By: Dave Souza
BOSTON — A season ago the Boston University men’s hockey team struggled to produce on the power play, ranking 23rd nationally after converting at a 19.4 percent. With this year’s campaign beginning so early, the Terriers had little time to prepare their special teams, practicing their power play just once during the week. However, BU was able to turn that limited practice into meaningful goals in their home opener against Union, as they defeated the Dutchmen, 4-1 on Saturday night, thanks to a pair of power-play scores.
“Last year we struggled a lot [on the man-advantage] because we held on to the puck too long, and we weren’t getting shots off,” said sophomore defenseman Dante Fabbro. “The mentality this year is shoot the puck, find those seams no matter what, just get the rebounds and keep attacking the net.”
Deadlocked at one in the last half of the third period, the Terriers (1-0) found the back of the net for the second time in five power-play opportunities thanks to a slap shot from Fabbro.
The sophomore held the puck at the left point before making a cross-ice pass to classmate Patrick Harper, who sent it right back to Fabbro for the one-timer. Ripping a clapper from the point, Fabbro’s wicked shot beat Union’s Jake Kupsky over his right shoulder for the game-winner.
“We made a switch in-between the second and third [periods] with putting me and Patrick on opposite sides here, and it worked out,” added Fabbro.
The win came from a combination of speed and strength that the Terriers showed flashes of throughout the course of the game. Turning up the pace of the game allowed BU to maintain possession and generate more scoring chances. And while the Terriers took seven penalties, their physical play helped them dictate the game along with a strong net-front presence from Jordan Greenway and Brady Tkachuk.
“I really liked our pace, [and] I thought there was a physicality to us for the most part that I think will benefit us moving forward,” surmised Terrier Coach David Quinn. “I thought we played a better north-south game than in the past and our power play was good.”
“It was a great win for us.”
Harper’s contributions for the night did not stop at his game-winning assist. The sophomore forward also scored the first goal of the game and the season for BU – for the second consecutive year – while adding a backbreaking empty-net goal late in the third.
Down 1-0 with just over six minutes remaining in the opening frame, Harper collected a rebound off of an initial Nikolas Olsson shot and backhanded it into the cage to even the score. Then, with the game winding down, Harper sprung past defenseman J.C Brassard and threw the puck into the empty net to seal the first win of the year for BU.
When Kupsky was between the pipes for Union (0-1), he was near impossible to beat. The junior made 39 saves in the contest, and repeatedly kept his team in the game with a flurry of big saves both on the penalty kill and at even strength. Union coach Rick Bennet called Kupsky his best player on the ice while Quinn told of how the goaltender continued to frustrate his team’s offense.
“I know some of our guys were coming back to the bench shaking their head, wondering how we didn’t score,” Quinn said. “He’s a really good goalie at this level for sure.”
One particular save in the third period had almost all of Agganis Arena shaking their collective heads as a sprawling Kupsky made a sensational pad save with Shane Bowers at the doorstep on the power play. The net minder kicked his left leg just in time to stymie Bowers point-blank backhander, preserving the then 1-1 tie.
At the other end of the ice, sophomore goalie Jake Oettinger again held strong in net for the Terriers, making 31 saves on 32 shots. His lone blemish came just over the 10-minute mark in the first period, when junior Brett Supinski collected an Anthony Rinaldi pass in the high slot and wristed it past Oettinger’s right side for the only Union lead of the night. The goal came on the penalty kill for BU, an area that Coach Quinn says he was disappointed in on Saturday.
Bowers, making his Terrier debut, rounded out the scoring with his first collegiate goal, BU’s second empty-netter of the contest. The tally came with 10 seconds remaining in the game.
The Terriers will return to the ice tomorrow in an exhibition game against Prince Edward Island. Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. at Agganis Arena.