Men’s Hockey: BU Loses to Rival BC 9-6 in Slugfest

By Gracie Davenport

No. 7/6 Boston University Men’s Hockey (10-5-0, 7-4-0 HE) fell 9-6 to the Boston College Eagles (6-5-4, 5-3-3 HE) Friday night in the 288th Battle of Comm. Ave — the highest scoring BU-BC matchup since 1986. Defensive breakdowns on both sides helped the Eagles snap the Terriers’ four-game win streak in a back-and-forth affair at Conte Forum. 

“That’s certainly not the way we drew it up,” BU Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said. “For whatever reason, we decided to have our worst defensive game of the year.” 

Junior goaltender Drew Commesso made his first start since Nov. 23 after missing last week with an illness. The netminder was tested early and often.

BC freshman defenseman Lukas Gustafsson opened the scoring just 15 minutes in. 45 seconds later, freshman defenseman Charlie Leddy notched his first career goal to make it 2-0 BC. 

With three minutes remaining in the first frame, junior forward Trevor Kuntar collided hard with Commesso and was sent to the box for interference.

Just 34 seconds into the man advantage, senior forward Matt Brown got the Terriers on the board. Captain Domenick Fensore took a shot from the blue line, and senior forward Wilmer Skoog tipped it past graduate goaltender Mitch Benson. The puck dribbled into the blue paint but did not cross the goal line until Brown charged the net to tap it home. 

This goal marked Brown’s eighth of the season. The Terrier’s leading goal scorer now has a new  career-high with the Terriers and ties his collegiate career-high set in the 2020-21 season with UMass Lowell.

Playing in his 100th career game, Fensore extended his point streak to five games. 

Over a minute later, freshman forward Quinn Hutson tied up the game. Senior forward Ethan Phillips raced down the ice, holding off Leddy until senior forward Jay O’Brien could retrieve the puck. O’Brien one-timed the puck to Hutson, who tapped it home for his sixth of the season. O’Brien also extended his point streak to five games. 

The middle frame got off right where the eventful first period ended, encompassing eight goals.

Skoog gave the Terriers their first lead of the game 1:44 in. Junior defenseman Cade Webber utilized his long reach to backhand the puck on net, but the puck deflected off Benson’s pads. Brown collected the rebound and got another shot off. After another kick save, Skoog finally lifted the puck over Benson’s pads to take the 3-2 lead. 

BU did not hold the lead long, as BC responded with their third goal three minutes later. Senior forward Liam Izyk notched his third of the season to tie it up. 

“We [have to] work on our D-zone structure,” Pandolfo said. “I’ve never seen that many pucks get to the slot.”

Shortly after, freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer scored off a Brown feed to give the Terriers the 4-3 lead — their last lead of the night. Each member of this top line scored to combine for nine points on the night. 

“I look more at our defensive breakdowns than I do [at] inconsistent goaltending,” BC coach Greg Brown said. “There were far too [many] good chances that we gave them.” 

Freshman forward Cutter Gauthier netted consecutive goals to take back BC’s lead. The first star of the game and reigning Hockey East Rookie of the Month finished the night with two goals and two assists.

By this point, Conte Forum was ringing with cheers from fans on either side. 

“I’ve never seen the Conte Forum that packed before,” Gauthier said. “[It] just juiced the team to have that confidence going into more goals.”

The Terriers were without freshman forward Ryan Greene, who was named to Team Canada’s junior selection camp running earlier from Dec. 9-12. Junior forward Nick Zabaneh slotted in at fourth-line center in his absence, and got the goal to tie the game up at five. 

The Eagles closed out the period with a pair of goals to make it 7-5 —the second coming on the man advantage. Phillips’ late-period cross-checking penalty stung the Terriers, who conceded the power play goal with five seconds remaining. BC led in second-period shots 17-13. 

Junior goaltender Vinny Duplessis came in relief of Commesso to finish off the game. Commesso ended the night with 21 saves. 

“We did talk about playing more simple in the third,” Greg Brown said. “They’re very dangerous on the rush. That was our biggest focus, to not allow any outnumbered rushes.”

BC converted on another BU penalty midway through the period. This was the Eagles’ third and final powerplay goal of the night. BC was three-for-three on the man advantage. 

“I think [it was] just moving the puck,” Gauthier said on BC’s power play success. “Our coach had really good pre-scout before the game of their PK. We just moved the puck really quick and got them out of their shape, out of their box.” 

Duplessis was pulled with 3:37 remaining. The netminder made seven saves in the third to keep the Terriers in the game. 

With the extra attacker on the ice, Skoog scored his second of the game to cut BC’s lead to two. However, BC scored into the empty net quickly after to finish off the game 9-6. BU led in third-period shots 16-9. 

This season marks a new era of coaching on either side as both teams welcomed in new head coaches. The Eagles celebrated former head coach Jerry York, who retired at the end of last season. York and former BU head coach Jack Parker were cornerstones of BC’s and BU’s hockey programs, respectively, for decades. Friday was the first time in 50 seasons that the two winningest coaches in NCAA history were not behind the bench for one of these historical matchups. 

“I don’t think either coach would dream that the game would have gone that way, but if it does, you’re happy you come out on top,” Greg Brown said.

BU will take a trip to Hartford, Connecticut Sunday afternoon as the Terriers take on the No. 8 University of Connecticut Huskies (11-4-3, 8-3-2 HE) at XL Center. Puck drop is scheduled for 2 p.m.