By: Jarett Leonard
BOSTON – After Boston University’s blowout win over UMass-Lowell heading into the first-half break, it seemed as though the Terriers had finally turned a corner, but the team’s inconsistencies may have carried over to the new year.
Even with goaltender Jake Oettinger and forwards Brady Tkachuk and Patrick Harper back with BU after playing in the World Junior Championship, the Terriers (8-11-1, 6-7-1 Hockey East) showed signs of rust, falling 3-0 to the University of Maine (11-7-1, 5-4-1 Hockey East) on Saturday night.
“We haven’t played in a month and I know that,” BU Head Coach David Quinn said. “You’re playing a hockey game, you got to skate and compete. I don’t care how long you’ve been off the ice from a game standpoint, that’s who you are, that’s what you’ve got to do. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.”
After a scoreless first period in which the team’s traded odd-man rushes and scoring chances, Maine used four second-period power plays to grab control of the game.
On the first man advantage, Tim Doherty entered the zone and found Brendan Robbins in the right circle, who evaded the pressure of Chad Krys to swing the puck in front to Nolan Vesey, and he beat Oettinger from the slot to put the Black Bears in front.
Though Vesey’s goal was Maine’s only power play tally of the game, the Black Bears garnered 14 shots over their four man-advantage chances, and untimely penalties stymied the Terrier offense in the middle frame.
“We had pucks on our sticks and didn’t clear it,” Quinn said. “The power play was just as bad as its been all year. The list goes on and it’s the same exact reasons. We just didn’t skate and we didn’t compete.”
Later in the second, Patrick Holway led Eduards Tralmaks into the zone with a long indirect pass. Tralmaks pulled up in the left corner and fed Ryan Smith, who deflected the puck perfectly over Oettinger’s right shoulder to extend Maine’s lead to two.
Brendan Robbins sealed the win in the third period, burying a feed from Canon Pieper on a two-on-one rush.
“They skated up ice and we stood there,” Quinn said of Maine’s success in transition. “We stand and watch and they skate by you.”
The goaltending matchup featured two players who were teammates just hours before the game, as Maine’s Jeremy Swayman and BU’s Jake Oettinger won bronze with the United States team at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. Swayman recorded 31 saves for his first career shutout while Oettinger turned aside 34 of the 37 shots he saw.
Tkachuk, Harper and Oettinger all played Saturday despite competing in the tournament with Team U.S.A. on Friday. Defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo also returned after Finland was eliminated on Tuesday while defenseman Dante Fabbro, who won gold with Team Canada, did not dress for the Terriers.
The win kept Maine unbeaten in its last eight games (7-0-1) and pushed the Black Bears’ winning streak to six games. Maine also captured the season series with BU after the two teams split a weekend set in November.
“It’s impossible to point to one thing,” Maine Head Coach Red Gendron said of his team’s recent success. “Between leadership and talent, you start to build a little bit of belief, and I think the team plays pretty well toward its identity.”
Like BU’s loss to Maine in Orono on Nov. 17 in which they went 0-for-6 on the power play, the Terriers were 0-for-4 on the man advantage, and while the Black Bears used their chances to build momentum, BU failed to gain any traction on its opportunities.
The season series between the two teams highlights BU’s ups-and-downs this year, as Maine won the first game 5-2 before the Terriers ran away with a 7-0 win in game two, and Quinn was asked if he could explain BU’s inconsistencies this season.
“I’ve got a few theories but I prefer to keep them to myself,” Quinn said. “A lot going on here. A lot going on other than BU hockey.”
BU will have another test next weekend as the Terriers travel to Durham for a meeting with No. 20 New Hampshire on Friday before hosting No. 11 Providence on Saturday.