DURHAM, N.H. — Boston University gave New Hampshire only its second loss of the season and first on its home ice, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and then holding on for a 3-2 win.
It marked the second time in the Terriers’ last three games that they’ve toppled a No. 1 team in the country, having split a home-and-home series last weekend with then top-ranked Boston College.
The win keeps third-place BU within striking distance of the two top-ranked teams, four points behind BC and three behind UNH. The Terriers, however, have completed their season series with both teams, winning one of three.
“This UNH team is really a good team so for us to come up here and get a ‘W’ is terrific for us,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “It’s obviously great for the points, but it’s really good for our confidence because this is a really solid team.”
Freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor stopped 31 of 33 UNH shots. Wade Megan, Sahir Gill and Sam Kurker scored for BU in the opening 30 minutes before UNH came back behind goals from Kevin Goumas and John Henrion.
“We’re a young team,” Parker said. “We’re young in goal, we’ve got two freshmen defensemen, a bunch of freshmen forwards playing and key sophomores playing really well for us.
“This team is playing certainly up to its capabilities right now and maybe a little above it given the lack of experience. We’re still in third place because those two teams, BC and UNH, are the best two teams in the league, [but] we just closed the gap a little point-wise and we certainly closed the gap in our mind as far as who we think we are vis-a-vis those two teams.”
The Terriers will close out their first half of the season by hosting Maine on Saturday, while the Wildcats are now done until after the holiday break.
Despite the loss, UNH coach Dick Umile felt good about his team’s comeback attempt as well as its first half.
“Obviously spotting BU three goals isn’t a very good formula,” he said. “But I liked the way we competed. They’re as good [a team] as we’ve faced.
“But it’s still a good first half. We just need to trust each other over the break here and come back and start off the second half the way we started off the first half.”
Megan opened the scoring off a scrum in front of the net at 4:39 of the first period. Cason Hohmann passed from behind the net to Matt Grzelcyk at the left point. The rookie fired and the senior captain whacked in the rebound.
Grayson Downing followed with a great four-on-four breakaway opportunity, but defenseman Alexx Privitera got back to disrupt him enough to force a whiff. Privitera headed to the penalty box for hooking, but the Terrier penalty killers got the job done on the four-on-three, five-on-three and five-on-four that ensued.
At 4:01 of the second, Hohmann set up BU’s second goal on a partial two-on-one. The sophomore, one of the most improved players in Hockey East this season, slid the puck from the left wing to Gill, who backhanded it in.
Nick Sorkin threatened to close the gap as a penalty was being called on BU, but even though his shot from the left doorstep got through O’Connor’s five hole, it still went wide.
Four minutes after Gill’s goal, Kurker made it 3-0. Wesley Myron won the faceoff clean on the left side and Kurker fed Ahti Oksanen on the far point. Oksanen fired high off the back glass and the puck caromed to Kurker who had moved to the slot. Kurker’s shot, part changeup and part knuckleball, somehow found its way into the back of the net.
UNH rallied back with a Goumas power-play goal. Sorkin backhanded a shot from the left of the net that went clean through to Goumas on the other side. Goumas fired into the open near side before O’Connor could scramble to close the gaping hole.
A minute later, UNH went another power play and had the home crowd roaring, but the BU penalty killers, led by Ben Rosen, foiled the opportunity.
The Terriers couldn’t take advantage of their chances to put UNH away as Matt Nieto hit the post in the final minute of the second and Megan couldn’t convert a nice feed from Hohmann on a two-on-one midway through the third.
Sure enough, Henrion made it a 3-2 game with eight minutes remaining. Justin Agosta shot from the top of the right faceoff circle and the rebound went to Henrion in the middle of the left circle. The goal was his fifth of the year.
UNH went on the power play with 2:07 remaining and with 1:26 left Umile pulled goaltender Casey DeSmith for a six-on-four advantage, but New Hampshire couldn’t manage the equalizer.