Boston- On Saturday, November 18th, the Boston University Terriers dominated the Maine Black Bears 7-0 in Portland, ME. Since then, the Terriers have been inconsistent while Maine has corrected their course. BU went 2-3 since last facing Maine and either won big or lost narrowly.
Maine’s record since the 18th was 6-1-1, including an unbeaten December. While both teams entered 2018 with a .500 Hockey East record, BU was up in the standings with games in hand.
Both teams had goaltenders returning from the World Juniors, BU’s Jake Oettinger and Maine’s Jeremy Swayman. With each looking to get the new calendar year off to a good start, the teams faced off at Agganis Arena. Both goaltenders played well, but only Maine’s offense made much noise.
The opening frame was a tight goalie duel. Maine outshot BU 14-8, but the Terriers landed their share of shots with Shane Bowers and Brady Tkachuk testing Swayman early. The freshman from Anchorage stood his ground and his offense took some pressure off with time spent in the Bear’s offensive end.
Two minutes of four on four skating gave Maine their biggest shot advantage, but they could not beat Oettinger. BU got some opportunities on a power play following an Alexis Binner holding penalty. However, Boston did not get a shot on goal in the power play. The period ended with a reason for optimism on both sides, but scoreless.
BU started the second stanza hot, outshooting Maine 6-0 in the first three minutes of the frame. The Terriers used a power play to their advantage but did not score. At the five minute mark, the tide shifted. Brandon Hickey was called for an interference penalty.
On the ensuing power play, Maine crafted a transition play that ended with Nolan Vesey netting a Brendan Robbins pass for a 1-0 Maine lead.
The Black Bears kept up their attack and doubled the lead when Ryan Smith roofed a deflected Eduards Tralmaks pass just after the midway point of the period. BU tried to counter, but they committed three more penalties for a 2nd period total of four. Maine outshot BU 18-9, with BU limping into the dressing room down 2-0.
The third period opened with BU pressuring Maine for some shots and a Brady Keeper tripping penalty less than a minute into the period. The ensuing power play was BU’s weakest of the season. Patrick Harper and Chad Krys fumbled the puck in the neutral zone, Jack Quinlivan forced a turnover in the Terrier end, and BU did not get a single shot on goal.
Boston got another chance on the man advantage when Nolan Vesey sat for a slashing minor. The Terriers got chances, but Jeremy Swayman made all three saves on the power play.
Immediately after the advantage ended, Vesey got out of the box and created another Maine scoring chance. The senior from North Reading started a third transition play that went to Canon Pieper and then Brendan Robbins, who fired the puck by Oettinger for a 3-0 Black Bear lead. The Terriers tried to pot a goal late but opened 2018 with a scoreless effort, 3-0.
Jake Oettinger performed well with 34 saves but did not get help in front of him to stop the Bears. Head Coach David Quinn was angry with his team’s performance.
“They skated and competed and we didn’t. There was a casualness to our penalty kill. The power play was bad. They skated up ice and we stood. We stood and watched them skate by. I know we haven’t played in a month, but when you’re playing a hockey game, you’ve gotta skate and compete.” When asked about the root of his team’s inconsistencies, Quinn answered cryptically. “I’ve got a few theories, but I’d like to keep that to myself. There’s a lot going on here other than BU hockey.”
The Terriers drop to 8-11-1 overall and 6-7-1 in Hockey East. BU will have to sort out their inconsistencies before returning to the ice next weekend. BU travels to Durham, NH, to play the University of New Hampshire on Friday night and hosts Providence College on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 PM on Friday against the Wildcats and 5 PM on Saturday against the Friars.
Jeremy Swayman recorded his first collegiate shutout with a 31 save performance. Nolan Vesey recorded his third multi-point game of the season. Brendan Robbins notched his second multi-point game of the year and has points in three of the last four games. Head Coach Red Gendron was complimentary of the Black Bears’ evolution and progression after the game.
“It’s impossible to point to one thing as the cause for our development. We’ve gotten faster because we move the puck more effectively and spend so much less time in our end. We’ve started to build belief in our group and we’ve got some real talent to work with.”
Maine climbs to 11-7-1 overall and 5-4-1 in Hockey East. The Black Bears are on the road for a game against Brown University on Monday. Puck drops at 7 PM in Meehan Auditorium on Monday night.