DURHAM, N.H. — In a battle of early-season unbeaten rivals, New Hampshire scored a decisive win over Boston University, winning 4-1 after spotting the Terriers their lone goal in the opening minute.
Four different Wildcats scored in front of a sellout crowd and Casey DeSmith was solid in net, stopping 24 of 25 shots.
At the other end, BU freshman goaltender Sean Maguire struggled. Making his first collegiate appearance and trying to solidify his half of a rotation with fellow frosh Matt O’Connor following the graduation of Kieran Millan, Maguire lasted only 32:19. Despite being aided by three clanged posts, he gave up four goals on 14 shots.
“He was fighting the puck from the get-go,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “He looked nervous, a little up tight. I think his confidence level was way down; he didn’t look real sharp from the get-go.”
The win gives UNH an unblemished 3-0 record and its first victory within Hockey East, a sharp contrast with last year’s disastrous 0-4-1 start. The victory also came in all phases: the Wildcats got scoring from three of the four lines plus the blue line, recorded a power-play goal and killed all five BU power plays.
“I like the way the team came out tonight,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “We played a 60-minute hockey game, which we knew we’d have to do. We were very aggressive in our forecheck all over the ice and created some offense off the forecheck. We’re generating some good offense from all the lines.”
Prior to the contest, a moment of silence was held for former UNH assistant and Merrimack head coach Chris Serino, who passed away on Monday after a battle with throat cancer.
BU had won its only other game, a league win over Providence, but suffered not only from sub-par goaltending in the first half, but also a deficit in territorial play even after O’Connor played well in relief of Maguire.
“We didn’t play anywhere near the way we have to play in the defensive end from the goal out to the way we cover in our own zone,” Parker said. “We didn’t create any pressure on them from the second half of the game on. The shot [totals] don’t look too bad, but they controlled the game when they had to control it.”
BU stunned the crowd with a goal just 43 seconds in for its only lead of the game. Cason Hohmann broke up the right wing after a turnover and fed Wade Megan in the slot. A UNH defender had hustled back to mostly negate the two-on-one, but didn’t tie up Megan sufficiently to stop the goal from the doorstep.
After failing to capitalize on a two-on-one of its own, UNH tied it at 8:52 when John Henrion’s shot broke in off Maguire’s glove. Just 18 seconds later, another member of UNH’s pivotal junior class, Nick Sorkin, made it 2-1. Maguire gave up a juicy rebound of Sorkin’s shot after which the puck went behind the net. Connor Hardowa fed Sorkin, who scored from his knees.
With two minutes left in the first, Dalton Speelman and Henrion both hit posts within seconds of each other, proving for a short time the adage that the post is the goalie’s best friend.
In the opening minutes of the second, BU had perhaps its last, best opportunity when Matt Nieto missed on a golden opportunity, a rebound on the power play, after which Megan incurred a penalty to cancel out the last five seconds of the advantage. Seven seconds later, defenseman Eric Knodel beat Maguire over the shoulder from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-1.
At 6:42, fourth-liners Scott Pavelski and Matt Willows combined to make it a 4-1 UNH lead. Willows made a nice feed in front and Pavelski’s shot along the ice trickled through Maguire’s feet. When Grayson Downing also beat Maguire if not for another post, Parker had seen enough and yanked the freshman for O’Connor.
A sequence of three straight BU power plays late in the second and early in the third failed to produce a Terrier goal as was also the case with a five-minute major assessed to Greg Burke for head-butting with 3:12 left.