BOSTON, Mass. — For Boston University, home is definitely not where the heart is this season.
This one had all the makings of a stirring comeback win at home. After falling behind to No. 7 New Hampshire 3-1, BU tied it 3-3 late in the second period when Joe Pereira’s breakaway goal revved up the crowd. However, that was all for naught when the Terriers were outshot 9-2 in the final 20 minutes, giving up two ugly goals in the process.
The end result was a 5-3 win for UNH in front of a dispirited crowd of 6,024 at Agganis Arena, as the Terriers have now fallen to a 2-7-1 record at home this season.
Wildcats’ senior Mike Radja led the way with two goals and an assist, while his wingers Danny Dries and Matt Fornataro added a pair of points apiece, as did Jerry Pollastrone and James vanRiemsdyk. Terriers’ freshman Kevin Shattenkirk had the only multi-point effort for BU, a pair of assists.
“We tried to play hard in the first two periods, got back in the game with three goals in the second period, and then inexplicably we go out in the third period and absolutely lay an egg,” Terriers’ coach Jack Parker said. “We had two shots in the third period. We acted like we were disinterested in the third period. There was no emotion. You’d think we’d be all jacked up. Almost as if they were waiting to lose, a sad display by my team tonight, a great display by UNH.”
“Obviously I’m real excited about the weekend,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “The guys played hard all weekend. Specialty situations were great this weekend; power play did a good job, and shorthanded was great, especially the five-minute major for punching [assessed to Peter LeBlanc]. We competed hard. We want to be a tougher team to play against, and we got a lot from a lot of people. Kevin was solid the whole weekend. I thought my seniors played great, and everybody else followed suit.”
The Wildcats struck first at just 1:52 of the opening period. Behind the net on their first power play, Fornataro centered it to Radja for the one-timer and a goal.
BU proceeded to outshoot UNH by a 14-7 margin for the period, but that was a deceptive disparity, as there were few terrific chances for the Terriers. BU had a golden opportunity at 9:07 when LeBlanc received his five-minute punching major after he slugged Ryan Weston a good ways into a TV timeout. However, the ensuing BU power play was anemic, as the Terriers rarely set up in the UNH zone let alone put the puck on net.
BU looked their best in the last two minutes of the period, as a Bryan Ewing shorthanded chance at 18:10 led to a hard rebound that Nick Bonino whiffed on, and then Shattenkirk made an excellent long pass to Chris Higgins a minute later, only to have Nick Krates hustle to make Higgins lose the handle.
Five goals were scored in a frenetic second period. On an innocuous looking play at 4:27, BU tied it. Higgins threw the puck out to Shattenkirk at the left point, and the freshman defenseman’s shot missed wide to the right of goalie Kevin Regan. However, Regan turned to his right as the puck bounced back out to his left, and Bonino had ample time to knock it home while Regan was spinning around.
Just over two minutes later, UNH answered that one on another goal by Radja set up by Fornataro. This time, Fornataro skated in on the right wing off a give-and-go with Radja, returning the puck for Radja to score on a wrister.
Things looked bleak for BU at 12:09 when that Wildcats’ top line struck again. Radja skated in on the right wing and flipped a backhanded pass into the slot, where it caromed off a Terriers’ defender and went right to the stick of Danny Dries, whose shot glanced off the crossbar to beat Brett Bennett.
The Terriers then surprised everyone with two goals in just 40 seconds.
On a power play at 15:42, Colin Wilson knocked in the rebound of his own shot while being knocked to his knees. Then Brian Strait and Jason Lawrence teed up the breakaway by Pereira, who scored but crashed headfirst into the post just after the puck went in.
“I just saw that Straity wrap it around to Jay,” Pereira said. “I saw an opening where I could split the ‘D.’ I knew it was going to be tough, and I just came down, put it on my backhand and got it in the net and then felt the blood coming down. My team’s been on me the last few games; I think seven games in a row I’ve had a breakaway and haven’t scored, so maybe this will get them off my back.”
Pereira ended up with about eight stitches, but was all smiles in the runway as his ear got patched up, as the crowd really got into it at that point.
Mysteriously, though, it all fell apart in the third. On a seemingly harmless scrum at 4:49, vanRiemsdyk managed to poke the puck in, making one wonder if Bennett was in the best position for the situation. Bennett also looked cavalier at 7:30, almost leading to a shorthanded goal when he left the puck near the net with two Wildcats nearby.
“It’s the kind of goal you want to score,” Umile said. “You get it in there, and he’s a big guy with a big reach. He’s real strong kid out there with his legs and his stick.”
The final straw was a Keystone Cops routine by the Terriers’ defensive corps at 14:31, when several flailing attempts to clear the zone failed before a UNH shot through the crease went off of the stick of BU senior defenseman Dan McGoff and into the net to make it a 5-3 final.
“We gave up two lousy goals, no question about that,” Parker said of the two third-period goals. “Our defense was jumpy or really inept with the puck [in our own end]. It looked like we just didn’t know where to go with the puck; we just stood there and let the take it away from us.”
BU (7-13-4, 6-8-3) has one more chance to get things turned around before the Beanpot, as they host Merrimack on Friday night. UNH (15-7-1, 11-4-1) will look to strengthen their hold on first place when they travel to Vermont on Friday.