BOSTON — Second-period goals 10 seconds apart by Pat Aufiero and Gregg Johnson staked Boston University to a 2-0 lead that it never surrendered, on the way to a 3-1 win Sunday and a series sweep of Boston College.
Boston College rallied in the third after killing a crucial five-on-three penalty, narrowing the gap to 2-1 on a J.D. Forrest goal, but could not get the equalizer. A Mark Mullen empty-net goal was responsible for the final score.
At 16:32, Aufiero went end-to-end, blasting past defenseman Andrew Alberts and then beating BC netminder Tim Kelleher from the right faceoff dot. The Terriers then struck again off the center ice faceoff. Johnson took a feed from Freddie Meyer and beat Kelleher, who otherwise played very well, five-hole from the left faceoff circle. The back-to-back strikes missed tying a 26-year-old school record by only a second.
“Most of the game,” said Aufiero, “I’d just been dumping it in at the red line like Coach wants us to do, but I saw an opening and made a quick move on Alberts. I was actually surprised that I had a lane to the net, so I took it. I was about to fall and I think that faked Kelleher out. I think he thought I was going to the left and I just chipped it to the right, short side.”
BU goaltender Sean Fields stopped all but one shot, as he had done in the front end of the home-and-home sweep. He is now 6-0-1 in his last seven games. He was almost matched by Kelleher, who was flawless except for the 10-second stretch in the second period.
Boston University has now won the regular-season series as far as Hockey East games go, 2-1, but the two clubs will face off again on Feb. 4 in a Beanpot opening round contest.
Since opening the season with six wins and a tie, BU (14-5-2, 8-3-2 HEA) had swept a weekend only once prior to achieving the feat on this evening. The two wins move the Terriers into second place, ahead of UMass-Lowell, which had sat atop Hockey East prior to being swept by Northeastern. BU trails New Hampshire by two points and leads Lowell by one.
“We’ve got to keep up with UNH and Lowell,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “And when you win or lose against BC, it really gets you high or low. To get the sweep really helps us out; it gets you a little more free and easy that you’ve taken care of business with your archrival. But it was also important to get the sweep just for the points.”
The loss gives Boston College (12-10-2, 5-8-1 HEA) its fourth straight loss following a highly successful 10-2-1 stretch. The Eagles, however, have been hit hard with injuries, which left them dressing two players under the NCAA maximum.
“It’s good to play through some adversity,” said BC coach Jerry York. “That will make us an even better club. We’re short bodies, but nobody is making excuses and we’re working real hard. So it’s good for us.
“I like how our team plays. We’ve got good tempo to our game and we finish checks well, so it’s pretty encouraging from my standpoint.”
The first period wasn’t particularly easy on the officiating crew as linesman Bob Bernard collided with Justin Maiser and took some time after the whistle to get to his feet. Soon after, referee John Gravellese was knocked over the boards into the BU bench, a sight to warm the cockles of many a fan’s heart.
Fields and Kelleher were both sharp in the fast-paced, but scoreless period with Kelleher tested with more of the grade A opportunities.
Many of the good chances came on power plays, but the best one developed midway through the period with the sides playing four-on-four. Aufiero faked a cut behind the BC net left-to-right, saw Kelleher moving to cover the wraparound at the far post, and quickly tried to stuff it near side. Aufiero had the BC netminder beat, but his shot slid across the crease without crossing the goal line and attempts at whacking the puck in went for naught.
Kenny Magowan and Johnson had great opportunities on partial breakaways, with the latter coming on a shorthanded bid, but strong backcheckers helped limit the BU sophomores’ options and Kelleher made the stops.
An apparent Jack Baker goal at 15:30 was waved off because Brian Collins was in the crease. At that point, BU had begun to assert itself. Before the period ended, Baker got off another tester as did Miller, but Kelleher again kept the Terriers off the scoreboard.
That all changed in the 10-second span in the second period when Aufiero and Johnson bested Kelleher.
The Eagles’ fortunes then went from bad to worse at the end of the period. J.D. Forrest had a strong shorthanded bid from the slot seconds before the buzzer, but then Ales Dolinar committed a crosscheck.
As a result, BC entered the third period not only trailing, 2-0, but also having to kill a 1:14 five-on-three penalty.
However, Eagle penalty killers Jeff Giuliano, Brett Peterson and Forrest defused the dangerous BU advantage along with one excellent Kelleher save on Miller at the left post to keep BC within striking range.
At 8:18, BC got back to within one when Forrest put in the rebound of a Giuliano shot to make it 2-1.
In the final minute, the Eagles threatened to send the game into overtime after pulling Kelleher for an extra attacker, but Dave Spina couldn’t corral a puck at the left faceoff circle.
With 40 seconds remaining, Mullen banked the puck off the right neutral zone boards and into the net to effectively end the game.