CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — A month ago, if someone told you a stellar goaltender performance would be the difference in the classic Boston College-Boston University rivalry, one might have expected BU to come out on top.
But with Terriers netminder Sean Fields continuing recent struggles and BC backstop Matti Kaltiainen playing what might be considered a career game, the Eagles trampled their crosstown rivals Friday night, 5-1, in front of a sellout crowd of 7,884 at BC’s Kelley Rink.
The difference in the game was most obvious in the opening 24 minutes. After BC came out of the first period down only 1-0 thanks to multiple acrobatic and simple gut-reaction saves by Kaltiainen (20 saves), the BU netminder proceeded to open the second by allowing somewhat “soft” goals on BC’s first three shots. That gave the Eagles all the offense they would need on the night.
“We didn’t get great goaltending and that hurt us badly,” said Terrier coach Jack Parker, whose club once again drops below .500 to 6-7-6 (3-6-2 Hockey East). “It’s hard to complain when you’re down like that and you’re trying to get the guys to play hard and they’re looking at the scoreboard [seeing the team trailing].
“Our goaltending wasn’t top notch and their goaltending was real good and that was the difference.”
To say Kaltiainen’s play was “real good” — even from an opposing coach — almost still can’t do it justice. In the opening period, he was called upon to make save after save, including a highway-robbery-like glove save on BU’s John Laliberte at the 11:05 mark. That added to earlier saves on a Chris Collins attempt from the slot and a stop on Frantisek Skladany’s breakaway bid had BC taking a deep breath after the first intermission.
“BU took it to us and controlled the first period,” said BC coach Jerry York. “We felt very fortunate to be down 1-0. That let us stay in the game.
“If we get down 3-0 after one, it’s tough to come back.”
With his spectacular effort, Kaltiainen actually kept the Terriers off the board until the closing seconds of the first period. BU scored with only 3.3 seconds remaining in the frame when Kenny Magowan deflected a Kevin Schaeffer shot from the point on the power play that trickled through the legs of Kaltiainen and slowly made its way into the net.
From that point though, the offense belonged to the Eagles.
BC got on the scoreboard 36 seconds into the second period when Chris Collins wrist shot off an offensive zone draw completely eluded a partially-screened Fields to give the partisan BC crowd something to cheer about for the first time.
And before the fans could sit back down, Ned Havern ignited the crowd again, scoring 49 seconds later. This time Havern caught a pass in front of Fields and caught the goalie leaning the wrong way, giving the Eagle sophomore an easy chip shot for his third goal of the season.
Continued BC pressure led to a BU penalty to Magowan at 3:34 and an Eagles power play goal ten seconds later. Stephan Gionta one-timed a shot that deflected off a slow-moving Fields into the net to give BC a 3-0 lead and spell the end of the night for the BU netminder. Fields was replaced for the second straight game by backup goalie Stephan Siwiec (13 saves), but unfortunately he provided little relief.
Miscommunication between Siwiec and his defenseman behind the BU net led to Adam Pineault banking the puck off Siwiec trying to hustle back into the goal. The tally was the first of two for Pineault who scored BC’s fifth goal early in the third to account for the 5-1 victory.
If BU had any hopes of coming back in the final frame, those were dashed by a constant parade of Terriers to the penalty box. BU was flagged for five-straight penalties in the third, giving BC a total of 10 power plays on the night.
“We can’t play too many teams where they go 1-for-10 [on the power play],” said Parker. “That takes away offense if nothing else.”
With one game left in the scheduled regular season series — to be played Saturday at BU — BC has captured the first two games. The teams could meet as many as four times if they were to face one another in either the Beanpot championship or consolation games in the second week of February.
With BU heading below .500 for the fourth time this season, BC is certainly headed in the opposite direction. The Eagles hold onto the top spot in Hockey East with an 8-1-2 league record and a 15-3-3 mark overall. They remain a point ahead of second place Maine, 3-0 victors over Massachusetts on Friday.
Note: Besides being a great win to beat cross-town BU, BC’s win gets extra marks for coming without two top players. Captain Ben Eaves was sidelined with a bruised knee and junior Dave Spina, who missed 13 games earlier in the season with an injured ankle, missed his second straight game after re-aggravating the injury. Neither player will return for Saturday’s rematch.