BOSTON — In 13 previous games this season, Boston University’s Frantisek Skladany, Brian McConnell, and Bryan Miller had scored a combined total of one goal — not exactly what Terrier coach Jack Parker had expected, given that the trio scored 32 times in 42 games last season.
Saturday they each showed signs of getting the scoring monkey off their backs, amassing three goals and two assists to lead the Terriers to a 5-1 victory over non-conference foe Niagara in front of 2,367 at Walter Brown Arena.
David Klema added a pair of assists, while John Laliberte and Kenny Roche rounded out the scoring for BU (5-5-4). Ryan Gale scored an early shorthanded goal for the Purple Eagles (8-7-1), who looked good through the first ten minutes but then were overmatched for much of the last 50.
“Forwards got some goals!” Parker said. “Did you see the sigh of relief for Skladany and McConnell? McConnell’s wasn’t quite as bad as Skladany’s, but they both looked like somebody stuck a pin in them like balloons: let the air out, finally. I thought we played real well.
“The first five minutes of the game we couldn’t do anything; they were all over us,” added Parker. “I was absolutely pissed off at my club — standing around watching. But then they got going, had a great second half of the first period, even though it was one-nothing. I thought we played real well after that. The right things happened out there tonight.”
Niagara coach Dave Burkholder thought that the biggest factor was the Terriers’ snowed-out game against Massachusetts on Sunday afternoon following a dismal performance in a loss to Boston College last Friday night.
“Unfortunately for us, the worst part of this game was the snowstorm last Sunday,” Burkholder said. “They carried their last loss with them all week. We knew we were coming into a hornets’ nest, no question. Boy, from start to finish it was pretty easy to tell who the better team was.”
“There’s no question that how poorly we played in the last game was sitting in the back of our minds for a while,” agreed Parker. “I was wondering how we would react tonight, but we came out and played hard.”
“We knew they were going to be ready,” Burkholder said. “There’s been some frustration, I’m sure, from some of their key players who have been firing blanks offensively. Like I say, maybe if they get the game in against UMass [last Sunday] they take it out on UMass and not us, but that’s the way it goes.”
“I told the team that I thought in spurts we played very well and played them even up,” added Burkholder. “Unfortunately, if you look at the night, we probably played even up for about 15 minutes and the rest was a white wave. We couldn’t handle them on transition — we just gave up too many outnumbered rushes. Once they got in our zone, they pretty much did what they wanted. I knew that they had a good ‘D’ corps, but seeing them live… That was scary.”
BU got a power play in the first two minutes. and ended up surrendering a shorthanded goal 11 seconds after the ensuing faceoff. On a two-on-one, freshman Sean Bentivoglio went in on the left wing, and BU goalie Sean Fields appeared to overplay him. The last-second pass set up Ryan Gale for the tap-in at the far post at 1:46.
It stayed that way all period, although a Kenny Magowan tip at 13:40 dribbled through the crease, and Purple Eagle netminder Jeff VanNynatten lost track of the puck. Fortunately for Niagara, a defender tied up Skladany as the puck inched along just outside of the goal line.
On a power play to start the second period, Skladany finally got his long overdue first goal of the year, picking up his own rebound and driving toward the net from the right-wing dot before beating VanNynatten with a wrister at the 55-second mark.
“I was trying a new thing for each game, because I really needed to put it in tonight,” Skladany said. “So before I went in for the second period, I started thinking ‘Hey, I already scored one goal in the first period,’ even though I didn’t have any.”
“Good for him,” Parker said when he learned of his winger’s unorthodox strategy. “Let’s start the game like that next week. Tell him he got one in the warmup.”
“When you’ve got ten goals in ten games, you’re not really thinking about it,” Skladany said. “But when you have zero goals in ten games, you dream about it, you know? There’s no time when you don’t think about it. Now I’m going to start thinking about other things besides goals.”
At the three-minute mark, Purple Eagle Jeremy Hall showed why he’s one of the leading scorers nationally among freshman, beating a defenseman in the right-wing corner before beating Fields as well — only to have the puck hit the post.
Otherwise, BU dominated the period, accumulating a season-high 21 shots, and the Terriers were rewarded with a highlight-reel goal. Dave Klema came in on the left wing, appeared to wait all too long, but then wheeled for a backhanded spin-o-rama pass that hit John Laliberte at the far post for the easy tap-in and the lead.
“Everyone on the bench was saying ‘Pass it! Pass it! Oh, it’s too late. oh, no it isn’t!’” Parker said.
In the second minute of the third period, the Terriers got two goals in 27 seconds to put the game out of reach. Miller left the puck on the right-wing goal line for McConnell, who drove to the net and shot it off VanNynatten. The puck bounced up and in.
Then Kenny Roche made a nice tip on a Tom Morrow shot from the left point. The Niagara bench complained about a high stick on the tip, and justifiably so, but referee Conrad Hache would have none of it.
The Terriers rounded out the scoring at 11:42 when Miller raced in on the right wing and attempted a cross to Morrow, only to have the puck appear to hit a defender’s stick and go in to beat Allen Barton, who replaced VanNynatten after the fourth goal.
With Mark Mullen out for a few weeks due to arthroscopic knee surgery, Miller was moved up to play right wing on a line with McConnell centering and Roche on the left side. The line had good synergy all night. Mullen should be back soon, but with Jekabs Redlihs (broken collarbone) a lock to make his season debut in early January, Miller will stay at forward for the foreseeable future.
With just over five minutes to go, Fields was relieved by third-string goalie John Curry, who made two saves in his collegiate debut.
The Terriers are now off until a pair of games at Minnesota in early January, while the Purple Eagles face off against Mass.-Lowell on Sunday.