BOSTON, Mass. — Maine was unlucky on Friday the 13th, and had good reason to beware the Ides of March Sunday night.
After outplaying No. 1 Boston University for the first two games of the series — despite a loss in Friday’s first game — the Black Bears were trounced 6-2 by the Terriers in Sunday’s decisive game three of the Hockey East quarterfinals in front of 3,642 at Agganis Arena.
BU’s second line led the way with six points, including a goal and an assist each for Nick Bonino and Brandon Yip. Kieran Millan looked sharp in the net with 24 saves after a shaky night on Saturday. Spencer Abbott and Gustav Nyquist scored for Maine.
“In general, I thought we came out with a lot of energy and intensity in the first period,” Terrier coach Jack Parker said. “We came after them pretty good — scored right off the bat. I thought that the biggest goal of the game was our second goal. When they had scored to make it 1-1, we scored right after that. We answered pretty quickly and then answered again. Those two goals turned it around for us and gave us a lot of confidence.”
Meanwhile, Maine coach Tim Whitehead was talking bull after the game. “It reminded me a bit of a bullfight,” Whitehead said. “Everyone’s here, and they kind of know what’s going to happen. Some people were hoping that maybe the bull might get the matador, but not tonight. The bull got a piece of him last night, and I guess that’s why people come back to the games — you never know what’s going to happen.
“We got close. They had a near escape the first night, and we got them the second night, but I thought the matador was very sharp and finished off the bullfight tonight.”
After taking a beating Saturday, the Terriers didn’t waste any time getting going with a goal 58 seconds into play. Co-captain John McCarthy carried the puck over the blue line on the left-wing side before dropping it to fellow senior Yip trailing the play. Yip crossed it to Colby Cohen entering the zone at the far point, and the sophomore defenseman unleashed a blistering slapshot that beat Maine goalie Scott Darling high on the glove side.
Soon afterward, it came to light that while the Terriers had dressed six defensemen, only five were playing regularly until the third period. Steve Smolinsky had a few costly turnovers the night before, and Parker opted to rotate his five healthy defensemen with Brian Strait still out of the lineup with a knee injury.
“There’s no question we were sloppy last night and out of character,” Parker said of his defensemen’s play. “That’s a strength of our team is our defense. I thought we did a good job with that tonight.”
BU was firing on all cylinders as the period progressed. Maine had a pair of shorthanded two-on-ones in the sixth minute, but otherwise the action was dominated by the Terriers. That almost changed at 12:19 when BU narrowly averted disaster. Jeff Dimmen drove at the net from the right-wing circle, and his sharp-angle shot got through Millan as the netminder went down. Cohen was the defensive hero this time, stopping the puck right on the goal line with his skate.
The Maine players raised their sticks, but referee John Gravellese’s view of the play was obstructed by a skater. The video review was inconclusive, and it was ruled no goal. The play was reminiscent of Cohen’s game-saving save in game one of last season’s quarterfinals against Lowell.
BU failed to dodge the next bullet, exactly two minutes later. With one second remaining on a power play, Spencer Abbott beat Millan with a shot from the left-wing circle to tie it up. The goal was Maine’s sixth in 11 power-play attempts to that point in the series.
BU regained the lead with a gritty goal at 16:05. McCarthy outbattled a defender for a puck behind the goal line and slipped it to Bonino on the edge of the crease. The centerman fought off another Black Bear and backhanded a pass to Yip at the far side of the crease, where the winger knocked it in while falling down.
Twenty-nine seconds later, the Terriers kicked the Bears while they were down, thanks to the BU fourth line. Luke Popko teed up a David Warsofsky shot from the left point, and Joe Pereira redirected it slightly. The puck trickled through Darling to make it 3-1.
BU’s freshmen had been looking their best in quite a few games and finally joined the scoring party midway through period two. Chris Connolly rushed in on the right wing and tried to find Vinny Saponari crashing the net. The puck went through him, but Corey Trivino was hustling to the far post and tapped it in.
After two minutes and change more, it was 5-1. Matt Gilroy made a great read, getting the puck deep in his own end and firing a 100-foot pass off the boards to get it around a defender and send Zach Cohen over the blue line for a breakaway resulting in a shot and score from the left-wing side.
If there was any doubt remaining, Bonino sealed it with a four-on-four goal at 15:04 of the second stanza. He took the puck away from Brian Flynn at the blue line for a breakaway, losing the handle near the net, only to have the puck drift through Darling.
With the score out of hand, the third period was largely uneventful. Kevin Shattenkirk made a terrific defensive play for a takeaway that thwarted one of Maine’s better chances at 6:15. Shattenkirk also made a highlight-reel move for a near goal and the drawing of a penalty at 14:11. For Maine, Nyquist scored an academic goal in the last few minutes.
The only downer for the Terriers tonight was the power play. Over the course of the weekend, Maine went seven for 15 with the man advantage, while BU was an abysmal one for 19. Sunday they went oh for six with just one shot on goal all night on the power play.
“The absolute only negative thing for us was our inability power play,” Parker said. “Once again they did a good job killing penalties, and we did a bad job moving the puck. We’ve been oh for the season it seems lately, so we’ve got to get that straightened out.”
Thus the season ended for Maine (13-22-4). “Friday’s still a tough pill to swallow,” Whitehead said. “We felt we played a very good game and did everything we can do … If you told us we’d win the special teams game on the weekend, well, that’s a good step. It’s not the whole thing, but it’s a positive.” Whitehead also praised Darling’s play and felt that his numerous freshmen and sophomores obtained invaluable experience in the three-game series.
Meanwhile, perhaps BU got a needed wake-up call after some rather ordinary play of late. “I think we knew it was win or go home [tonight],” Bonino said. “We played with urgency tonight and just pushed the tempo of the whole game. I think that was the key to get by Maine … We kind of thought were going to the Garden Friday night, and that’s not acceptable. The seniors called us out on it, and everyone buckled down.”
Now the Terriers (29-6-4) will indeed go the Garden, where they will attempt to pull off their first 30-win season since 1995-96 when they face archrival Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals.