BOSTON — Any fan that left Walter Brown arena before the final buzzer on Saturday night missed practically the entire game.
Rensselaer spotted Boston University a 6-1 lead halfway through the third period, but remarkably rallied for four late goals, including two of the shorthanded variety, but fell an inch short as the Terriers outlasted the Engineers, hanging on in a 6-5 season-opening shootout.
The final inch the Engineers were missing came as time expired and Matt Murley walking in from the corner. He beat BU goaltender Sean Fields (14 saves) cleanly but hit the right post just before the buzzer.
BU coach Jack Parker had plenty of positives to take out of the first 50 minutes of the game, but still couldn’t help being a bit disappointed.
“We played absolutely fabulous for 54 minutes,” said Parker, “but then we butcher a few power plays and we got a little full of ourselves.
“It’s too bad that we can’t come out feeling better about ourselves when we outshoot [RPI, 54-19].”
The Terriers had ample opportunities to put the game away, including a five-minute major power play, a full two-minute five-on-three advantage within the major and a third two-minute power play. But instead, the Terriers allowed two shorthanded goals, an even-strength goal and a final tally once RPI pulled the netminder with less than a minute to play.
“We weren’t thorough because once we had the big lead we wanted to get the puck and get a few more points,” said Parker. “We already had enough points and instead we threw the puck away.”
Lost in the night was the play of RPI’s Marc Cavosie. The fourth-line center scored a power-play, shorthanded and extra-attacker goal to propel the RPI offense, and had the tying goal on his stick with 8.1 seconds remaining when Fields robbed him in front.
RPI head coach Dan Fridgen certainly couldn’t be pleased with his team’s effort for most of the game, including taking many undisciplined penalties. But the late-game rally did give his club a silver lining.
“Anytime you play a good hockey team and stand around for 40 minutes, you’re going to dig yourself into a hole,” said Fridgen. “But we battled hard despite taking some bad penalties and came within a post of tying the game.”
RPI’s starting goaltender Nathan Marsters certainly didn’t have a great statistical game, allowing six goals on 41 shots. But his play in the early stages, particularly in the first period (20 saves) kept RPI in the game.
His replacement, Kevin Kurk (13 saves) played the final 16:17 of the third period and seemed to jump start RPI with some key saves during BU power plays.
The first period saw BU dominate the offense, outshooting the Engineers, 22-6, and forcing Marsters to shine.
The teams traded power-play goals early. Terrier rookie Brian McConnell picked up his first career goal, deflecting Pat Aufiero’s shot at 2:08, just six seconds after the power play began. RPI answered at 8:13 when Marc Cavosie’s shot from the high slot beat Fields over the glove.
BU retook the lead at 15:36 when fourth-liner Mark Mullen was in right place at the right time. Mullen banged home the rebound of Aufiero’s shot that had hit the post to Marsters’ right.
The second period saw the Terriers continue to dominate, but more importantly, solve Marsters.
Senior captain Mike Pandolfo was the first to break through, sending a bad-angle shot from just off the goal line to the left of Marsters, off the goaltender’s shoulder and into the net to give BU a 3-1 lead at 3:32.
Four-and-a-half minutes later, sophomore Frankisek Skladany pushed home the rebound of a shot by highly-touted rookie Ryan Whitney to extend the Terrier lead to 4-1.
Through two periods, BU held a lopsided 37-10 lead in shots, and would expand that to 45-10 early in the third.
The early pressure by BU extended the lead further as John Sabo squeezed a breakaway bid through Marsters pads at 0:26. The puck barely crossed the goal line, but it was enough to give the Terriers a 5-1 lead.
At 2:58, BU’s David Klema notched his first career goal finishing off a highlight-reel 2-on-1 with Mike Bussoli to signal the end of Marsters’ night. Marsters was replaced by Kevin Kurk.
With 10:06 remaining, a scrum after the whistle resulted in RPI’s Scott Basiuk receiving a five-minute major for fighting and a game disqualification. Even though the Engineers would be shorthanded for a full five minutes, somehow the offense found a spark.
“I think [BU] got a little bit complacent,” said Cavoise, who scored his second goal of the night shorthanded. He fired a wrist shot from between the dots at 10:30 to start the RPI comeback.
Once the major was killed, Ryan Shield brought RPI within three, pushing home a rebound at 15:12. And after the Engineers were set shorthanded again at 15:23, Murley pulled RPI within two, scoring another shorthanded goal, this time on a breakaway.
After pulling the goaltender with 1:02 remaining, RPI scored on the ensuing faceoff as Cavosie completed the hat trick with a blast from the right point through traffic at 19:03.
The final two bids from both Cavosie and Murley certainly made Terrier fans hold their collective breath, but the luck of the survivor was on their side.
The victory breaks a three-game losing streak for BU against RPI that included a spoiling of the Terriers opening night last season. BU will travel to Vermont next Saturday before opening its Hockey East schedule at home against Merrimack on Oct. 28.
RPI will host New Hampshire next Saturday night for its home opener.