For Boston University fans looking for positive omens, tonight’s game could be considered a significant.
The Terriers won their tenth game in a row Friday, blanking Massachusetts 3-0 behind two goals from Kenny Roche, two assists from Peter MacArthur, and 19 saves by John Curry in front of 5,947 at Agganis Arena. The winning streak matched their longest since the last time they won the national championship in 1995.
The longest streak before that? The 21-game regular-season winning streak that happened-you guessed it-in 1978, the second-to-last time BU hoisted the national championship trophy.
“My first year we won ten in a row in the middle of the season,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “So other than two teams that won national championships in ’95 and ’78, no other BU team has won ten in a row since my first year coaching, so that’s a pretty good feather in their cap-especially in this day and age.”
The teams cautiously traded shots in a tightly battled first period. After that, though, it was basically all BU territorially as well as on the scoreboard. The Terriers outshot the Minutemen 32-11 over the last 40 minutes.
“I thought the first period was a real even period for both teams,” Parker said. “They attempted more shots than we did; we got more shots on the net, and we got the only goal. But it was a well-played period by both teams; we were struggling in our zone. They have one of the best skating teams in the league, and we had trouble getting to them in our zone.
“The second period we just clamped down-made them feel like they’re not going to get a chance tonight,” Parker said. “And obviously the third period went our way.”
UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon was on the same page with his interpretation of the action.
“After what I thought was a good first period-a difficult first period in that they scored the goal but I thought we carried the play-in terms of tempo and execution, BU came out and played much stronger in the second and third period, and we didn’t measure up,” Cahoon said. “We didn’t play at the tempo that we needed to play for most of the last two periods; consequently most of the game was played at our end of the rink.”
Despite getting the shutout, Curry was rarely tested after the first period. He made a few nice glove saves in the early going, facing good pressure during a pair of Minutemen power plays. On the offensive side of the puck for BU, Brian McGuirk had a good chance on a redirect of a Dan Spang shot at 2:45, and Chris Higgins almost scored on his own rebound at 14:30.
BU got the only goal its would need less than a minute later. In the left-corner, Bryan ‘Boomer’ Ewing teed up a shot for linemate Peter MacArthur in the faceoff circle. Jon Quick-a stalwart in the UMass goal with 40 saves on the night-made the initial save, only to have Roche grab the rebound and reach around the netminder with a low backhander.
Roche almost scored again on a mirror-image attempt early in the second period, as he tried to reach around quick with a forehand attempt after getting a pass from Brad Zancanaro at the right point. Quick made the save this time.
Led by a few great blocks and strong defensive plays by Kevin Schaeffer, BU really shut down UMass for the second period.
“We couldn’t play much better as a team tonight,” Roche said. “We were dominant defensively. All four lines played great in the offensive zone and really wore down the defensemen.”
The Terriers’ efforts were rewarded tangibly in the final frame. At 3:36, defenseman Sean Sullivan raced in on the left wing and fired a shot. Zancanaro tipped the rebound to Eric Thomassian just outside the crease for the tap in, giving the junior four goals on just 14 shots this season.
“Good for him,” Parker said. “He’s playing well; he played well again tonight. He’s really found a home with those two guys right now-really comfortable playing there, and they’re comfortable with him too.”
BU rounded out the scoring exactly 11 minutes later. Spang fired a touchdown pass from his own end to MacArthur going across the blue line. The nifty center-who had been throwing up much of the previous night with a bug of some sort-slipped an eyebrow-raising behind-the-back pass to Roche trailing the play, and the winger blasted a high slap shot past Quick.
“I didn’t have to do much there,” Roche said. “I came off the bench and saw him lose it when he went in on the breakaway. He curled up, and I yelled for it; he served it up on a platter for me-just gripped and ripped.”
Given the Terriers’ torrid play over the last month, it’s hard not to wonder how far they might go this season.
“I’ve seen them three or four times in the last couple of weeks, and I think what they’re getting is a real good effort from a lot of people,” Cahoon said. “It’s more about the total team and not so much about individuals. I know Roche is hot and scoring goals, but the team is skating and making simple plays and supporting one other. The defense has been solid, and Curry’s been real good. Who’s to say? I’ve seen a lot of the best teams in the country, and they’re going to be in the mix, that’s for sure.”
In the meantime, the Terriers can set their sights on the much anticipated heavyweight fight for the Beanpot Championship against archrival Boston College on Monday.
“It’s a Beanpot championship up for grabs-everyone wants to win out going out as a senior; everyone wants to win it as a freshman,” Parker said. “Both of these senior classes have won the Beanpot before, so it’s not as if they haven’t done it.”
Unfortunately, it appears to be highly improbable that senior John Laliberte’s knee will be good enough to go on Monday. All the same, Parker anticipates a high-intensity night at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“The other night at the Beanpot, I don’t think it was a typical Beanpot crowd or a typical Beanpot noise level or electricity. There will be electricity in that building on Monday night; there are a lot of people who will be jacked up for this game.”
Following the Beanpot, BU (17-8-2, 14-6-1 Hockey East) plays a home-and-home series against New Hampshire. UMass (11-16-0, 8-12-0 HE) plays at Providence Saturday night before hosting Vermont for a pair next weekend.