.9 seconds left in the period. After a delay-of-game penalty gave the Terriers a five-on-three for 35 seconds, they wasted little time in barraging netminder Exter. The sophomore goalie came up big by stacking his pads on a Mike Pandolfo rebound following a Mike Bussoli slapshot, but he couldn’t stop Pandolfo’s second golden opportunity in about 15 seconds.
Defenseman John Cronin received a Dan Cavanaugh pass from the corner and made a little backhanded flip toward Pandolfo on the goal line. The burly junior had to settle the shin-high pass before whacking at the puck repeatedly until it slipped between Exter’s pad and the post.
The second period featured fairly balanced end-to-end action, and both goalies had to rise to the occasion. Ron Mongeau had a few good chances for Merrimack, and Ryan Kiley had a terrific opportunity halfway through the period — slipping away from Scott Perry and going in alone — only to have Fields make the knee save and bat the rebound out of the air and out of danger.
Exter matched his counterpart with a gem of a save at the 15-minute mark, when he robbed Perry of his first goal since the 1998-99 season. Perry picked up a rebound and fired a shot that was ticketed for the far corner, but Exter lunged forward and snared it with his glove.
Not to be outdone, Fields prevented Merrimack from tying it with 4.9 seconds left in the period, when he made a glove save with a flourish on Stephen Moon’s cannon slap shot off a faceoff.
“I kind of knew even before they dropped the puck where he’d be shooting,” Fields said. “You kind of have a feeling for those, and I’d seen him eyeing that corner for the whole time.”
After Parker benched Corazzini for most of the first period and all of the second period due to a unwise penalty, the Terrier captain scored one of his patented first-shift-of-the-third-period goals to make it 2-0 just 32 seconds in. After the Terriers won a defensive-end faceoff, Corazzini got a nudged outlet pass and was off to the races. He chose to shoot instead of deke, burying a wrister on the glove side.
“He’s pretty good at winning that face-off and getting going: I might tackle him if I was the other team; take a penalty or something,” Parker said. “He must sit there between periods and figure, ‘OK, I’m going to take the face-off, and I’m going to go around the right defenseman.’
“But that was just a great play by Scotty Perry. ‘Cause Scotty knew that Carl was taking off, and he dove and tapped it to him. The minute he was even with those two defensemen, I knew he was gone.
“When you bench the captain for [taking a bad penalty], everybody else might take a little notice.”
Once again, the teams proceeded to trade chances. Fields made a good glove save on Aquino at 1:52, only to have Exter stone Gregg Johnson on a two-on-one bid. Brian Collins’ backhander at 9:00 just caught the inside of the post.
Merrimack threatened to get one back with a five-on-three for 30 seconds, but Fields made a great sliding save on Nick Parillo, then duplicating the feat against the same shooter less than a minute later.
“That five-on-three save he made …” Serino said, “you know, there were still five, six minutes left in the game and it was a great play. We couldn’t draw a play any better and he made a two-pad save across that was fabulous.”
Parillo really had to be talking to himself at 18:50, when he beat Aufiero, only to have Fields stop him for a third time from point-blank range.
Fields’ play impressed his coach, who had been disappointed with the play of Jason Tapp in a 5-4 loss to Merrimack the night before. Parker didn’t quite know what to expect of Fields in a game situation.
“He’s a typical Canadian goaltender,” Parker said. “He’s not as intense in practice as we’d like him to be, but he looks like he moves real well laterally. He stays on the puck, and he obviously saw the puck.
“The thing that I was really happy about tonight is that he looks like he has a real quick glove; he made a couple of great glove saves. … He gave us a good goaltending game when we needed one.”
Nick Gillis added an empty-netter with 13.5 seconds left to seal it for the Terriers.
BU plays at UMass-Lowell on Friday and visits Northeastern on Sunday, while Merrimack plays at Maine on Friday before hosting UMass-Lowell on Sunday.