CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Sean Fields stopped all but one of 30 shots and lifelong defenseman Bryan Miller assisted on both goals while skating as a forward to lead Boston University to a 2-1 win over archrival Boston College.
Four Terrier breakaways in the opening 10 minutes, one of which they converted, ultimately proved to be the difference in a game otherwise dominated by Fields and BC netminder Matti Kaltiainen.
“It was certainly a goaltending battle,” said BC coach Jerry York. “Both goaltenders were outstanding. There were sufficient chances by both teams to score more goals, but… the goaltenders were better than the offense tonight.”
The win breaks a BU winless streak at Kelley Rink dating back to December, 1997, during which it posted an 0-5-1 mark. Earlier this year, the Terriers entered the building with a 6-0-1 record, but were sent home with an “embarrassing” loss that became a rallying cry for this week’s home-and-home series.
All three members of BU’s top line — Mike Pandolfo, Brian McConnell and Miller — contributed two points, but the surprise was Miller. Filling in for Justin Maiser, who was a healthy scratch because of taking a bad penalty in a previous game, the freshman was playing in only his third game as a forward. Nonetheless, he sent McConnell in for the first goal with the prettiest pass of the evening and also assisted on Pandolfo’s 15th of the season.
“This year is the most I’ve played the position in my whole life,” said Miller. “It’s worked so far, [but] I’m still trying to learn the position. It’s pretty tough at this level.”
As a result of the win, BU (13-5-2, 7-3-2 HEA) retains its hold of third place in Hockey East, two points behind New Hampshire and one behind UMass-Lowell. This evening UNH defeated UMass-Amherst, 5-1, to leapfrog Lowell, which lost to Northeastern, 5-3.
“I thought this was a real good road game for us,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “The only thing I didn’t like was how we played on our powerplay.
“I was concerned that we hadn’t capitalized [on more than one of the first-period breakaways because] those type of chances can come back to haunt you. They were all pretty plays, all great-looking, wide-open passes sending guys in all alone. It wasn’t like we had fabulous pressure on them; it was just a nice play here and a nice play there.
“That was nice, but once [BC] tightened up a little bit, it was a while after that [before] we got some good chances. It was the second half of the game when we started generating some offense and play better down low in their zone.”
The loss is now the third in a row for Boston College (12-9-2, 5-7-1 HEA), which had previously been on a 10-2-1 hot streak. With Northeastern’s upset of UMass-Lowell, BC falls to a tie for sixth place, one point behind the Huskies.
BC freshman Ryan Murphy suffered an abdominal bruise with internal bleeding and was taken to Beth Israel hospital after the second period.
On a brighter note, BC legends John Cunniff (1963-66) and Billy Daley (1958-61, assistant coach 1966-72) had their jerseys retired during the first intermission.
BC was lucky to emerge from the first period trailing only 1-0. Although the Eagles outshot BU, 11-8, it was the Terriers who four times cut through their defenders like a hot knife through butter to generate the best grade A chances in the first 10 minutes. A combination of smart BC penalties and strong goaltending by Kaltiainen kept the margin at just one goal.
“We were caught watching pucks,” said York. “Matti kept us in it. He was real good early and continued to be good, but we needed him early.”
The smart penalty came three minutes into the game when Murphy had to haul down Pat Aufiero before the defenseman could get off a shot from in front.
BU could not capitalize on the power play, but converted on its next glittering chance at 5:50 thanks to Miller’s great setup. The freshman drew the BC defense to him along the left boards and then threaded a pass across to send McConnell in all alone. McConnell, who had hollered for the puck, deked and lifted a backhander into the top of the net.
“That was a fabulous pass he made to McConnell,” said Parker. “I didn’t think he even saw him and he put it the only place he could have put it. He laid it out easy for him to go in and pick it up. If he’d tried to pass it directly to him, it would have been intercepted.”
Soon after, BU went on the power play and Pandolfo sent Miller in on a breakaway of his own, but Kaltiainen made the save. The BC netminder had to again bail out his sporadically porous defense at the 10-minute mark, getting a piece of a Frantisek Skladany shot after Gregg Johnson sent him in all alone with a pass from the left boards.
The Eagles finally began to right the ship, having flirted with being blown out early. BU penalties at 12:52 and 14:09 helped, especially the latter which gave the Eagles a 43-second five-on-three advantage. The best chance came just as Ryan Whitney emerged from the penalty box. J.D. Forrest walked in, but shot wide.
In the closing minutes of the period, BU generated one more excellent chance as Johnson set up Skladany on the right side. Kaltiainen, however, again made a crucial save and the period ended with the score 1-0.
BC came out much stronger to open the second period and would eventually outattempt BU, 24-9, built largely on controlling the best chances for the first 15 minutes.
During that time, Eagles A.J. Walker, Tony Voce, J.D. Forrest and especially Dave Spina had the best opportunities along with a clanged post by Taylor Leahy. However, nothing got by Fields.
With the Eagles taking the game to them, the Terriers finally rallied in the closing five minutes of the second with strong chances by Miller and Pandolfo along with a deflection by Jack Baker. But just as Fields had held off BC for the first 15 minutes, so, too, did Kaltiainen to maintain the 1-0 score.
Pandolfo scored at 5:09 of the third for what eventually became the game-winner. For all intents and purposes, it was a power-play goal, coming nine seconds after a BC penalty expired.
BC freshman Andrew Alberts let his emotions get the best of him near the seven-minute mark, decking Kenny Magowan after a tussle in which the BU forward had been assessed a penalty. With the Eagles desperately needing a power play to try to close the two-goal deficit, Alberts actions cancelled the man advantage.
At 11:29, though, Ryan Shannon did narrow the gap to 2-1 on a backhander as he cut across in front right-to-left. Both sides then had chances until, with two and half minutes remaining, BU’s defense stiffened, keeping BC out of the offensive zone.
With 1:18 remaining, however, Aufiero inexplicably iced the puck, despite not being pressured and BC would spend much of the remaining time in the offensive zone. Even so, it would not test Fields, despite pulling Kaltiainen.
“[The icing was] bizarre,” said Parker. “That wasn’t a real smart play…. We survived because we did a good job off the faceoff coverage. We would have been in trouble had we not done such a good job off the faceoffs.”
The two teams continue their series at Walter Brown Arena on Sunday at 3 p.m.