Terriers sink River Hawks, 5-1

LOWELL, Mass. — The No. 5/6 Boston University Terriers put to rest any concerns about them only playing close games when they dropped a 5-1 pounding on the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks on Friday night to remain undefeated.

The Terriers came into the game with a 4-0-1 record, but all four of their wins had been by a lone goal. And given the fact that their last three games were a tie against Massachusetts and two narrow escapes against Massachusetts and Providence, there was reason to question just how good this BU team was.

The Terriers answered that question with an exclamation point tonight. Three goals in a 3:11 span early in the second gave them what proved to be an insurmountable 4-0 lead.

“It’s really nice [to finally win by more than a goal], especially on the road” said junior co-captain Chris Connolly. “We’ve been pretty good on the road, which is good because those are usually the hard ones to get.”

With BU up 1-0 after one, Connolly doubled the lead 1:59 into the second when he redirected a shot from the point past UML goalie Marc Boulanger (15 saves) for his second goal of the season. A little more than two minutes later, defenseman Adam Clendening banked a shot off the end boards and forward Corey Trivino was able to corral the puck off the bounce and slip it inside the left post for his first of the year.

Less than a minute later, freshmen Sahir Gill and Charlie Coyle broke in 2-on-1. Gill made a nice pass to Coyle and the San Jose Sharks first-round selection roofed a shot over Boulanger’s glove for his third goal.

While BU’s offense showed what it was capable of, so too did its defense and goaltending. The Terriers killed off all five of UML’s power plays and have now held their opponents to just one goal on their last 29 man-up tries.

Of course, the penalty kill wouldn’t be nearly as effective without good goaltending, and Kieran Millan has been that and more for BU this season. He stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced Friday night to improve to 4-0-1 on the season and he has now stopped 66 of 68 shots over his last two games. Just like last Saturday, only a late goal derailed his shutout bid.

“Obviously we can do as well as we can, but Kieran’s playing amazing back there,” Trivino said. “The key to a penalty kill is not just strategy, it’s how your goalie plays. And he’s playing really well.”

BU didn’t just play defense while shorthanded Friday night, though. It also scored. Twice. With 2:29 remaining in the first, David Warsofsky jumped up on a rush to start a 2-on-1. He threaded a pass under a defender’s stick right to Alex Chiasson, who easily found the back of the cage with a one-timer.

The Terriers’ fifth goal was also shorthanded. Connolly forced a turnover at center ice and sprung Gill on a breakaway. The rookie displayed his deft stickhandling skills with a nifty forehand-backhand deke that allowed him to calmly slide the puck through Boulanger’s five-hole.

“When Sahir Gill went in, I knew he was gonna score because he’s just got great hands. He undressed the goaltender,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Those goals were mostly just pure, unadulterated skill.”

The defense also continued to do a great job getting in shooting lanes, blocking 21 shots on the night. The Terriers have now blocked more than 20 shots in each of their last two games, something that’s largely a result of a new defensive zone system that emphasizes packing it in out front and forcing teams to shoot from the perimeter rather than the grade-A area.

“The new defensive scheme allows us to block a lot of shots, which is good, but that only matters if the guys are willing to do it,” Connolly said. “It’s pretty obvious as of late that guys don’t have a problem stepping in front of pucks.”

The Terriers and River Hawks meet again Saturday night at BU’s Agganis Arena at 7 p.m.

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