Men’s Hockey: Terriers Rise Above Air Force 5-1 in Desert Hockey Classic
By Gracie Davenport
No. 6 Boston University Men’s Hockey (13-5-0, 8-4-0 HE) took Game 1 of the fourth annual Desert Hockey Classic with a score of 5-1 against the U.S. Air Force Falcons (6-11-2). The four-team tournament is being hosted in Tempe, Ariz. by Arizona State’s Mullet Arena.
Junior goaltender Drew Commesso got the familiar nod in net for BU and made 29 saves.
At the other end of the ice, Air Force was without their usual starting netminder, Guy Blessing.
The sophomore goalie had started 15 straight games for the Falcons and was ruled out due to an undisclosed injury. In his place, junior goaltender Maiszon Balboa took the crease for his first regular season collegiate start.
The Terriers’ fourth line started the game, and they got to work early against a Falcon team that had not played a game in 34 days.
Just 22 seconds into the first period, sophomore defenseman Ty Gallagher carried the puck into Air Force’s end and dropped it off to freshman forward Devin Kaplan. Kaplan beat a Falcon defender and slid the puck over to senior forward Jamie Armstrong, who buried it blocker side.
Converting on BU’s first shot on net, Armstrong celebrated his third goal of the season to make it a 1-0 game. Armstrong’s father, Bill, is the General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes, who share Mullet Arena with ASU.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first frame, senior forward Wilmer Skoog doubled BU’s lead to make it 2-0.
Skoog carried the puck into the offensive zone and dropped it off for freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer. Wilmer sent the puck right back to Skoog, who was atop the left face-off circle, and fired it home. He extended his point streak to five games.
As the clock entered the final minute, Skoog added his second of the night to increase BU’s lead to three heading into first intermission.
Skoog collected the puck behind Balboa’s net before skating around a couple of Air Force defenders. He shot the puck high-slot for his sixth of the season. Wilmer and sophomore forward Brian Carrabes had the helpers.
Last season, Skoog led the Terriers in scoring but was underwhelming offensively during the first half of his senior-year campaign. This was his second multi-goal night of the season, and this goal was a solo effort.
“[Skoog’s] just started a little slow this year scoring, but he’s picked it up the last few games,” BU Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said. “I think he’s starting to grow his confidence offensively again, so that’s big for us.”
To start the second, Kaplan was sent to the box for roughing. Consequently, the Terriers found themselves defending in their own end as the Falcons found their game.
Air Force capped off their building momentum with a goal at the 7:06 mark of the middle frame.
Falcons defenseman Luke Rowe took the puck through all three zones before passing it off to sophomore forward Clayton Cosentino. Cosentino’s initial shot was blocked by the right skate of BU junior defenseman Thomas Jarman, but Cosentino took advantage of the bouncing puck to send it past Commesso for his third of the season.
“We got off to a horrendous start, but I am proud of our guys for battling back,” Air Force Head Coach Frank Serratore said. “[BU is] a very, very talented team. But the way our guys battled, I think we earned some respect.”
Three minutes later, the Terriers converted on their first power play chance of the night to extend their lead to 4-1.
At the blue line, freshman defenseman Lane Hutson passed the puck cross-ice to Wilmer at the right dot. Wilmer found Carrabes in the slot, who one-timed it home. Carrabes became the 18th individual Terrier to score a goal this season.
Hutson picked up the secondary assist in his first game back since Dec. 3. Playing in the IHHF World Junior Championships, the freshman earned bronze for Team USA less than 24 hours prior to Friday’s puck drop. Hutson is playing in his third game in as many days.
“It’s impressive. He certainly had a long day. He wants to play. He loves the game,” Pandolfo said. “Glad we had the early game so now hopefully he can get a lot of rest and be ready tomorrow.”
BU dominated play in the third. Commesso was not tested often, but had to come up big with six minutes remaining in the game. The netminder made two point-blank saves, and senior defenseman Case McCarthy blocked a hard Air Force shot in front of his goaltender.
“Drew was excellent,” Pandolfo said. “That’s what we expect out of him, and he’s lived up to it.”
As the Falcons pulled Balboa with three minutes to go, Kaplan took his third and final penalty of the game. This allowed Air Force to round out the game on a 6-on-4 man advantage.
The Falcons were unable to beat Commesso, but BU senior forward Sam Stevens converted an empty-net goal. He shot the puck from his own end for the Terriers’ first short-handed goal of the season. Junior defenseman Cade Webber had the lone assist.
Marking his fifth of the year, Stevens’ goal put the game away as BU took the 5-1 lead. The Terriers now have wins in three straight games and seven in their last eight.
“I thought we played well for the most part of the first period, and then I thought we got away from our game a little bit. I thought we started cheating the game,” Pandolfo said. “But at the end of the day, we accomplished what we had to tonight.”
BU will play for the tournament championship tomorrow, against No. 16 Michigan Tech at 5:30 p.m. ET. The game will be streamed for free on Pac-12.com.