BOSTON — In a Hockey East contest that left both coaches ticked off about the officiating, Boston University killed eight of nine power plays behind the stellar goaltending of freshman Sean Fields, who made several outstanding saves to lead the Terriers to a 2-1 win in a hard-fought contest that was bogged down by 29 minor penalties.
Jack Baker and Mike Pandolfo scored for the Terriers, while Lanny Gare scored for the Wildcats.
“I liked the way my team played tonight,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “They did everything but win the game. They played hard, and we had our opportunities to win the game, but we didn’t get it done.”
“Both goalies played great,” Terriers coach Jack Parker said. “I thought Fieldsie won the game for us in the second period; he made a couple of unbelievable saves that kept them off the board.
“We were back on our heels a little bit, and we came back and played pretty well in the third. But we got outshot badly because we had so many penalties.”
Both coaches were reluctant to comment on the officiating of referee Jim Fitzgerald, although they had not been shy about expressing their feelings during and immediately after the game.
“I won’t make any comment on it,” Umile said of a non-call that immediately led to BU’s second score. “It was a big play in the game, though, obviously. Turned out to be the game-winning goal.”
“Did Dicky make any comments about the refereeing?” Parker asked, much to the amusement of the press corps. “I think he shouldn’t comment about the refereeing. I think you should be able to, but you’re not supposed to.”
Given that the Terriers’ offensive attack has been inconsistent this season, the 3,586 fans had to be pleasantly surprised to see a BU goal just 34 seconds into the game. With the Terriers throwing their weight around along the boards, UNH forward Nathan Martz attempted a blind, backhanded clear of the zone.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the puck went right on the stick of Terriers captain Carl Corazzini, who put the puck on net from the right point. Jack Baker tenaciously whacked at the rebound until the puck got through Ty Conklin for the 1-0 lead.
For the Terriers, this beginning represented the polar opposite of the previous Friday night’s game, when they gave up a goal exactly 34 seconds into the first period of a loss to Lowell.
As the period wore on, the teams played with a feisty, physical style. The Terriers enjoyed the majority of scoring chances, especially with a brief four-on-three advantage. UNH threatened with a power play late in the period but failed to capitalize.
More BU penalties in the second period gave the Wildcats several close calls, none better than a near goal following a shorthanded line change halfway through the game. Conklin sent a long pass to Darren Haydar at the Terriers’ blue line, and the Wildcats’ leading playmaker passed to David Busch, who quickly teed it up for Nathan Martz. The freshman had time and ticketed a shot for the top corner, only to have Fields make a dramatic glove save.
“I enjoyed that save,” Fields said, rather sheepishly. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and I had a feeling that the other guy wouldn’t want to be selfish, so he passed it across and I had a good jump on it. He seemed to put it in my glove.”
Fields brought the crowd to its feet again two minutes later, when Darren Haydar broke in alone and shot for the five-hole, only to have the freshman netminder squeeze the puck between his knees.
“I was thinking pokecheck,” Fields said, chuckling. “I kind of missed on that one. He shot it, and it hit my leg and rolled, and I just tried to roll on top of it. Seemed to work out.”
BU kept racking up penalties, and it started to look like the stellar play of its goalie was only prolonging the inevitable.
But momentum can be a funny thing in hockey. After UNH failed to score on umpteen chances, BU lit the lamp on its first great opportunity of the period. Wildcats defenseman Mike Lubesnick appeared to fall down while carrying the puck in his own zone. Mike Pandolfo picked up the puck, walked in, and beat Conklin high stick side to make it 2-0.
Umile went ballistic, presumably believing a Terrier interfered with his defenseman.
Another run of BU penalties gave UNH a five-on-three spanning 1 minute, 9 seconds late in the second period and into the third. UNH couldn’t muster much offense, though, and almost yielded a shorthanded goal just as the first penalty elapsed.
John Sabo jumped off the bench and grabbed Corazzini’s clear to go in for a breakaway. He held the puck a long time, and Conklin dropped his stick but dove to stop the shot.
Parker soon had has his opportunity to beef about the officiating, when a questionable high-sticking minor on Pat Aufiero resulted in another five-on-three advantage for the Wildcats.
Fields couldn’t pull off another miracle, though, as Lanny Gare knocked in the rebound of a Matt Swain shot to make it 2-1 with plenty of time remaining.
Once again, the momentum had swung to UNH. Fields flashed another glove save on Colin Hemingway at 6:55.
UNH kept the pressure on for most of the period and got yet another power play with 1:53 remaining, but Fields held the fort.
Parker had high praise for his team’s penalty kill.
“I thought the best part of our game besides our goaltending was how well we killed penalties,” Parker said. “They’re a great team on the initial rush killing the penalty, and if you go after them incorrectly, they can pick you apart.”
BU (9-12-2, 6-7-2 Hockey East) travels to UNH (16-6-5, 7-4-4 Hockey East) for a rematch on Saturday night.