BOSTON — The rumors of Boston University’s demise appear to be exaggerated.
After losing six straight games to close out November, the Terriers are now riding a modest three-game winning streak in December, thanks to an exciting, hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Maine in front of 3,603 fans at Walter Brown Arena on Friday night.
Mike Pandolfo had a goal and an assist while Jason Tapp stopped 23 shots for BU (5-8-1, 4-4-1 Hockey East). Martin Kariya notched a goal and an assist for the Black Bears (6-5-4, 3-2-2 Hockey East).
For once this season, BU got some badly needed breaks and bounces to help itself earn a critical victory, undoubtedly its biggest win of the season thus far.
“As I told the guys in the dressing room, ‘That just brought us back from the dead.’ ” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “To come in and win these last three was real important to us, so now we’re .500 in the league; we’re around fourth place in the league; we have a shot at home ice in the league; and we’re making a statement that we can play with teams now and play hard.
“I like the fact we puts some ‘Ws’ together so we could go into the break right now feeling good about ourselves.”
After scoring only 15 even-strength goals in 13 games all season, Parker enjoyed a relative embarrassment of riches on that front, as there were two five-on-five goals and one four-on-four goal.
“When you have a power play that up until tonight was going at a 31 percent rate, you’d think you’d be in first place in the league, but that’s the only time we were scoring was on the power play,” Parker said. “So it was nice to get goals tonight five-on-five. But it was also nice to keep the score down, too.”
There were no great scoring opportunities in the opening minutes, but a Maine power play changed matters soon enough. At 6:42, freshman Francis Nault fired a pass from the right point across to Martin Kariya in the left-wing faceoff circle. The centerman wheeled and fired the puck past Tapp to make it 1-0.
With 1:22 left in the first period, good fortune smiled on the Terriers. Nick Gillis hustled to prevent an icing, whacking the puck weakly toward the net before it could cross the goal line. Maine goalie Matt Yeats started to stickhandle the puck but flubbed it just enough for Mike Pandolfo to poke the puck into the net and tie the game.
“You know, the difference was the fluke goal in the first period,” Maine coach Shawn Walsh said. “So it’s a one-goal difference. But I thought BU did a nice job defensively, limiting our chances and playing well through the neutral zone defensively.”
The momentum gradually swung to BU in the second period, culminating in a go-ahead goal for the Terriers at 6:24. Carl Corazzini fought off a Maine defender while carrying the puck in on the right wing before crossing to Frantisek Skladany, who was crashing the net. The Slovakian one-timed the puck home just as he entered the crease.
Apparently dissatisfied with his team’s play, Walsh called a timeout at 10:41. His troops responded well almost immediately. Dan Kerluke’s five-hole bid was squeezed between the legs of Tapp, then Tom Reimann’s bad-angle shot went off of Tapp’s shoulder, rolled on top of the crossbar, and bounced out of danger.
Martin Kariya gave the Terrier faithful another scare 15:00 when he broke in on Tapp, only to shoot the puck off the outside of the post as Tapp pinwheeled his legs attempting to block it.
The third period started on a grim note for the Black Bears when Freddy Meyer took out Chris Heisten with a hip check, forcing Maine’s best playmaker out of the game with an apparent knee injury.
“Heisten I think has a torn MCL,” Walsh said. “Now we’ve got five guys out, so we’ll probably only dress 19 guys on Sunday against BC. We don’t have any other players to play.
“We’re pretty much down to the bare minimum,” Walsh said. “We got to get through these next two games to Christmas then hopefully get some people back.”
Maine enjoyed a brief five-on-three advantage at 3:54 but couldn’t score and even gave up a good shorthanded chance for Corazzini, leading to a Maine penalty. During the ensuing four-on-four action, a John Cronin slap shot bounced off the Black Bear netminder and out to Meyer cruising in from the opposite point. Meyer’s slap shot beat Yeats for a big goal.
Yeats helped Maine stay in the game by stoning Dan Cavanaugh’s breakaway bid at 7:30.
“In general, I thought both goalies played well,” Parker said. “I thought we got one greasy one off them but then [Yeats] saved three or four breakaway saves that were terrific saves.”
The Black Bears narrowed the margin to one at 12:13. Martin Kariya’s made a quasi-wraparound attempt, and Tapp unsuccessfully swept his stick at the puck, which went over his stick and out to Matthias Trattnig skating in toward the net. The native of Graz, Austria, one-timed it home for his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Maine threatened occasionally after that but couldn’t get the equalizer, thanks in part to the solid goaltending of Jason Tapp.
“Tapp had a hell of a night,” Parker said. “He looked poised and competitive and looked real sharp and that’s just what we need from him.”
BU now enjoys a three-week break from action before facing a big challenge in North Dakota at the Bank One Badger Hockey Showdown in Milwaukee. Maine hosts Boston College on Sunday night and UMass-Amherst on Thursday evening before it gets time off until after Christmas.