By: Jake Reiser
BOSTON — Two things that have plagued BU’s hockey team this season so far are slow starts and letting go of leads. Last night, BU suffered the former, letting Merrimack take a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the game, and losing 4-3. Tonight, it was the latter, but the Terriers (3-3-0) fought back to beat the Denver University Pioneers (3-3-0) 5-4 in overtime.
In fact, the Terriers had one of the quickest starts of their season against Denver on Saturday. Matt Lane tried to send a shot on Denver’s starting net-minder Tanner Jaillet, but ended up sending a centering pass to Ryan Cloonan, who chipped it into the net for a 1-0 BU lead just two minutes into the game.
Just over halfway through the first, Will Butcher came in on an odd-man rush and wristed the puck past BU starter Connor LaCouvee to even the score at 1-1.
The tie would only last about seven minutes until Robbie Baillargeon tipped in a centering pass from a spin-o-rama feed by A.J. Greer, and the score would end up 2-1 Terriers after twenty minutes.
Brandon Hickey would add to the Terriers’ lead as a power play expired, streaking up ice past the Pioneer defense, then sending a soft backhander over the far side shoulder of Jaillet 7:09 into the second to make it 3-1 Terriers.
That would be the night for Jalliet, as Coach Montgomery sent senior Evan Cowley to tend the rest of the game for the Pioneers. The change was felt immediately by Denver as the Pioneers began to skate with more confidence in front of Cowley.
Denver forward Gabe Levin would follow up a rebound chance almost two minutes after the Hickey goal to make it a 3-2 game, but again, the Terriers were quick to answer.
Finnish forward Ahti Oksanen would find the back of the net for the first time this season on a pass from Danny O’Regan to give the Terriers a two goal lead once again.
The third period is where BU ran into problems, and Denver, a team desperate for a win after losing last minute to BC the night before, clawed back into the game. Troy Terry followed up his own shot to cut the BU lead to one 4:46 into the third,
The Pioneers then took a penalty soon after Terry’s goal. A normally potent BU power play, the unit turned totally negative, as Quentin Shore dissected BU the defense, tying the game at 12:07.
Coach Quinn and the Terriers stood their ground for the rest of the period, largely in thanks to Connor LaCouvee.
“The story in the third period was our goalie,” Coach Quinn said after the game. “I thought he was outstanding.”
The game would head to overtime, and it was Oksanen once again, wristing a shot past Cowley to seal a 5-4 overtime victory.
“I’d say I’ve hit close to 10 posts this season, it’s been really frustrating,” Oksanen said. “But I haven’t thought about hitting posts the last couple of games and I’ve been just worrying about playing well.”
BU played the game with only five defensemen, John MacLeod was not in the line-up after playing well last night, and Shane Switzer, who was scheduled to be in the line-up before the game, didn’t see the ice during any game play. But Coach Quinn still believes this team defense is strong, and is finally looking closer to last year’s team.
“The first few games we were playing, we tried to do a little bit too much, trying to get a little too offensive, trying to run out of our position,” defenseman Brandon Hickey said. “But I think the last few games, we’ve settled it down, focused on good team defense, good solid sticks, but also being tough to play against in the corners, and winning our one-on-one battles, and I think that goes a long way.”
With that said, a key cog in the Terrier defense and team leadership should be back very soon according to Coach Quinn. Matt Grzelyck, who had knee surgery before the season started, is very close to coming back.
“Not sure what weekend he’ll be back, but I expect him to be back in the next few weekends,” said Quinn.
Coach Quinn was optimistic after the game, saying, “It’s certainly nice to get a win and bounce back after last night.”
The Terriers have a home-at-home series next Friday and Saturday against Hockey East and Beanpot foe Northeastern Huskies (1-5-1, 0-1-1 HEA).