BOSTON — After getting blasted by its coach following a woeful effort in a 4-1 loss against UMass-Lowell on Friday night, Boston University looked like a team with something to prove Sunday night in front of 2,156 fans at Walter Brown Arena.
Disgusted with the lack of leadership from his upperclassmen, BU coach Jack Parker chose to not dress his second-leading scorer (junior forward Dan Cavanaugh) and moved freshmen Mark Mullen and Frantisek Skladany up to the top two forward lines.
The moves paid off, as the freshmen joined Brian Collins on a line that scored the first two goals, while senior captain Carl Corazzini enjoyed a return to form with a goal and an assist in BU’s 5-1 win over Niagara. The Terriers blew the game open with three goals in 1 minute, 57 seconds early in the third period.
Freshman goalie Sean Fields made 12 saves for the win before being spelled late in the third period.
“Well, I’m in a better frame of mind tonight, boys, than I was Friday night,” Parker said. “I thought we got a lot of nice play out of all our freshmen. I thought Skladany played well; [Kenny] Magowan played well; Marky Mullen played real well, and I thought Stevie Greeley played real well. So I like what I saw there.
“They gave us some zip and they gave us some effort, they gave us some bumping, too.”
Brian Collins also praised the play of his freshmen linemates and teammates.
“I think at the beginning of the year, they might have been a little tentative and now they’re starting to get confidence,” Collins said. “The last two games I’ve been playing with the freshmen myself, and they’ve played great. They kind of helped me along, too.”
After a brutally bad showing on Friday night, Parker told his players he didn’t want to see them until it was time to play Sunday’s game.
“We didn’t practice yesterday; we didn’t have a pre-game skate today; we didn’t do anything together as a team,” Parker said.
The Terrier coach wanted his players to focus simply on being mentally ready to play Sunday. They were.
Skating, hitting, and forechecking aggressively in the opening minutes, BU dominated play and scored an early goal. Freddy Meyer crossed the puck to John Cronin at the right point, and Cronin fired a slap shot that Collins redirected softly past Purple Eagle goaltender Rob Bonk for a 1-0 lead.
Midway through the period, the Terriers struck again, thanks to the same line. Collins carried the puck up the ice and into the BU zone before attempting a dish to Mullen. The puck bounced off of Mullen and into Skladany’s skates. The Slovakian freshman deftly kicked the puck onto his stick and beat Bonk with an 8-footer.
Niagara finally picked up its first shot on net at 17:17. BU outshot Niagara 11-1 for the period, marking the first time in four games that the Terriers hit double figures for shots in a period.
As has often been the case for BU this season, their second period was somewhat lackluster. Niagara had its best chance of the game at 7:40 when Jack Baker coughed up the puck shorthanded, only to have Bernie Sigrist shoot wide after breaking in alone from an angle.
In turn, BU had a few good chances, most notably a Skladany backhander that Bonk snared with a backhanded lunge from his stomach three-quarters of the way through the middle stanza.
Corazzini hadn’t scored a goal since the Badger Showdown final in late December. But he picked up one of his patented first-shift-of-the-third-period goals 20 seconds into the final frame.
The speedy senior picked up the puck at his own blue line and went all the way in before slipping the puck to his backhand and beating Bonk.
“I thought of that tonight,” Parker said when asked how many times Corazzini has notched an early third-period goal. “It’s amazing how many times he just jumps out and gets a goal. [Sunday's goal] was unusual in that it was a power play rush after they dumped it in. A lot of times he just gets it right off a face-off and goes.
“That was a big goal — it just put the game out of reach.”
“We just had a defenseman that really got caught flat-footed,” Niagara coach Blaise MacDonald said. “Corazzini I thought was Shawn McEachern coming down the wing there.”
That seemed to open the floodgates. On his second shift of the period, Corazzini made a great pass across the slot to Jack Baker, who shot the puck off Bonk, only to have the puck go up and over the goalie, then in the net.
Thirty seconds later, two other freshmen got on the scoresheet when Gregg Johnson fed to Kenny Magowan for another goal, this one coming on a two-on-one break.
The Terriers had piled up three goals in under two minutes.
“Certainly not the way you want to start a period,” MacDonald said. “But when you fall down, you have two options: you lay there, or you get up. And I thought we struggled back to a knee.”
Andy Warren replaced Sean Fields in net for the last seven minutes of the game and was greeted rudely by the Purple Eagles. Warren stopped a harmless shot and appeared to cover the puck, but Bernie Sigrist poked the puck in through the five-hole before the whistle blew.
MacDonald was philosophical about the loss.
“We’re going through a lot of the dynamics that BU is going through as a team,” MacDonald said. “We have played inconsistently. We’ve shown that we can be very good, in beating Cornell and Bowling Green.
“We’ve shown that we can be very average, or below that. But I was proud that we continued to fight through it for 60 minutes.”
BU (9-12-3) now sets its sights on a tough home-and-home series with UNH next weekend, while Niagara (8-12-2) plays two games at CHA foe Findlay.