By: Jake Reiser
BOSTON — Hockey East is known as one of the most competitive conferences in college hockey, and on Saturday afternoon, the No. 7/8 Boston University hockey team (2-1-0, 1-0-0) got its first taste of their division this year. Former Terrier commit Max Letunov and the University of Connecticut Huskies (2-2-0, 1-1-0 HE) rolled into Agganis Arena with the intention that they were the top dogs in the Hockey East, but it was the Terriers who emerged with a 4-2 victory.
The game got off to an early start when UConn’s Evan Richardson rung a post behind Sean Maguire just a minute into the first period.
At the end of a hard fought first period, Matt Lane threw a puck on net, and in a scramble, Ryan Cloonan buried a backhand shot to put BU up 1-0.
The Huskies tied it up five minutes into the second on a backhand roof shot by the almost Terrier Max Letunov, who was fed by a Kyle Huson pass that had him knifing through the Terrier defense. BU took then three penalties in the second period, two against Brandon Hickey, and through two, coach David Quinn was not satisfied with his team’s play.
“We weren’t ready early on for the pace, and I think as the first period went on, we started matching their pace and playing at the pace we need to play at, but I thought our puck management was incredibly sloppy tonight,” Coach Quinn said. “I thought we held onto [the puck] way too long. Through two periods, we were incredibly cute, which isn’t going to get us anywhere in this game.”
Cute doesn’t cut it for Quinn, and that reflected in the lineup when Ryan Cloonan was moved up to the top line with Ahti Oksanen and Danny O’Regan. Cloonan has proven himself so far this season on the stat sheet, as he currently leads the Terriers with four points along with Fortunato and O’Regan, and Quinn decided to give the young gun a shot on the first line.
But the next goal of the game came from another Class of 2019 member who is making an instant impact for the Terriers. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson scored his first collegiate goal on the power-play at 5:50 of the third period. “We knew a little bit of how they were playing, so we knew there was a lot of space down by the side of the net, so I tried to get it down to Danny there, and then he made a great pass and found me back, and I just tried to get it on net,” JFK said.
The other turning point for the Terriers came later in the third, when Spencer Naas took a five-minute major penalty for kneeing Bobo Carpenter in the neutral zone. Bobo came off the ice limping, but he came back later in the game to finish out the contest. He did have some difficulties after the game walking around, and his status will be updated as soon as possible.
Up until that penalty though, UConn Coach Cavanaugh thought his team had stayed in the game very well.
“I thought we played a really strong game for 40 minutes, right where we wanted to be,” Coach Cavanaugh said. “You know, a 1-1 game on the road against a top 10 ranked team, and I thought we were playing toe-to-toe with them.”
But on that critical power play, Brandon Fortunato pinched down low and, in a net-mouth scrum, took a cross-crease feed and tapped it into an empty net to put BU up 3-1.
The Huskies made it close, as with 23.6 seconds left with an extra man, Max Letunov scored his second goal of the game, again down low. Terrier fans have to be a bit disappointed to have the great white (Russian) buffalo known as Letunov leading his squad with 8 points on the season, and these two goals were personal testaments as to why UConn wanted to have him hop on the “Ice Bus” after he de-committed from Boston University.
“[Letunov]’s got a great skill set, hockey sense, he’s 6-ft-3 and he skates well, he sees the play he wants to make before he does it, it’s a skill you can’t teach, he’s obviously been an integral part of our team early on, and I think he’s only going to get better,” said Coach Cavanaugh.
But with that, Brandon Hickey banked a puck off of the glass and right into a yawning net to ice the game for the Terriers.
“This was a hard fought win, which most wins are in this league, and it’s nice to be 1-0,” said Coach Quinn.
The Terriers now travel to Hartford to take on the Huskies at XL Center on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.