Men’s Hockey: Scrambled lines get much-needed win

BOSTON – After 158 minutes and one second of scoreless hockey, the Terriers (5-6-5, 3-3-4 HEA) finally found the back of the net 1:21 into their Dec. 3 match with the No. 12/9 Harvard Crimson (6-2, 6-0 ECAC), a 5-2 BU win.

“It was nice to score a couple goals,” head coach Albie O’Connell said after the game. “We got off to a really good start. And I’m happy for the guys. They played hard, and they really earned the win. … It’s a huge win. [Harvard] is a really good hockey team, and I thought we had pretty good stretches where we had control of the game.”

The feeling of the game was different right from the announcement of the starters, as Coach O’Connell switched up his forward lines, taking captain Patrick Curry off of a line with Trevor Zegras and Patrick Harper for the first time all season. Curry started with freshmen Ethan Phillips and Robert Mastrosimone, while Jamie Armstrong took Curry’s usual spot and Matthew Quercia skated on the third line with Sam Stevens and Alex Brink.

“We wanted to see if we could get a little more balance between the lines,” O’Connell said. “[The players] were pretty happy with it. I think they wanted a little bit of a shake-up. Each line got a little bit more spice on it.”

A funny side effect of O’Connell jumbling the lines was that each member of the de facto “top” line was an alum of Avon Old Farms, a Terrier tidbit that was not lost on anyone.

“I mean, we were joking all game,” Zegras said. “Obviously, three Avon Old Farms guys is pretty funny. And Armstrong, he’s a character. Having him out there playing that role in front of the net, that hard-nosed game, was pretty fun.”

The AOF Line, as it was called, got the scoring started when Harper picked the pocket of Harvard defenseman Jack Rathbone on the forecheck and hit Zegras crashing to the net. All the 2019 No. 9 pick had to do was go backhand to forehand to beat Cameron Gornet in goal to give his team the lead.

BU got a power play opportunity a minute later, but sloppy play in the offensive zone led to a 3-on-2 Crimson break. Junior Reilly Walsh filled the lane and found an opening in the slot. He got a feed from Harvard captain Nathan Krusko and flicked the puck past Sam Tucker to tie the game at one apiece 2:43 into the contest.

The next few minutes saw Domenick Fensore go off the ice with a leg injury that O’Connell called “just a bruise” post game and Mastrosimone tip in an off-target shot from Phillips that gave the Terriers the lead going into the first intermission.

BU points leader David Farrance (10-11-21) got the secondary assist on Mastrosimone’s goal, and he gave Patrick Curry the primary helper on the second period’s only score. With an extra attacker on the ice, Curry took a cross-ice pass to the left faceoff dot and blasted a drive from one knee past Gornet’s outstretched glove.

“He’s always had the ability,” O’Connell said about Farrance. “He’s just become a lot more seasoned. He’s a lot more confident. … He’s playing both ends, and he’s been good on the bench. He’s really maturing in front of everyone’s eyes. It’s really nice to see for him and the team.”

The Terriers got one last insurance goal when Cam Crotty found the back of the net with a knuckling one-timer at 5:09 in the third period. To hear the assistant captain describe it: “The forwards were grinding down low for a while. We had good zone time. Jamie slid a puck out into the slot. I grabbed it, then one touch and into the net.”

Sean Driscoll took a cross checking penalty with just over six minutes remaining. That power play, Harvard’s fourth of the night, was the lone success with the man advantage for either team.

Jack Drury found a hole in BU defense, snuck up to the crease and put in a redirect with just about the entire net open. Tucker was preparing for a shot from Walsh, who got the assist for his second point of the evening.

The play got increasingly physical as the Crimson showed their frustration and the Terriers sought to prove that they’re the scrappiest team in Hockey East.

Down 4-2 with two minutes left, Harvard pulled their goalie. Harper flung a wobbling puck from just behind his own blue line that found the empty net less than a minute later.

That goal took the air out of the Crimson, both in their offense and their physicality. The last remnant of any animosity was a seconds-long shoving match between Kasper Kotkansalo and Justin Szeto as the clock ran out.

No Terrier finished with a plus-minus lower than zero. Nine guys recorded a point. Every skater that dressed got significant playing time. It was easily BU’s most complete game of the season, but Coach offered a neutral “We’ll see.” when asked if he’d keep the lines as he had them tonight.

“It worked tonight, and we liked the way the lines looked,” O’Connell said. “I thought Brink played his best game. I thought Q was really good. I thought Jake Wise was good. I don’t think we had many guys have a bad night. … We’re just happy with the two points.”

The skipper might be happy with the two points, but the team is ready to soak up the feeling of beating a top-10 team. When you score your first goals in a week and a half, any result is going to be a relief, especially when you can knock off your rival from across the river.

“It was huge,” Crotty said. “We’ve had a pretty up-and-down season so far. There have been a lot of games where we’ll play 50 solid minutes and then for 10 minutes, we fall asleep. I think tonight was the first game in a long time that we’ve put together a complete game. This game could mean everything for our season, or it could be just an afterthought. We’ve just got to keep going and build off this.”

BU is back in action this Saturday when they host No. 8/12 Northeastern at Agganis Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be the Terriers’ last of the first semester.

Author: Jacob Lintner

Jacob was the 2017 Missouri Student Journalist of the Year and a runner up to the National Student Journalist of the Year. He currently attends Boston University and spends his time playing jazz and studying avant-garde poetry when he's not rooting on the St. Louis Cardinals and New England Patriots.

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