BOSTON — The schedule may have said Boston University versus Rensselaer, but it appeared as if the Terriers started to believe it was going to be the Harlem Globetrotters against the hapless Washington Generals.
After dominating the game in almost every aspect in the early going–showing plenty of razzle-dazzle throughout the first frame and going up 2-0 early in the second–the Terriers appeared to have visions of point totals dancing in their heads. Ignoring their defensive responsibilities, they surrendered three goals to the Engineers in an 18-minute stretch on the way to a stunning 3-2 victory in front of 6,102 at Agganis Arena.
Freshman goalie Mathias Lange–a former goalie for Austria at the World Junior Championships–was the hero in this one, keeping his team in the game despite a 31-13 shot advantage for the losers. Senior captain Kevin Croxton notched the game-winner at 5:41 of the third period on a gorgeous backhander that he roofed over John Curry on one of all too many odd-man rushes.
Alexander Valentin and Kevin Broad scored the other Rensselaer goals, while John Laliberte and Brandon Yip lit the lamp for the Terriers.
Terrier Coach Jack Parker seemed more disgusted than angry after the loss. “I thought we played really well the first period, especially in the first 15 minutes,” Parker said.
“Came out and got the early goal in the second period and almost like that changed our point of reference as to how hard we were playing on which side of the puck. We were all-out offense, getting caught up the ice. I don’t think I’ve been associated with a BU team that gave up as many odd-man rushes as we did tonight, just because we were constantly playing on the offensive side of the puck when the puck was up for grabs.
“I also thought we got full of ourselves: We’re playing real well and thinking ‘Hey, this club can’t be that good.’ You don’t respect your opponent; you lose. And we certainly didn’t respect our opponent. I think we were ready for them when the game started, but once we got up, we thought it was going to be Point Night. And then we couldn’t reel it back in once we gave them momentum.”
For Rensselaer Coach Dan Fridgen, the key was to “withstand” the first ten minutes of the game. “They just came out, buzzing around,” Fridgen said. “I thought once we settled down, and Langer made a couple of key saves for us real early on within those ten minutes, we were getting our game in order. I thought we did a good job of taking the pressure off on the forecheck, which they had going early on.
“Overall I thought it was a big win for us. Mathias played really well in the net, and I thought we got real solid play from our defensemen with the speed of our forwards. We got some timely goals and pretty goals off of nice plays.”
Terrier sophomore Peter MacArthur could have had a goal and three assists in the first period. In addition to a dazzling drag move on a shorthanded rush at 8:40, he had three phenomenal passes to linemates, only to be stymied by Lange.
BU’s first line showed off some pretty passing of their own on the Terriers’ first goal of the net at 18:09. Freshman Jason Lawrence drove through the slot before dishing to Brad Zancanaro on his left-wing side. Although well-covered, the BU captain slipped a pass through the crease to John Laliberte crashing the far post. Despite the best efforts of an Engineer defenseman to keep himself between the net and Laliberte, the power forward managed to give the puck a one-handed poke into the net.
Less than two minutes later–with just ten seconds left in the period–Zancanaro and Laliberte had a near replay of that goal, only to have Lange come up big once again.
The Terriers got a nice blue-collar goal at 1:19 of the second period. Off of an Engineer turnover near their own blue line, BU freshman Brandon Yip poked the puck through his man into the zone. Junior Kenny Roche then jammed the puck past his man, setting up Yip for a clear look at the net.
“I try to read the game a little bit, but then you’ve got to always be square to the puck,” Lange said. “You don’t want to cheat because you might get caught. That happened to me on the second goal a little bit: I was expecting him to go cross-ice, and he caught me.”
The Engineers cut it to 2-1 when Oren Eizenman raced in on the right wing before dropping the puck to Alexander Valentin for the shot. Curry tried to squeeze it between his body and his arm but couldn’t get it.
“Awful non-backcheck,” Parker said. “It was a no-play: Everybody was in position, and then we had two bad backchecks. One guy didn’t stay with his man who went to the net, and so the defenseman said ‘Uh-oh, I got to back off the shooter.’”
BU seemed deflated to have just a one-goal lead after outplaying their opponent for the better part of the game to that point. Neither team generated much offense through the rest of the period.
To the amazement of the crowd, Rensselaer tied it up at 2:05 of the third period. With the Terriers continue to gun for the goal, Keith McWilliams got the puck in his own zone and laced a long pass to Kevin Broad breaking in on the left wing to beat John Curry.
A fluke? Not quite. Three minutes and 36 seconds later, Rensselaer took the lead on Croxton’s gem of a goal. Jonathan Ornelas sprung his captain with the pass, setting up the roofer and a stunning 3-2 lead.
“We were able to finish on the three-on-two and the two-on-one and Croxy on the breakaway,” Fridgen said. “That’s what the game’s all about: capitalizing on your opportunities.”
The Terriers had some nominal chance for the next ten minutes. Laliberte casually redirected a Dan Spang shot at 6:57, catching the outside of the post. Freshman winger Jason Lawrence had a great move at 14:00 for another good bid, and Yip had a nice long rush over a minute later for an opportunity. In general, though, the Terriers couldn’t muster sustained pressure until the waning moments of the game. Yip and MacArthur each came very close to tying it on redirects in the waning seconds, but some more solid goaltending and a little puck luck gave the Engineers the win.
“It looks like it should be a good loss–played pretty hard, had a lot of shots, time of possession,” Parker said. “But that in reality was a real bad loss. We got slapped upside of our head because we changed our approach once we got up two-nothing.
“Other than Zancanaro, who I thought played great, I can’t think of one guy who had a good night.”
BU (1-1-0) visits Mass.-Lowell on Friday night before hosting the US Under-18 team on Saturday. Rensselaer (2-2-0) hosts Army on Sunday afternoon.