BOSTON — At first glance of the score, those who didn’t attend this game may be excused for thinking that this was yet another Boston University game with limited scoring chances both ways.
However, appearances are deceiving in this case. This 2-2 tie between No. 19 UMass and No. 9 BU in front of 4,449 at Agganis Arena featured plenty of shots, scoring chances, and above all great goaltending. Minuteman goalie Jon Quick stopped 33 of 35 shots while Terrier netminder John Curry returned the favor with 22 saves on 24 shots in this Hockey East matchup.
Peter MacArthur and Bryan “Boomer” Ewing ended long scoring droughts with a goal and an assist each for BU, while Cory Quirk and Kevin Jarman notched goals for the visitors.
“Unquestionably the two most admirable players on the ice were the two goaltenders with critical saves in crucial situations,” said UMass coach Don “Toot” Cahoon. “Jon Quick was probably tested a little more than John Curry down the stretch, but they both made brilliant saves. I think that the game was defined by the goaltending. Looking at the way the game evolved, we’re happy after giving up the second goal to get it back and probably look at the point as a positive as opposed to walking away without the win.”
While UMass continued their surprising success at 6-3-2 ( 4-2-1 Hockey East), Terrier coach Jack Parker reflected on his team’s peculiar, albeit symmetrical record of 5-2-5 ( 3-2-4 HE). “I don’t have a sister, so why are we kissing our sister so much here? Another tie,” Parker said. “I liked how we played tonight. As the game progressed, we played better and better. We’re still in the one-goal, two goal kind of scenario, but if you look at the shots in the third period … Everything was there for us except putting it by Quick. I thought he played great.
“Our guy played great too. I thought he had to make big saves.”
BU’s third line almost got a goal at 2:20 of the opening period when an Eric Thomassian shot from the right wing slipped through Quick’s five-hole, only to have the goalie smother the puck before it could inch over the goal line.
UMass fired a salvo of their own at 7:28 when P.J. Fenton set up Jarman for a blast that glanced off the crossbar. Minuteman defenseman Mike Kostka made a nice play defending a two-on-one a shortly thereafter, sliding to block Steve Smolinsky’s crossing attempt.
Ewing and linemate Kenny Roche set each other up any number of times in the first and throughout the game. “I thought Boomer and MacArthur and Roche could’ve had five goals tonight,” Parker said. “They played great.”
UMass stepped up play in period two. At 7:45 , Jarman set up Justin Braun for a shot from the right point, and Curry got just enough of a pad on the shot to deflect it wide. For BU, Jason Lawrence countered with a great change-of-direction move behind the UMass net to set up linemate Chris Higgins for a bid, only to have Quick make another save.
UMass went ahead at 17:53 on a brutal turnover by Smolinsky in his own end. The forward fell down, allowing Cory Quirk to go in all alone for a backhanded move and a goal.
BU rebounded strongly in the third, outshooting UMass by a whopping 18-6 margin. They tied it on a rare power-play goal. Ryan Weston won a battle for the puck with two defenders behind the goal line, slipping it to Ewing , who passed to MacArthur for a slam-dunk goal. “That was a perfect power-play goal,” MacArthur said. “We got the puck deep; Weston did a good job of taking the man first, and then he got the puck. Then Boomer swooped in when he saw the puck free and I snuck in back door. They forgot that I was there — no one was around me.”
It was the first goal since the junior centerman scored all four of his goals this season way back on the weekend of October 20-21. He skipped his usual exuberant leap into the glass. “I was just relieved,” MacArthur said. “I didn’t saying anything. I was just praying to the hockey gods. Seriously.”
BU’s second goal was comparable to the first, as Roche worked hard behind the goal line before initiating a tic-tac-toe passing sequence to MacArthur and then to Ewing for another easy tap-in.
But then UMass showed resiliency when Jarman buried the rebound of a Matt Anderson shot. “I was just pretty upset that the puck sat right on his stick for him to bury into the empty net,” Curry said, rather disgusted over the unfortunately perfect bounce of the rebound.
Following a melee behind the UMass net that led to a bunch of penalties and a BU power play, BU took it to UMass, doing everything but scoring. Thomassian almost snuck one in from an angle. Higgins had a goal waved off, as it went in after the whistle was blown. Matt Gilroy set up Lawrence for another great chance in the last minute, with Higgins getting a good crack at that rebound, but it was all for naught.
In contrast, UMass got seven of the eight shots in overtime. “The best chances they had were in the overtime,” Parker said. “We were so concerned with not getting a tie that we were caught up the ice a couple of times and gave them a couple of pretty good chances.”
“I think this one was different than the other ones,” Curry said about the incredible number of low-scoring, tight games the team has played this season. “As you said, Quick played and kept us off the board. But I thought we dominated them in the third period… We only scored two goals, and that trend continues, but we had more opportunities. Tonight was more about puck luck rather than not getting opportunities.”
Cahoon, a BU alum, was asked if he felt relieved to get his first coaching point at Agganis. It’s interesting that you ask that question because I was thinking today that in this business when you lose, you’re devastated; when you win, you’re relieved,” Cahoon said. “That’s the difference. You’re not in ecstasy when you win games; you’re just relieved. So I suppose that getting a point here is a positive. I don’t know if it’s total relief, but it’s a positive.”
BU now gears up for a home-and-home series with archrival Boston College this weekend, while UMass hosts Niagara on Friday before traveling to Merrimack on Tuesday.