BOSTON, Mass. — After not scoring a goal in four collegiate games to date, Boston University freshman Victor Saponari faced off against his younger brother and responded with a goal just seven minutes into the game. Not to be outdone, Vinny Saponari, who will attend BU next season, scored the US Under-18 team’s first goal of the night as well.
However, if the Saponari parents were happiest of all fans tonight, the older brother had the last laugh. After letting a 2-0 lead slip away, BU got the exhibition game-winner when newly appointed captain Peter MacArthur scored at 8:06 of the third period to give the Terrers a 3-2 win in front of 4,564 at Agganis Arena.
Terriers’ senior Kevin Kielt was another improbable goal scorer, lighting the lamp tonight despite having no goals in 53 collegiate games. Terriers’ recruit David Warsofsky added an assist and hit a post for the US team. BU freshman and erstwhile third-string goaltender Adam Kraus played solidly between the pipes with 23 saves, staking a claim as a contender in the wide-open goaltending battle for the Terriers.
“The best part of tonight’s game was we got four goals: three by us and one by next year’s player,” said Terriers’ coach Jack Parker. “And Warsofsky almost got one; he hit the pipe in the second period.
“I thought both of those guys played very well. I thought our goaltender played well tonight; he gave us a good effort, played hard, made some big saves. I thought we played well until the very last play. We wound up with a two-on-oh at the net, finally got fortunate with a good bounce. They hit the pipe; we win the game.”
For US U-18 coach (and Terriers’ alumni) John Hynes, the game was as tough as anticipated.
“We knew coming into the game that it was going to present a great challenge for us,” Hynes said. “The first period, I thought we were testing the waters of how the game was going to go. I thought our guys responded well in the second and third period. To give BU credit, they’re an older team; they’re a veteran team. They did the things they needed to do to win.
“I could tell in the pregame skate they were ready to go against us.”
Sure enough, BU came out hitting awfully hard for an exhibition game, looking like a team that needed a win, whether it counted or not. MacArthur and Kielt had several punishing hits.
BU took the lead at 6:59 when Luke Popko drew two defenders to him on the left wing before slipping a pass over to Saponari, who slid the puck onto his backhand before flipping it past Merrimack recruit Joe Cannata in net.
Although the shots on goal were close in total, BU had the better of the period and made it 2-0 when Kielt’s wrister from the point appeared to go through teammate Steve Smolinsky before finding the net at 15:31.
In the second period, Warsofsky, a small, agile defenseman, shifted around a defender and pinged the far post with a shot at 3:15, then Robbie Czarnik had a great bid a few minutes later, as the US team appeared to settle down and play well. Ultimately, Vinny Saponari made it 2-1 at 16:31 during a power play.
Receiving a pass across the slot, the Georgia native buried a one-timer before Kraus could slide across the crease.
The US squad tied it up at 1:54 when BC recruit Jimmy Hayes, a prototypical power forward, rushed the puck up the ice before setting up a Sam Lofquist shot from the right point. Kraus made the save, but the rebound went right to the younger Saponari for the shot and goal.
With time winding down on a five-minute major for charging by US forward Grant Scott, MacArthur got the puck on the left wing, held it, and sold the idea of a pass before firing one of his patented quick-release shots that somehow got though Cannata.
Game over? Not so fast. With 15 seconds left, a non-call in the BU zone left Parker fuming while leaving two men all alone with Kraus in front of the net.
“We lose the faceoff; my guy beats him to the puck and is about to get it out, and they tackle him,” Parker said, explaining his verbal tirade at referees Bob Bernard and Tim Benedetto after the final buzzer. “Both of them were staring right at it.”
Hayes had the puck with a teammate on his left and on one between the two of them and the goalie.
“I saw the two guys out front,” Kraus said. “The one guy who shot it, when he had the puck I thought he was going to pass it over to the other guy, so I was a little surprised he shot that. We haven’t had some bounces lately, so we got one tonight, just right off the post.”
After surviving that scare, Kraus reflected on his first weekend of play in a Terriers’ uniform.
“It was good to get some action and to get a feel for the college game,” Kraus said. “I definitely learned a lot this weekend, so I think overall it was a good step for me.”
“If they had tied the game on that last play, it would’ve been devastating,” Parker said. “It doesn’t count. The points don’t count; MacArthur doesn’t get the game-winning goal. None of that really counts, but we won a game at home and got a bad taste out of their mouth.”
“Its huge, mostly for morale.” Kielt said.
The US team plays at Harvard on Sunday, and BU hosts Dartmouth on Thursday night before a lengthy hiatus.