BOSTON, Mass. — Tonight, Boston University didn’t care too much about the fact that there are 366 days in this year instead of 365.
However, they sure did appreciate having three periods instead of two.
After 40 minutes of tightly battled play, BU broke open a 1-0 game with a terrific effort in the third period, as two Nick Bonino goals gave the No. 16 Terriers a 3-0 win over UMass in front of 5,280 at Agganis Arena.
BU goalie Brett Bennett made 20 saves for his second career shutout, while Jason Lawrence scored the game-winner in the second period. Paul Dainton made 27 saves in a losing effort for the Minutemen.
“The first thing I can think is that it’s good that there are three periods in a hockey game instead of two because I thought UMass played extremely well and gave us all we could handle in the first two periods, and then some,” Terriers’ coach Jack Parker said. “But that was the best third period we’ve played in a while. We got two goals and two great individual efforts by Bonino, but I thought other guys had some real good chances and we kept the pressure on.”
“I thought it was a pretty good game for two periods,” agreed UMass coach Don ‘Toot’ Cahoon.
The first period featured a fast pace but a stingy total of shots. Showing improbable shades of Sidney Crosby, Terriers’ winger Ryan Weston made a slick, blind pass to Brian McGuirk crashing the net behind his back for a near goal at 2:45. The BU fourth line continued to take it to their counterparts for the rest of the shift, leading to a power play.
The Minutemen’s best chance came at 9:50 when left wing Matt Burto got the puck behind the net and fed it to linemate William Ortiz crashing the net. It was a great opportunity, but Ortiz couldn’t get good wood on the puck.
The teams traded nominal chances for the rest of the period, culminating in a great rush up the right wing by BU blueliner Matt Gilroy. UMass goalie Paul Dainton squeezed Gilroy’s shot between his pads, falling over backwards to make sure the puck didn’t trickle out.
Scoring chances were more frequent in the second period, starting with scrums in front of each net in the opening minute alone. BU held off UMass again at 7:40 when a Minuteman high stick negated a bid after another dangerous scramble.
At 9:25, Minuteman defenseman Justin Braun stickhandled high in the slot and fired a shot through traffic just wide. Centerman Brett Watson made a nice move at 12:20 to get off a backhand shot from 12 feet, only to have BU goalie Brett Bennett make the save.
A battle of attrition led to the game’s first goal at 14:44. Already on a power play, BU got an additional edge when a Terriers’ forward knocked a UMass defender’s stick out of his hands, and the player could never get it back until BU scored a minute later. Controlling the puck at length, BU put on pressure until Nick Bonino got tripped for a delayed penalty call. Just as Bennett approached the bench for an extra attacker, UMass finally yielded a goal when Jason Lawrence redirected a Bonino shot-pass by Dainton.
“We didn’t have good fortune on the penalty situation when our forward lost his stick, and they ended up capitalizing on the loose puck that we might’ve cleared if we hadn’t lost the stick,” Cahoon said. “We were very much in the game, and the third period was about them killing the 50 seconds of power play that we had to start the period and then winning all the footraces and all the battles and getting all the scoring opportunities for the next seven minutes. That pretty much set the tone for the game.”
The Terriers got a big goal at 4:41 of the third. Co-captain Brian McGuirk out-battled a defender to get the puck to Bonino. Dainton stopped the centerman’s initial backhander, but Bonino buried his own rebound.
Thirty seconds later, Colin Wilson hit a post. That was a temporary reprieve for UMass, as Bonino got his second goal of the night at 8:22. This time, Bonino intercepted a clearing attempt off the boards and deftly stickhandled through the slot before beating Dainton with a low 15-footer for the unassisted goal.
With UMass on a power play, Bennett made his save of the game at 14:55, going down with an outstretched arm to deny a chance by Cory Quirk.
The Terriers honored legendary coach Jack Kelley between the second and third periods. Today, the program unveiled a bust of Kelley that will be on permanent display at Agganis Arena. Last week the team honored former player Scott Young between periods and had a terrific final 20 minutes as well.
“I was thinking that we should have a presentation after the second period in every game,” Parker quipped. “I was really happy that our team played well in front of my old coach; I didn’t want to have him see a loss.”
BU is the hottest team in the nation with seven straight wins and now stands at 15-14-4 (13-8-3 Hockey East. UMass is 2-11-1 in their last 14 games and 11-14-6 overall.
One negative for BU was that centerman Chris Higgins left the game in the second period with a probable concussion after a hard hit into the boards. His long-term status is unknown, but he is definitely out for the teams’ rematch on Saturday night out at Amherst.