BOSTON — For the second game in a row, Boston University fans looking to get in the holiday spirit could be thankful for some excellent goaltending.
Five days after stopping 36 shots to help the Terriers steal a win in the face of an impressive showing by Massachusetts-Lowell, BU junior Sean Fields made another 36 saves and posted his third career shutout, as the Terriers blanked Harvard 3-0 in front of 3,065 at Walter Brown Arena.
“It’s just good to get one not against Merrimack,” said Fields, whose previous two shutouts both came in home games against the Warriors.
Fields saved his best play for the third period, making a great stop on a Tom Cavanagh breakaway one minute in when the Terriers held a 1-0 lead. That was just one of 19 saves in the period, as Harvard finally penetrated effectively after being completely dominated in the second period.
Brian Collins, John Laliberte and Mark Mullen scored for the Terriers (7-3-2), while Dov Grumet-Morris made 32 saves for the Crimson (5-3-0). Harvard was playing without senior centerman Brett Nowak (2-5–7), who received a game disqualification for a spearing penalty against Colgate last weekend. For the Terriers, Gregg Johnson sat out because of a hip flexor.
“We did what we had to do work-wise; it was a complete change over from what we did against Lowell,” Terrier Coach Jack Parker said. “We played hard; we made some good decisions with the puck, and we looked more like a hockey team coming through center ice and making some plays. We got out of our zone against a team that can really forecheck.”
Crimson Coach Mark Mazzoleni was somewhat mystified by his team’s struggles.
“I didn’t think we played our best hockey until the third period when our backs were up against the wall,” Mazzoleni said. “I’ll have to watch a tape to figure out why, for two periods, we really didn’t seem to play our game.”
At 11:20, Dominic Moore picked Ryan Whitney’s pocket coming out of the zone, leading to a Harvard chance, then Kenny Turano had another opportunity for the Crimson moments later. But these possibilities paled in comparison to one that presented itself for Rob Flynn, who fanned on a rebound at 12:19 with Terrier goalie Sean Fields down and half of the net vacant.
Harvard threatened again when Dennis Packard and Moore had chances on a shorthanded odd-man rush, but Fields denied both bids. Less than a minute later, the Terriers took the lead with a power-play goal. Brian Collins, who had parked himself in front of the net with his back to the goal, deftly redirected Captain Freddy Meyer’s left-point slapshot into the net. It was the first goal of Collins’ senior season.
Harvard couldn’t capitalize on another golden opportunity at 15:30, when freshman Charlie Johnson failed to get solid wood on the rebound of a Ryan Lannon shot with half of the Terrier net exposed.
The Terriers almost took a two-goal lead in the opening minute of the second period, when Brian McConnell threaded one of his trademark far-post passes to Justin Maiser, who redirected it just wide.
The Crimson fourth line of Rob Flynn, Dan Murphy and Turano came close at the three-minute mark, flailing at the puck several times amidst a wild scramble in front of the net. After that, the Terriers started to dominate territorially.
Harvard did have one terrific chance at 17:00, when Cavanagh picked up the puck near the goal line and walked in on Fields for an uncontested shot. Fields made the initial save and the rebound before the puck was finally cleared. However, Harvard mustered just seven shot attempts in the second period, and only five of those were on goal.
“The second period was as good a period as we’ve played in a long, long time, even though we didn’t get a goal,” Parker said.
One minute into the third, Harvard had another great chance when Rob Fried launched a 60-foot pass to send Cavanagh in alone on a breakaway. He deked and tried to slip a low backhander past Fields on the glove side, but Fields went down for the pad save, though his momentum almost made him carry the puck over the goal.
“I was trying to figure out how he got so free, so quickly,” Parker said of the breakaway. “I think we got caught on the forecheck after the penalty ended.”
Said Fields, “I just wanted to pokecheck him and missed on that, so I had to stretch out, and he put it into my pads.”
With the Terriers killing a penalty halfway through the period, Collins nearly had his second of the night and the year on a shorthanded breakaway. However, the puck was on edge, making his shot late.
BU made it 2-0 thanks to a terrific individual effort by David Klema. With Aaron Kim hanging all over him as he carried the puck from the boards toward the net, Klema managed to nudge the puck to John Laliberte just before Kim finally hauled him down. Laliberte’s eight-foot wrister glanced off of Grumet-Morris arm and went in at 11:05.
After playing all 48 of BU’s games last year and this year, Klema had been a healthy scratch against Lowell on Thursday.
“When he moves his feet and thinks about defense first, he can be a terrific player in this league,” Parker said. “He’s a real good skater, and he’s good with the puck. We told him we were looking for him to get a little quicker, play a little more stop and start game instead of a circling game, and think defense first, the offense will come. He did make a great play on the goal.”
The Crimson mounted incredible pressure with three minutes left — BU just couldn’t clear the puck, even after a Harvard power play expired — but Fields eventually covered it.
“There was one span there when Fields made five great saves in a row, when we couldn’t get it out,” Parker said. “That was the game right there, actually.”
Mark Mullen sealed the win with an empty-netter with 1:15 remaining.
The Terriers travel to Ithaca for a two-game series against Cornell on Saturday and Sunday, while Harvard hosts Union and Rensselaer in ECAC action on Friday and Saturday.