BOSTON — The second-to-last Boston University hockey game in the history of Walter Brown Arena proved to be about as memorable as Ted Williams’ second-last at bat of his fabled career with the Boston Red Sox.
In a game that left neither coach particularly satisfied with his team’s performance, BU overcame a sluggish start to beat Nebraska-Omaha 4-1 behind a pair of goals and an assist by Terrier junior David Van der Gulik. BU captain Brian McConnell and freshman Bryan “Boomer” Ewing — playing his first game in a couple of months after separating a shoulder earlier this season — scored the other goals for the Terriers in front a school vacation depleted crowd of 2,947. Maverick goalie Chris Holt made 31 saves in a losing effort.
It was a peculiar game, as BU failed to muster a single shot on goal during the first nine minutes of the game and only woke up after Dan Hacker scored a shorthanded goal late in the first frame. Then UNO couldn’t even manage a shot attempt — let alone a shot on goal — in the second period, in which BU scored three goals in less than four minutes.
The apparent culprit in the lethargy was the long layoff for both teams, as each had been idle for 18 days prior to tonight’s non-conference contest.
“I don’t think either team played the way they wanted to play coming off a long break,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “We’re disinterested in doing the little things that are important. We looked pretty good passing the puck once in a while, and we didn’t give up a shot in the second period, and that looked pretty good.
“In general, I wasn’t really pleased with most of our guys. A few of our guys had real good nights-David Van der Gulik obviously had a good night. I thought that MacArthur played well; Zancanaro played well. Miller and Monaghan played well. Other than that, a lot of guys were going at three-quarters speed. It was almost like we were doing what we were doing during exams. There are no coaches on the ice, and they’re playing shinny, making some pretty good passes, but there wasn’t much intensity for either team.”
His coaching counterpart, Mike Kemp, also gave his team a thumbs-down review, though he commended the opposition.
“I thought it was a well-played game by Boston University,” Kemp said. “They really turned the tide late in the first period when they had those three power plays in a row. That changed the momentum of the game. After that, they did a really good job of negating anything we were trying to do and taking advantages of their own opportunities when they came.
“I think we’re a much better hockey team than we showed tonight. We didn’t show at all the way we can play. We’re a young team; we have not yet learned how to play on the road. We’re 7-2-1 at home, and 1-6 on the road now. That’s a mountain we have to climb. We came out like we normally do in the first few minutes, had some good sustained pressure, and played the way we wanted to play. But you’re not going to be able to kill penalties for 14 minutes in a row and have the game come out the way you want to.”
Terrier goalie John Curry had a long, lonely stretch between the pipes for much of the game, but he was tested in the first 12 minutes. Freshman Brandon Scero had a good bid at 8:40, and Micah Sanford had a pair of chances on the Mavericks’ first power play.
BU’s first shot didn’t come until 9:47, but it almost gave them their first goal. Brad Zancanaro continued his opportunistic play of late, stealing a puck on the forecheck and threading a nice pass to Van der Gulik, only to have Holt make the save.
Just after Van der Gulik had another good chance on the Terriers’ first power play of the night, UNO surprised the home crowd with a shorthanded goal. Playing on the point in the absence of Chris Bourque at the World Junior Championships, Peter MacArthur had a shot blocked, and d-man Joe Grimaldi flipped the puck ahead to Hacker, who raced in to beat Curry with a backhander on the rebound of his own shot at 16:56.
This seemed to rouse the Terriers, and their resulting pressure led to a five-on-three that carried over into period two. Shortly after the first penalty expired — and with the Mavericks’ penalty-killing unit needing a change and looking ready to expire — Van der Gulik found McConnell low in the right-wing faceoff circle for a shot and score at 1:23.
Less than three minutes later, MacArthur got the puck behind the goal line and set up Ewing for a one-timer from almost the same spot as McConnell. It was Ewing’s first collegiate goal, giving Terrier fans more to look forward to when Bourque returns to be reunited with Ewing and MacArthur for the first time since October.
Fourteen seconds after that one, BU added the proverbial backbreaker on a lucky one.
“I caught their d-man and kind of closed him off behind the net and picked up the puck,” Van der Gulik said. “I was looking for Zancanaro on the back door, and it went off the guy’s skate, so I’ll take it.”
BU ended up getting four power plays the rest of the period, contributing to the Mavericks failing to get even one shot attempt. Van der Gulik couldn’t remember that happening any time recently.
“Not last year, that’s for sure,” the British Columbia native said. “It helps when the goalie behind you is playing real well; it gives you a boost, and we try to play well in front of him. Give credit to our D-they took a lot of their chances away.”
Most notably, Kevin Schaeffer made a diving play at the 13-minute mark to break up a shorthanded bid by UNO’s freshman star Bill Thomas.
The Mavericks failed to get another shot until 7:48 of the third period, although Thomas and Scott Parse had a two-on-one at the four-minute mark but failed to even get off a shot.
“The right guys had the puck on those two-on-ones,” Kemp said. “It’s frustrating for me because I’m used to seeing those guys make something happen, and in this game they just didn’t make anything happen.”
Van der Gulik rounded out the scoring with about four minutes left on a 12-footer from the slot after John Laliberte teed it up from behind the net. Now the Terriers (11-6-0) can set their sights on the much anticipated pair of games against top-ranked Minnesota on Sunday and Monday, closing out Walter Brown Arena and ushering in Agganis Arena respectively.
Of course, all of the anticipation of that matchup may have contributed to the relatively unmemorable showing tonight.
“There’s no question,” Parker said. “We’ve got Minnesota coming to town for the last game at Walter Brown Arena, and they’re No. 1 in the nation and a big rival. That’s all the talk. A lot of people didn’t even know we were playing this game unless you had a ticket.”
Still, Parker wasn’t too upset under the circumstances and in light of the W.
“If this was a bad game, it was a pretty good bad game,” Parker said.
UNO (8-8-1) travels to Massachusetts Thursday night to round out its Eastern swing against the Minutemen.