BOSTON — It was no more meaningful than the Red Sox beating Boston College in Spring Training, but Boston University did put on quite an exhibition today.
Playing in front of a paltry crowd of 1,489 at Walter Brown Arena in a Saturday afternoon exhibition game, the Terriers beat the University of Toronto, 6-1, behind two David Van der Gulik goals and a pair of points apiece by Frantisek Skladany, Bryan Miller, and John Laliberte. Chad Elliot scored the lone goal for the Varsity Blues, who were outshot 46-13 in this international match-up preceding the regular season.
More than anything, the game gave the Terriers an opportunity to test out freshmen defensemen Sean Sullivan, Kevin Schaeffer and Tom Morrow as well as rookie forwards Kenny Roche and Eric Thomassian. They passed their first test admirably — Roche and Sullivan scored; Shaeffer had an assist and a particularly good defensive play to break up a scoring bid, and Morrow took four shots and ended up +3 for the game.
“I like the way all the freshmen played, that’s for sure,” Terrier Coach Jack Parker said. “They gave us good nights with poise. It’s hard to judge because this team doesn’t play with the pace that we’re going to see in our own league, or in any games in college hockey. They play a little more slowed down; they’re not used to this pace. So it’s hard to judge how our defensemen will perform against pressure, but our defensemen certainly moved the puck real well tonight, and our freshmen defensemen played extremely well.”
BU got on the board quickly in all three periods. At 1:01 of the first, Bryan Miller took an off-balance shot from the right-wing boards. With Brad Zancanaro screening Toronto goalie Tim Knight, the puck slipped through for a 1-0 lead.
Terrier stalwart netminder Sean Fields obviously was not tested much in his 40 minutes of play, but he was equal to the task when Ian Malcolm had a breakaway later in the period. Gregg Johnson had a great first period and wound up with eight shots for the night. Miller’s play was more good news for Terrier fans, as he appeared to be in midseason form with his skating and with many rifled passes hitting the targets.
The Terriers scored 1:32 into period two, when Frantisek Skladany raced in on the left-wing side before attempting a cross to center. A Varsity Blues defenseman stopped the pass, but the puck sat in the crease, where Roche banged it home.
“We expect Roche to really get loose and get on the goaltender, and he showed he could do that tonight,” Parker said. “We expect him to score some goals.”
Skladany really made the play on that goal and looked good most of the afternoon.
At 9:01, a puck near the left-wing faceoff circle squirted out to Sean Sullivan, all alone at the left point. Sullivan’s shot wasn’t exactly a blast, but it was good enough to beat Knight, who appeared to be screened again.
“When we recruited him, I thought Sullivan was going to be a physical defenseman that also was going to be able to jump in the play and be offensive for us too, and it looks like that’s what he’s going to be able to do that,” Parker said. “He’s got a little Freddy Meyer in him for sure as far as his offensive capabilities and his strength on his skates. For a little guy, he’s pretty strong out there and bangs people around pretty good. He reminds me of Shane Johnson, a defenseman who played here a little while ago, with a little more offensive talent.”
Less than two minutes later, Van der Gulik got his first goal on a great individual effort while corralling a long pass from Miller.
“I dove for that one because it was out of my reach a bit; the guy was hooking me,” Van der Guilik said. “I lost my balance a bit and kind of fell down, kind of had to reach for it to hit it, took a fell swing at it and it went five-hole — pretty lucky.”
“He’s pretty slippery, and even when he’s knocked down he’s still thinking about putting the puck on the net,” Parker said. “Van der Gulik is a guy who we think will get 15 or 20 goals for us.”
Toronto couldn’t even muster an official shot on goal in the second period until 13:49. Worn down by the Terriers, they surrendered yet another early-period goal at 0:41 of the third. Gregg Johnson rushed the puck through the slot, weaving around defenders before releasing a late shot. The puck rebounded to Van der Gulik, who gave the puck a nifty flip to get it up and over Knight to make it 5-0.
The Varsity Blues averted the shutout at 3:20. On the power play, BU did a poor job of clearing rebounds. It was only a matter of time before Toronto put one of them past backup goaltender Stephan Siwiec, and Chad Elliott got it done.
The Terriers rounded out the scoring on a power play at 7:03, when Schaeffer teed up the puck for Dan Spang at the top of the point. Spang released a solid slapshot that pinged the inside of the post on Knight’s glove side to make it 6-1.
“We’re all just getting used to each other,” Van der Gulik said. “We did have some freshmen step up today and score some nice goals, so that’s great to see.”
BU opens the regular season at home on Saturday against Rensselaer. When they do, they may or may not have two standouts in their lineup: forward Brian McConnell and defenseman Jekabs Relihs.
“McConnell and Redlihs are out for breaking team rules, so they’re not going to be playing,” Parker said.
Will the doghouse duo play next week? “We’ll see how it goes,” Parker said.