ORONO, Maine — One squad was coming off a dreadfully dissapointing sweep. The other was coming off another weekend of mixed results. Both teams, however, were desperately seeking a much needed boost in conference competition coming into Friday’s clash.
Turns out both squads will have to wait till Saturday night to snag that desired bit of momentum.
On Friday night before an exuberant Alfond Arena crowd, Boston University and Maine added another page in their storied rivalry battling to a 1-1 stalemate. In a game reminiscent of past duels, the two squads saw both goaltenders combat each other like heavyweights in a prize fight. With neither goaltender willing to be outdone by their peer, both offenses were rendered surprisingly useless.
Leading the way for the Terriers was John Curry, who hauled in a remarkable 27 saves on the night. Matching Curry on the other side was All-American Jimmy Howard collecting 25 saves and completing the deadlock.
With the tie, the Black Bears moved to 12-8-5 and 7-3-3 in Hockey East play. The Terriers saw their record slide to 13-9-1 and 9-3-1 in conference play. More importantly, the tie allowed the Terriers to hold onto a slim two-point lead in the Hockey East standings for third place.
After the game, Maine head coach Tim Whitehead took time to discuss the strenuous deadlock.
“It was a pretty even game,” said Whitehead. “For both teams there was quite a bit of action, each team had opportunities to get the winning goal.”
Iconic BU head coach Jack Parker also took time after the decision to comment on the closely played game.
“It wasn’t a real BU-Maine game where everyone tries to sustain pressure in each zone,” said Parker, “but it was smart hockey and great goaltending. Good effort by both groups.”
Each coach had praise for the goaltending clinic that was put on between the posts.
“Both goalies, I thought were very sharp and were probably the first two stars of the game,” said Whitehead.
“We got some pretty good chances, Howard looks as good as ever to me,” said Parker.
Parker, however, believed the biggest area of play came in neutral zone.
“An awful lot of play at center-ice for a BU-Maine game,” said Parker. “Usually, when we play up here there’s a lot more forechecking, a lot more action in both zones.”
For much of the final two periods and in overtime, the two foes played sensational defense preventing any chance at a clear look.
“We played pretty close to the vest,” said Parker. “Both teams really tried to make sure they didn’t get beat up the ice.”
The Terriers found the scoreboard first when just halfway through the first period John Laliberte was able to create an opening while on the power play. After freeing up space, Laliberte hit an open Brian McConnell on the near boards. McConnell then proceeded to find an eager Chris Bourque at the right point. After gaining possession on a well-placed McConnell pass, Bourque fired an excruciatingly accurate shot over Howard’s left shoulder for the tally. The goal, Bourque’s fifth of the year, was scored at 11:46 of the first.
“I just never saw it till the last minute,” said Howard.
Maine fired back only four minutes later when Greg Moore scored his 10th goal of the year off an excellent pass from Josh Soares. The tally coming at 15:52 into the first saw Soares skillfully beat the Terrier defense for a 2-on-1 with Moore, rifled a high shot past Curry and into the back of mesh.
BU had their best chance to open the game up late in the 2nd period after a 5-on-3 saw several near goals collected in Howard’s pads. The consistent pressure continued throughout the third with BU having nothing to show for it.
“The defense did a good job of clearing out tonight; we’re getting more precise in our own end,” said Howard. “We’re defintely trying to work on little details in our own end.”
“They really started crashing the net in the third period and overtime looking for a dirty goal,” said Howard. “Like I said the defense did a good job.”
The Black Bears followed with their own assault on the BU net, with their best chance coming in the final minute of regulation. After making a glaring blocker save on Derek Damon, Curry proceeded to flounder on the ice leaving an open net for the Black Bears. However, Maine was unable to capitalize on the situation before the net was displaced and the whistle was called.
Howard discussed the play of Curry in the final two periods.
“Curry made some good saves for them,” said Howard. “A couple in the second period and a couple flurries in the end where he just managed to get a piece of the puck, whatever way you can stop the puck.”
The extra frame saw BU jump out to the early advantage only to be shutdown by Howard, once again.
“They were just looking to crash the net in overtime, but they didn’t really get any good ones by us,” said Howard. “Our guys did an excellent job of picking up sticks and picking up guys.”
The Terriers registered five shots in the period to the Black Bears lone shot on net. Maine, however, closed out the decision with a slight advantage in the shot department besting BU 28-26.
“For the most part I thought it was a very cautious game,” said Parker. “Other than that I thought both teams played pretty well, both goalies played great. One of them makes 27 saves, the other makes 26.”
With neither team able to establish their forechecking in their opponent’s zone, most of the game played out through center ice.
“Neither one of us could sustain much of a forecheck,” said Parker. “There is so little room at center ice in this building that you don’t have much room to make plays at center ice, if you don’t get forechecking off the face-off in the attacking zone you don’t get a lot of offense going.”
The rivals return to the ice tomorrow at 7 p.m for the conclusion of the series.
“It was a good hockey game, hard fought and hard hitting and I think tomorrow will be more of the same,” said Whitehead.