Just over three weeks ago, Boston University’s home ice and national tournament hopes appeared to be on life support. With a 7-8-2 overall record and a 5-6-1 mark in Hockey East action, the Terriers were the definitive inconsistent team.
Since then, they have been the most consistent team in the nation-at least in the wins column.
BU extended its nation’s-best win streak to seven games with a 3-1 win over a tenacious Massachusetts team in front of a sellout crowd of 6,156 at Agganis Arena. Terrier junior John Curry stopped 25 of 26 Minutemen, and the second line of Peter MacArthur, Kenny Roche, and Bryan “Boomer” Ewing scored all three goals and seven of the game’s nine points.
Impressive freshman Chris Davis scored the lone goal for UMass-a shorthanded tally-and the Minutemen also received an excellent effort between the pipes by senior Gabe Winer, who stopped 35 of 38 shots one night after setting the all-time record for games played by a UMass goalie (109).
Terrier coach Jack Parker acknowledged that the team experienced a letdown after knocking off No. 1 Boston College with a stirring road effort the night before.
“I was very concerned about this game after last night’s game, and maybe it was self-fulfilling prophecy, but I don’t think we played as well as we should have played,” Parker said. “I think we played okay in the first period. I thought Massachusetts outskated us, outbumped us, and played harder than we did-I’d say for most of the game. We were fortunate we got the 2-0 lead; we were fortunate that they didn’t get two goals in the second period.
“I thought John Curry played great. The three stars in my mind were John Curry, John Curry, and John Curry. That’s why it was a struggle because we didn’t play as hard as UMass did; we didn’t match their intensity.”
Minuteman coach Don “Toot” Cahoon was in good spirits about his team’s effort in the loss, and he gave BU more credit for their effort than Parker did.
“Both teams came to play, and obviously it’s a credit to the kids because BU’s coming off a huge win last night at BC-a very emotional game and a huge rival-and we’re coming a hard-fought game and a tough loss,” Cahoon said. “These kids are amazing in the way they regenerate themselves and get themselves going.
“The difference in the game was the number of penalties we took-not that we didn’t do a good job killing those penalties because we did. Winer made the saves that he needed to make, but we expended an awful lot of energy with key personnel trying to kill those penalties. I think that hurt us in terms of generating some offensive production.”
BU came out with good jump in their skates, but four UMass penalties in the first frame certainly didn’t hurt their cause. The Terriers dominated territorially but couldn’t score on any of the power plays.
“I’ve got to give Toot and his team a lot of credit,” Parker said. “I saw them beat us and saw them win their last game against UNH, and this is a team that I would not want to play in the playoffs because they’ve got a great skating team and they compete, and they’re obviously very well coached.
“We had a lot of power-play chances in the first period, and Toot added a wrinkle to their PK, and they shut us down. We had a lot of shots, but they weren’t the shots that we wanted to take. I thought they did a great job of killing penalties, and that kind of frustrated us.”
BU finally took the lead at 14:08. MacArthur shot an innocuous-looking wrister from high in the right-wing faceoff circle, and Roche slid the rebound in low under Winer. Otherwise, the four BU power plays and one UMass power play generally featured consistent pressure but no scoring.
“It absolutely could’ve been 3-0 or 4-0 at the end of the first, but it wasn’t,” Parker said. “That’s what I’m always concerned about with this club: They can get easily satisfied. It’s a 60-minute game, not a 20-minute game.”
Despite getting outskated in the second period, BU made it 2-0 at 7:59 on a combination of good skating by Ewing and a lucky carom. The right winger picked up a loose puck high in the offensive zone and did a good job to keep it in the zone. Skating around the right point, Ewing fired the puck toward MacArthur in the slot-only to have the puck bounce off the skate of Minuteman defenseman David Leaderer and into the net.
UMass came close to getting one back at 14:25 when a Matt Anderson backhander bounced off Curry and slid through the crease, but Eric Thomassian cleared the puck to avert disaster.
On the ropes while shorthanded at 7:03 in the third period, UMass surprised the Terriers with a goal.
“Great play by Matt Anderson-knocking the puck down and then finding Davis on a quick transition skate,” Cahoon said. “Sent him in, and I didn’t expect to see that move from Chris to be honest with you-kind of a nifty backhand, five-hole dribble. It’s not something he’s shown me in practice, so obviously he’s got some other tricks up his sleeve.”
The Terriers countered with a goal that sealed it at 13:07. Roche won a faceoff in the attacking zone, and the puck found its way back to senior Jekabs Redlihs at the left point. He floated a wrister that MacArthur redirected in to make it 3-2.
“Ironic that we got a goal off a faceoff,” Parker said. “It was unbelievable how UMass won so many faceoffs. Important faceoffs. We might have won some at center ice, but it seems like they won all the big faceoffs.”
A five-on-three for UMass made it interesting in the last four minutes, but Kevin Schaeffer blocked two big shots, and the score never changed again.
“It was a huge weekend,” Curry said. “I think the hardest part was after that emotional win last night to get refocused for tonight. That was hard, even for me. During the day, I just kept thinking about last night-how big a win it was and how cool it was for the seniors. But this UMass team is a lot better than last year’s UMass team. They’ve got a lot of good forwards, and they create offense.”
UMass (9-15-0, 6-11-0 Hockey East) hosts BC on Friday before playing at Lowell on Saturday. BU (14-8-2, 12-6-1) travels to UMass-Lowell on Friday night before playing Harvard in the Beanpot’s later game on the following Monday night.
“We’re back from the dead at 12-6-1,” Parker said.