BOSTON, Mass. — With low totals of shots and goals as well as dueling goaltenders, it was just the kind of game Maine wanted to play tonight.
Except for the final score.
On a night when it was the opposite of home sweet home for the rest of Hockey East, top-seeded Boston University (28-5-4) rallied to eke out a 2-1 victory over Maine (12-21-4) thanks to a Colby Cohen goal with 2:56 left to play in game one of the best-of-three quarterfinal series in front of 3,825 at Agganis Arena.
Defensive partner Kevin Shattenkirk matched Cohens goal and an assist, while Colin Wilson was the only Terrier forward on the score sheet tonight with two assists. Tanner House scored Maines lone goal. Both freshmen goalies also were in good form tonight, with Scott Darling stopping 23 shots for Maine while Kieran Millan made 20 saves for BU.
My first thought is I was very, very impressed with the way the opposition played tonight, Terrier coach Jack Parker said. I thought Maine played great. They did a great job killing penalties; we only got one for eight, and the only goal we get is on a 5-on-3. They did a fabulous job in front of their own net, and they kept pressure on us because of the way they changed their forechecks. They had different looks, and they executed very well.
I thought we were somewhat lackadaisical at times, and then when we tried to turn it on we couldnt pull away from this club because they played so hard.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead seemed a little wistful over the missed opportunity to notch a road win.
It was a hard-fought game, Whitehead said. Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side of it, but I was proud of how our guys competed and played. We were pleased with how our guys were playing. We stuck to the game plan. We certainly had our chances to win it, and we defended pretty well.
The Terriers had the better of the chances for most of the first period. Darling fumbled a Shattenkirk shot at 1:10, but BU couldnt knock it in. Colby Cohen set up Jason Lawrence crashing the net at 3:25, but Darling stopped that one too. At 6:45, Wilson undressed Matt Duffy with a move but couldnt score on the subsequent shot.
Maines first chance came at 8:20 off a faceoff following an icing, when Keif Orsini threatened with a 12-foot backhander, only to have Millan split for a flashy glove snare. BUs Zach Cohen countered with a bid when Darling fell down trying to get back in the net when Joe Pereira got the puck behind the net, but Cohen couldnt really get good wood on it.
Then Maine stunned BU with a power play with 22.1 seconds left in the period. Matt Duffy took a right-point slap shot, and Tanner House redirect past Millan for the surprising lead.
BU temporarily gained momentum at the five-minute mark of period two, when two minutes of possession in the Maine zone led to a power play. That didnt lead to a goal, but the Terriers finally tied at 10:59. Colby Cohen passed to Colin Wilson behind the net, and the sophomore Hobey Baker candidate attempted to tee it up for Jason Lawrence in the slot. Lawrence fanned on the one-timer, but the puck went out to Shattenkirk at the point, and his high shot found the net.
BU had a few nominal shorthanded chances, and Wilson had some acrobatic moves to create some minor opportunities as well, but there was nothing doing for either team for the rest of the period.
Maine played some of their best hockey early in the third, testing Millan repeatedly. Brian Flynn broke in for a backhanded shot at 2:47, but Millan made the arm save. Then Robby Dee had a pair of opportunities just after the four minute mark as well.
BU slowly regained their composure, and Joe Pereira almost snuck one through a throng of players at 12:45.
Finally, a BU 5-on-3 made the difference–though the Terriers scored with just three seconds left on the two man advantage. Wilson was pivotal once again, nearly scoring on a back door attempt before teeing up Cohen with a cross-ice pass from the right wing circle to the left wing circle.
Great pass by Wilson, Cohen said. Just a one-timer: I was trying to go back to the side that Darling was coming from. Wilson has such good patience with the puck. He sends a perfect flat pass right in my wheelhouse. Youve got to give him most of the credit on that play.
It was great skill by Cohen, Whitehead said. Thats a long pass to one-time, and he one-timed it well. Its hard to hit the net under pressure with the one-timer.
It wasnt over yet. Once Maine pulled Darling, Black Bear forward Gustav Nyquist–the teams leading scorer–very nearly tied it in the waning seconds. We give up a three on one with 11 seconds to go because everybodys trying to get an open-net goal, and my defensemans got no stick trying to get it out of the zone, Parker said. They make a great play, and my goalie makes a fabulous save or else were still playing.
Whitehead was left scratching his head over the disparity in power plays.
I was a little surprised in the difference in power-play opportunities, Whitehead said. I have to watch the tape. I thought we were pretty disciplined, so I was surprised that they had eight power plays to our three.
Parker found the disparity explicable.
I know why we didnt get any power plays; we didnt touch anybody. They were banging the hell out of us, and when youre banging people you get the opportunity to have things called against you. That was the reason they got calls: They were physical, and we werent. But Id rather be physical to tell you the truth.
The teams face off for the second game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
It wasnt a great effort by us but in the same breath Maine had a really good game and probably deserved a better fate, Colby Cohen said. But in the end, we found a way to win, and thats what good teams do.
Youve got to give them credit, Parker said of the Black Bears. They came here to play the No. 1 team in the nation, and they certainly didnt make us look like the No. 1 team in the nation. They made us look very vulnerable and very even with them. I dont mean that we looked like the eighth team in the league: They looked like a terrific hockey team tonight in every area of the game.
I was disappointed that we didnt play with more emotion, with more zip, Parker added. We were very fortunate to get a W tonight.