BOSTON — Boston University goaltender Sean Fields is too young to remember the 1970s TV series “Eight is Enough”, but that phrase is one that he certainly could identify with during his team’s weekend series at home with No. 3 Maine.
One night after surrendering eight goals to BU’s Hockey East rival in an 8-4 loss, Fields stonewalled the Black Bears with 28 saves, keying a 1-0 victory which undoubtedly was the biggest win thus far this season for the Terriers. On a power play in the second period, Bryan Miller scored the lone goal for the home team in front of 3,146 fans at Walter Brown Arena. Fields’ goaltending counterpart Jimmy Howard also looked impressive between the pipes, stopping 25 of 26 shots for Maine.
An altercation with just one second remaining resulted in 35 penalties for 246 minutes being assessed to a total of 11 players. Five Black Bears and four Terriers each received a minor for roughing, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct, with Maine’s Dustin Penner and BU’s Ryan Whitney each receiving the same plus an extra roughing minor.
That came after only 22 minutes in penalties over the first 59:59 of the game. But the game total of 268 minutes combined shattered the Hockey East single-game record of 179 minutes set by Massachusetts-Lowell and Northeastern on March 3, 2001. Maine’s 144 minutes and BU’s 124 minutes both also shattered the record for one team, 90 minutes by Mass.-Lowell in the same 2001 game.
Altogether, the game was a dramatic turnaround from the 12-goal, action-packed but mistake-riddled contest of the night before.
“Obviously, who would’ve thunk we’d have a one-nothing game after last night?” BU coach Jack Parker said. “And the reason we had a one-nothing game was we didn’t make the blatant mistakes we made last night, and we got great goaltending from Sean Fields.
“Maine played extremely well; they played hard,” added Parker. “It was a great college hockey game to watch. But we needed those two points a lot more than they did, I’ll tell you that. And we certainly needed to play, as a team, that kind of hockey game. So it was a big effort for us.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead had basically predicted a much more defensive-minded game tonight. “The game was just as we expected it would be — goals were going to be tough to come by tonight,” said Whitehead. “I was very impressed with Sean Fields: he bounced back with an extraordinary effort, and Jimmy Howard was just as good.
“Both goalies were great; both teams played real hard,” added Whitehead. “I thought there were good chances both ways. We had chances to get the equalizer; it just didn’t happen. I was just really impressed with how BU bounced back and really played a very strong game.”
Terrier fans came into the arena not knowing who would be starting in goal. Fields struggled through the first half of the season and was pulled in two consecutive games. Last night he went the distance but gave up eight goals in the process.
“We talked about it earlier today, and they asked me how I feel, and I said, ‘I want to get back on the horse,’” Fields said. “They said, ‘We’re not giving up on you,’ and they showed a lot of confidence in me.”
“He’s been our guy; he’s been a terrific player for us,” Parker said. “[Last night] I thought that he’d like to have a couple of goals back in the third period that he gave up, but we let him hang out to dry in the first two periods: three shorthanded goals, two breakaways and one of them was a bang-bang out in front. So I thought that he deserved a chance to come back and play.
“Even at BC — when I pulled him at BC I actually thought in the first period he was getting back to being himself, and he certainly looked like himself tonight,” added Parker. “He flashed the glove a couple of times in perfect position, and I thought, ‘Well, he’s back.’”
It was quite a reversal of fortune for the senior goaltender.
“Normally when I let in eight goals, I don’t see the ice the next day,” Fields quipped. “It was good, everyone played with confidence. The defense was unbelievable: If I left a rebound out there, they tied up guys’ sticks and pushed guys away. A lot of credit goes to them.”
The teams played much more cautiously tonight, spotting their men and making sure of passes consistently tonight. There were a handful of scoring opportunities in the first period for both teams. At 4:35, Maine had a two-on-one, but Michel Leveille attempted one too many passes, dishing to Colin Shields when he would have been better advised to shoot. The line of Leveille, Shields, and Greg Moore also dominated at the 15-minute mark but couldn’t score.
Meanwhile, BU had a great opportunity at 16:30 when Dave Klema set up Sean Sullivan crashing the net, only to have Sullivan’s shot glance off the crossbar.
Maine absolutely dominated the first seven minutes of the second period. Todd Jackson, Jon Jankus, and Prestin Ryan all had opportunities but couldn’t beat Fields.
At 6:37, Fields made the save of the night. From behind the net on Fields’ stick side, Derek Damon spied defenseman Travis Wight cruising in from the point and set him up perfectly.
“Actually I was kind of going for the sweepcheck,” admitted Fields. “I was banking on that, and I missed on that. The kid had the whole side of the net, but he put it towards my body, so I was able to put a glove on it.”
“Yeah, that was a great save,” Whitehead said. “I thought he was exceptional, particularly when you consider the result of the game before. That’s a tough situation to be in, and I thought he was very impressive.”
The glove snare looked like vintage Fields, and perhaps it was no coincidence that BU got the only goal of the game less than six minutes later. On a power play, Frantisek Skladany kept the puck in at the right point until Miller cruised in at the center point, waving his stick to indicate that he very much wanted to shoot. He blasted a slapshot that beat a heavily screened Howard low on the stick side.
Maine had the better of the chances in the third period, as the Terriers hunkered down to protect the lead. Dave Klema did have a good scoring chance at 13:45 but was hauled down without a call. Maine failed to mount a sustained attack until pulling Howard with 1:20 left, but then they came close. Shields almost tied it shortly thereafter in a chaotic scramble, but the Terriers clung to the lead and got the win.
“It could be a turning point in our season,”said Fields, who is now tied for second with Michel Larocque forcareer wins at BU with 57. Only Scott Cashman (60) has more.
“It was a big game against a big team, and our team played exceptional.”
Parker chuckled when asked if it was the biggest win of the year for his team. “It’s the only one, isn’t it?” he joked. “It was great to see a BU hockey team as smart and poised as they’re supposed to be. I thought the biggest problem last night was we were unbelievably jumpy. This was a game that we could really get panicky in, and just the opposite: We played with a lot of poise; we played real sharp.”
The Terriers (7-9-6, 4-8-2 Hockey East) travel to Mass.-Lowell on Friday night, while the Black Bears (17-6-1, 9-4-1 Hockey East) host New Hampshire for a pair next weekend.