Those who say that exhibition games don’t matter may want to reserve judgment until they see how Boston University fares in its season opener at home against Massachusetts-Lowell next weekend.
In the process of handily beating Toronto 4-0 in front of 3,954 fans at Agganis Arena Friday, the Terriers suffered the loss of senior first-line left wing John Laliberte, who received a game disqualification from referee Dave Hansen based on a controversial hitting from behind penalty in the third period.
At 8:40 of the third, LaLiberte approached one of the Varsity Blues along the side boards. The New Hampshire native attempted to let up but bumped his opponent, knocking the player off his feet. It appeared to be a penalty, but there was much head-scratching over the ensuing five-minute major and game disqualification.
Terrier coach Jack Parker had a lengthy and spirited discussion with the official afterwards. “I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking about,” Parker said. “He told me, quote-unquote, ‘I have no choice; I had to call it,’ which is incorrect. He absolutely has a choice, and I could show him that in the rulebook.
“The worst part about is [LaLiberte] is a left shot, and we don’t have a whole lot of those. To lose him in an exhibition game with a hit like that is amazing to me.”
Darren Lowe, coach of the Varsity Blues, was sympathetic. “I feel for them because it’s an exhibition game, and you don’t want have guys miss league play because of something that happens in an exhibition — especially when it’s a judgment call like that,” Lowe said. “I didn’t see it, so I can’t really comment on whether he deserved it or not.”
The call was the only blight on an otherwise enjoyable evening for Parker and his team. The second line of Peter MacArthur centering Brian McGuirk and Ryan Weston combined for two goals and two assists; they appeared to be robbed of a third goal when McGuirk set up a pinpoint blast by Weston on a two-on-one, only to have the apparent tally missed by both the goal judge and the referee when the puck went in and out of the top netting quickly.
In the first period, Weston made a nice rush up the left-wing side before dropping the puck to McGuirk, trailing for a low shot that beat Toronto goalie Brian Dunnigan.
Laliberte — playing left wing on a first line consisting of senior captain Brad Zancanaro and prized freshman recruit Jason Lawrence — added a power-play goal. However, Bryan Ewing, centering Kenny Roche and promising freshman Brandon Yip, was the clear standout for the Terriers, adding a goal and demonstrating why his nickname is “Boomer” with some huge hits.
“He played very, very well,” Parker said. “I thought he was our best player. He moved the puck well; he made some real clever passes.”
Ewing’s second-period goal was the prettiest of the night. Taking a dish from Roche, Ewing skated in on the right-wing side and roofed a shot glove side with authority.
The Terriers have depth in goal this season and accordingly gave John Curry, Stephan Siwiec, and Karson Gillespie 20 minutes apiece. Curiously, Gillespie was credited with the fewest saves — just three in the last 20 minutes — but faced the most pressure, mainly due to killing off the major penalty.
Likewise, the Terriers’ experienced defensive corps limited the Varsity Blues to just 13 shots on the night. “In general, I thought we played very well,” Parker said. “I was pleased with our effort and how quick we were. The best part of the game was that we worked hard going in and going out with our forechecking and backchecking.
“I thought all the freshmen played well, and our defense played well. Danny McGoff played really well, and so did Morrow. The two of them played well together; they were very sharp.”
The performance exceeded Parker’s expectations. “Usually in the first game of the year and an exhibition game you end up with a little sloppiness and a little overhandling the puck, especially up a couple of goals. But I thought we played within our game and played pretty well.”
For Lowe, the exhibition was a marked contrast to his team’s previous meeting with an NCAA opponent.
“Last weekend we played in Michigan, and it was a real good skating game,” Lowe said. “This was a much more physical game, which was good for us. It showed our guys that you have to play with a little more intensity with the puck. They picked our pocket a few times, and we sort of learned from that.
“We sort of ran out of gas. It might have been a difference of conditioning between the two teams, and I think our bus ride — we left at 6:30 this morning from Montreal — might have been part of it.”
The Terriers get an early start on Hockey East play when they host the River Hawks next Saturday.