BOSTON — Anyone who told the Black Bear players to have a nice weekend had no idea just how seriously their wishes would be taken.
One night after blowing out Northeastern 8-2 — going through all three Husky netminders in the process — Maine put up seven more goals and chased another starting goaltender, as the Black Bears bested Boston University 7-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 3,806 at Walter Brown Arena.
Defenseman Francis Nault and left winger Todd Jackson potted two goals apiece for Maine (8-1-1, 3-0-0 HEA), and freshman goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 36 of 39 shots while increasing his record to 6-1-0. Dave VanderGulik, Jekabs Redlihs and Steve Greeley scored for the Terriers (5-3-2, 3-3-0).
For Maine Coach Tim Whitehead, the road trip to Boston was a timely opportunity for the Black Bears to test themselves against stiffer competition after enjoying a relatively light schedule in the early going.
“This is exactly what we needed, coming down for a tough weekend in Hockey East,” Whitehead said. “We feel pretty fortunate, actually, to come out of it with four points.
“I thought BU carried the play for a large part of that game. Certainly there were stretches where we just had trouble getting control of the puck. I think the score was a little deceptive of what the game could have been — we’re not kidding ourselves with a 7-3 victory.”
However, Terrier Coach Jack Parker begged to differ in terms of the closeness of the game, obviously seeing little consolation in the fact that his charges outshot the visitors by a 39-31 margin. After losing a close one to archrival Boston College on Friday night — and benching captain Freddy Meyer and first-line centerman Brian McConnell tonight for taking stupid penalties against the Eagles — BU found a new way to lose this time around.
“Well, that was a disappointing weekend, capped by a disappointing game,” Parker said. “I thought it was just the opposite of last night. Last night we played pretty hard but self-destructed; tonight we didn’t come to play and sat around and watched Maine. We made somewhat of a faintly competitive comeback, but it slipped away again when it’s 5-3 and a five-on-three power play for us, and we absolutely butcher the entire minute and a half. That in essence was the game.
“Special teams won the game for them tonight. We’ve either tied or lost games this year because we’ve been inept killing penalties and/or on the power play — tonight we had both.”
The Terriers looked incredibly flat in the opening minutes, and Maine made them pay for it with two goals in a two-minute span. Greg Moore and Todd Jackson waltzed in with minimal resistance to get the opening goal, and then Francis Nault buried a slapshot from inside the blue line exactly two minutes later. Nault’s goal was one that couldn’t have pleased BU goalie Sean Fields — it was well-placed, but he looked to have a clear view of it.
Terrier freshman VanderGulik electrified the crowd by undressing a Black Bear defenseman with a terrific move before beating Howard to make it 2-1 at 13:15. But just as BC did against BU the night before, Maine answered quickly — regaining the two-goal margin just over a minute later. On the power play, the Black Bears effectively worked the puck around the perimeter before Moore buried a stick-side shot from the left-wing faceoff circle.
On their next man advantage, Martin Kariya made it 4-1 early in the second period when he collected the rebound of a Prestin Ryan shot, and then got his own rebound before roofing one over Fields.
“After going against what I think is the best power play in college hockey last night and making them go one of nine, we didn’t come close to stopping them tonight,” Parker said, referring to Maine’s four-of-seven power-play conversion numbers in this game. “It was a shooting gallery. Five-on-five or five-on-four, they beat us to every puck. A couple of goals were just rebound goals that were just lying there — they got to the puck before our defenseman did. And when [Howard] left rebounds — and he left a lot of them — their defensemen got to it before we got to it.”
Nault got his second of the night on another long slapshot at 12:47 of the second. This one grazed the crossbar on the way in. At that point, Stephan Siwiec began stretching and soon replaced Fields in the Terrier net. Then the Terriers made it 5-2 when Mark Mullen teed one up for Jekabs Redlihs in the right-wing faceoff circle as the period wound down.
The BU crowd became livelier in the third when Frantisek Skladany led an odd-man rush down the right wing, culminating in Steve Greeley burying the rebound of Skladany’s shot. At 2:42, the Terriers had a great opportunity to make it a game after all, as they had a five-on-three edge for 1:46. For the second time in the game, though, BU accomplished incredibly little with the two-man advantage.
Conversely, Maine converted with four seconds left on a five-on-three of their own, as Jackson roofed yet another rebound following a Colin Shields shot. For good measure, Chris Heisten finally dumped in the seventh goal after Siwiec made two saves — the lack of rebound-clearing for BU led to a third-effort goal at 13:17.
“It was aggravating to see the lack of effort tonight, the lack of determination,” Parker said.
Meanwhile, Black Bear freshman netminder Jimmy Howard stopped 19 of 20 shots in the third period, which was by far the most spirited effort of the night by the home team.
“He gives us confidence,” Nault said. “We know that he’s going to make the first save, so it makes our job easier. We’re lucky to have him.”
“He was certainly up to the task,” Whitehead said of Howard. “I’m very happy for him — he’s been great; he’s worked very hard; he’s very composed in situations like this with crowds. He’s fine with that; in fact, I think he enjoys it.”
The Terriers will attempt to bounce back when hosting Massachussets-Lowell on Thursday night, while Maine looks toward a big matchup against UNH in Orono on Friday night.