BOSTON — Historically, a Boston University fourth line has been more of an “energy line” — a trio that will come in to make some hits and give the scoring lines a breather. In Saturday’s season opener, though, that notion looked like ancient history.
All four forward lines scored for the Terriers, and the fourth line of David Klema, Matt Radoslovich, and John Laliberte combined for five points and a +5 rating as BU beat Rensselaer 5-2 in the season opener for both teams before 3,406 fans at Walter Brown Arena.
Engineer co-captains Ben Barr and Scott Basiuk each scored in a losing effort for the visitors, and goalie Nathan Marsters kept Rensselaer in the game with several sparkling third-period saves after a four-goal Terrier blitzkrieg in the second stanza.
Early on, though, it was all Engineers — except on the scoreboard, thanks primarily to Terrier senior goalie Sean Fields.
“In general, the first ten minutes of the game I’m watching the game going ‘Whew!’” Terrier Coach Jack Parker said. “Last week [in an exhibition game against the University of Toronto], we looked pretty quick; this week we looked slow as molasses. If it wasn’t for Fieldsie that could have been a three-nothing game in the first ten minutes of the game.
“But then we got our legs,” noted Parker. “I think what really got us going was we did a fabulous job killing a penalty — forechecked like heck, did a great job, got us some emotion and some zip and from then on we just got better and better. We looked quicker as the game progressed, and I was real pleased how thorough we were in all phases of the game.”
Engineer Coach Dan Fridgen concurred. “I thought we started off real strong,” Fridgen said. “I thought we had them back on their heels, but we couldn’t capitalize. I thought in the second period that we didn’t do a very good job of sticking with our game plan as far as our forecheck was concerned. We started to get a little cute carrying the puck into the zone and paid the price for it.”
Two minutes into the first, Rensselaer threatened when Jake Luthi’s shot from the left point was nearly redirected in by Nick Economakos near the net. The puck stayed in the Terrier end, and BU failed to get a meaningful shot on net until shorthanded at the seven-minute mark, when sophomore Brad Zancanaro pickpocketed Alexander Valentin right in front of Marsters.
Zancanaro’s near-miss seemed to galvanize the Terriers, and they almost took the lead at 16:30 when Kenny Magowan made a phenomenal pass to freshman Eric Thomassian streaking to the net, only to be denied again by Marsters.
On a power play at 4:22, BU got its first goal and started to smell a little blood. Parked just outside the crease, Gregg Johnson whacked at the puck repeatedly before knocking in a rebound. “I thought we played soft in our end of the rink at times, not making the opposition pay the price for standing in that prime real estate area,” Fridgen said.
Fifty-nine seconds later, Radoslovich got the puck behind his own goal line, and went a little wide of the crease before wrapping the puck around on Marsters’ glove side to make it 2-0.
Less than five minutes after that, David VanderGulik received a pass with his back to the goal, about eight feet from the net. He wheeled and fired a forehand shot that beat Marsters on the stick side, just grazing the post.
The Engineers responded 26 seconds later. Scott Basiuk got the puck at the right point, and Kenny Magowan looked primed to block his shot. However, the puck evaded the forward and beat a screened Fields to make it 3-1.
At 16:04, the Terrier fourth line worked their wonders once again. On a two-on-one, Radoslovich made a great pass to Klema on his left wing, and the Minnesota native buried it for the 4-1 lead.
“Whitney and Sullivan — great defensive play,” Radoslovich said. “Klema got it down low in our zone and chipped it to Laliberte, and then we went two-on-one; it all started with them. I have a lot of accolades for them.”
“When we did get the guys deep in the zone on a couple of occasions, I’ll tell you what,” Fridgen said of his adversaries. “When they smell the offense, all five guys are coming up the ice. Again, they made a real nice play and capitalized on the two-on-one.”
The Terriers could have had three or four goals in the third, but Marsters was at his best. He stopped freshman Tom Morrow at 1:15 off of a nice feed from Zancanaro, and he denied Bryan Miller at 6:12 after freshman Kenny Roche set him up. Seconds later, Klema almost buried his second goal; likewise, Van der Gulik was thwarted at 7:55 after Steve Greeley teed up an opportunity for him.
Marsters also had Thomassian shaking his head at 14:14 when the senior netminder flashed a terrific glove save with the freshman all alone in front of the net.
Meanwhile Ben Barr got one back for the Engineers, giving them a flicker of hope until Zancanaro’s pass from behind the goal line set up Roche high in the slot for his first collegiate goal at 15:11.
“In the third period, I thought we played them real even again; it was obvious we were pretty rusty on our power play; we didn’t generate much offense there,” Fridgen said. “They did a real good job of recognizing that fact and came really hard at us as far as the penalty kill was concerned.”
Parker acknowledged that having just three scoring lines is a thing of the past for the Terriers
“We really don’t have a fourth line,” Parker said. “There’s not a lot of bangers on that line; that’s more of an offensive line. We just happen to have them in green shirts [in practice], and I’m superstitious, so green comes out fourth. They could have been the second line; they got as much ice time as anyone else.
“I think we’re going to have a balanced attack, and I think we’ll have a chance to keep four lines together that will give us an ability to not have to worry about saying one-two-three, one-two-three, and then start a fourth line and bang a few guys around until we get our first three guys out there.. In general, I like our speed, and I like our club.”
The Terriers (1-0-0) travel to Vermont on Saturday for another nonconference game, while Rensselaer (0-1-0) continues its road trip at Providence on Sunday.