Boston University goaltender Karson Gillespie’s collegiate career hasn’t exactly gone as he might have expected.
When picked to start the Terriers’ second game of his freshman year last season, he had no idea that he’d have to wait over 13 months for his second start. Then again, he could never have guessed that he would end up shutting out the two-time defending national champions 1-0 for his first collegiate victory.
Gillespie stopped all 31 shots, and senior defenseman Dan Spang scored the lone goal and played a dominant role on the blue line as the No. 20 Terriers beat the No. 13 Pioneers 1-0 in front of 5,889 at Agganis Arena. Glenn Fisher, who stood on his head last season en route to beating the Terriers out in Colorado, stopped 23 of 24 shots in a losing effort.
“You sit on the bench for 50 games, and it makes you pretty hungry,” Gillespie said. “When you finally get that second shot, you’ve got to make it work and do what you’ve got to do to get the win and try to get more ice time. But most importantly, the team’s back on track, and hopefully we’ll keep it going tomorrow.”
“The best story of the night was Gillespie,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “He played very well and was very confident-gave us just what we needed. He made some tough saves but didn’t have to make any sensational saves because we didn’t give him any three-on-twos or two-on-ones.
“We gave them too many penalties, but we did a good job of killing penalties. I thought our defense played really well down low. That first unit can really move the puck, especially in the crease and along the goal line, and we did a really good job there.
Denver coach George Gwozdecky saw his team go 0 for 5 on the power playing, including a five-on-three advantage that lasted almost two full minutes in the second period.
“I thought BU played very well,” Gwozdecky said. “I thought their goaltender played well, although we didn’t give him a lot of tough saves to make. They played well when they got the lead.
“We definitely had opportunities to be able to score with the five-on-three for almost two minutes and with a number of power plays in the third, but I thought BU did a real good job. They did what they had to do and deserved to win.”
The game was tightly contested and relatively error-free defensively, resulting in a fairly minimal number of scoring opportunities. In the first nine minutes, Terrier freshman Brandon Yip and Denver junior Ryan Helgason each had a nominal scoring chance, but that was about it. In the eleventh minute, Yip set up BU captain Brad Zancanaro for a good chance, followed by a Sean Sullivan slap shot that Fisher gloved.
BU scored at 12:39 of the first period when Spang found a wide-open lane from the left point to the net, driving in for a backhanded shot that went in just as he was knocked down by a defenseman.
“It’s a faceoff play we run,” Spang said. “John McCarthy won the draw, and our two wingers did a great job of picking their wings and letting me get some space to move down the wall. I think they lost coverage with me, and I was able to drive to the net. I saw the goalie down, so I tried to get the puck down, and it found the back of the net.”
“Nice play by John McCarthy for us on the faceoff,” Parker said of the freshman from Andover, Massachusetts. “I think he might’ve been 12 for 14 for us on the faceoffs.”
Before tonight, BU had led only once after the first period of play. In two other games, it was tied after one period; it trailed through 20 minutes in six of nine previous games. In three of the last four games, the Terriers yielded at least 18 shots in the first period compared to 12 tonight.
“From the opening faceoff, we were in the game and playing thorough,” Parker said. “No question this was a big improvement on a lot of our first periods. After the first period, I was saying ‘Imagine what’s coming up if we’re winning 1-0!’ I didn’t think it would stay 1-0, but I was pleased with the way we rose to the occasion and didn’t start thinking about something going batty.”
The second period was uneventful except for the nail-biting five-on-three for a full 1:53. Denver’s puck possession was outstanding until a sloppy pass gave BU a badly needed change of personnel, followed by an offside call.
“I thought BU did a pretty good job of collapsing toward the slot and deflecting any pucks that were thrown at the front of the net and outnumbering us in front of the net,” Gwozdecky said.
The Pioneers’ top line of Paul Stastny, co-captain Gabe Gauthier, and Ryan Dingle was on the ice for close to half of the final period. Thanks to a pair of Terrier penalties, there were many long stretches in which BU could not clear the puck or change up their penalty killers, but they survived it all.
BU (4-4-2) faces Colorado College tomorrow night, while Denver (5-6-2) travels to Amherst to play Massachusetts. John Curry will be in goal for BU, but Gillespie won’t have as long a stretch on the bench as he did between his two starts. Parker would not commit to a plan for next weekend’s home-and-home pair against archrival Boston College but said that Gillespie will definitely see action before Christmas break.
“You can’t really read too much into one game,” Gillespie said of his performance. “Think of the Michigan game last year (in which he gave up six goals in under 25 minutes). If somebody read too much into that game, I probably would’ve never played again.”
The all-time series between the two teams is now dead even at 12-12-2. Although the two teams have similar records, BU is now 4-1-1 against ranked opponents, while Denver is just 1-5-1 against ranked teams.