BOSTON — Going into the second period, No. 3 Denver trailed No. 8 Boston University by a score of 1-0, but had to feel optimistic. The Pioneers had outshot the Terriers 17-11 in the first period and began the second stanza on the power play.
The game appeared to be on the verge of a turning point.
And it was. Just not as the Pioneers might have imagined.
BU scored two shorthanded goals 43 seconds apart and added another goal within the first three minutes to take a 3-0 lead. Denver rallied with three goals in a hold-onto-your-hats third period, but never recovered from that outburst, losing 4-3 in front of 5,930 at Agganis Arena.
Corey Trivino and Matt Nieto each scored their third goal in three games for the Terriers, who got goals from five different forwards. Drew Shore stood out for the Pioneers with a goal and an assist.
“First of all, it was a hell of a game for us, and the third period was a hell of a game to watch for the fans,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “I thought the game was physical. I thought the game was up and down. Our goaltender (Kieran Millan) played great and we took advantage of a couple of mishaps on the shorthanded goals. It was 1-0 and then all of a sudden it was 3-0. That was the turning point in the game, I thought.
“Then the next turning point in the game was when we got selfish and stupid in the end trying to get an empty-net goal instead of making sure they didn’t score. But once they made it 4-3, we competed really hard.”
For Denver coach George Gwozdecky, the weekend was an opportunity to test his team against two great Hockey East programs in Boston College and Boston University. The split decision was instructive.
“I’m glad we had a weekend like we did where we played two great opponents,” Gwozdecky said. “Certainly, the Terriers were the better team tonight in a lot of areas. Certainly the second period was critical for them and for us.
“The biggest thing in my mind is we had a chance to evaluate our team in some pretty challenging situations last night and tonight. We’ve got a power play that goes 0-for-9 or 0-for-10 and gives us a couple of shorties. We thought that (the power play) was going to be a strength and I still think it’s going to be a strength of ours. Certainly we didn’t show it this weekend.”
BU took a 1-0 lead on a four-on-four goal in the first, when Cason Hohmann flipped a neutral-zone pass to Alex Chiasson zooming across the blue line for a breakaway and a goal.
“Certainly we played a lot looser defensively than we did last night,” Gwozdecky said.
Nineteen seconds into the second period, BU scored their first shorthanded goal on a mistake by goalie Adam Murray. The netminder got the puck behind his goal line and attempted to bank it off the back boards to a waiting defenseman, but he got poor wood on the puck. Trivino swooped around him and tucked in a wraparound before Murray could cover the far post.
“I don’t think there’s any question that our best player up and down the lineup was Corey Trivino,” Parker said. “He was absolutely fabulous and he’s having a great start to this year. He’s just what we want him to be.”
Just 43 seconds after Trivino’s goal, BU struck again while still a man down. Charlie Coyle made a beautiful saucer pass to Nieto to break him in alone for a backhander and a goal.
“BU did a real good job of transitioning against us,” Gwozdecky said. “Many times they caught us chasing instead of fronting them.”
Less than two minutes later, BU made it 4-0 when an Adam Clendening shot was blocked by traffic, only to have Wade Megan bury it in the slot.
The Terriers now have outscored the opposition by a 7-0 margin in the second period this season.
That hasn’t been the story in the third period.
Denver got their first goal at 6:01 on a wraparound by Luke Salazar. Then BU goalie Millan gave the Pioneers a gift, yielding a goal on a shot from outside the blue line by John Lee.
Denver pulled their goalie early for the extra attacker and BU seemed to get distracted trying to get the empty-netter. This led to a few bad reads and a goal by Drew Shore to make the last two minutes much more interesting than Terriers fans would’ve liked.
The Pioneers called a timeout in the waning seconds and then promptly won an offensive-end draw, only to have the play whistled for a Denver holding penalty that had the DU bench up in arms.
Beau Bennett briefly tugged on the arm of a BU defender, impeding him momentarily, but Parker noted afterwards that these calls were a new point of emphasis this year because such interference had “crept into the game.”
BU (2-1-0) will try to continue their nonconference success with a home game against Holy Cross next Saturday, while Denver (1-1-0) opens their WCHA schedule with a home pair against Minnesota State next weekend.