Men’s Hockey: BU Punches Ticket to NCAA Regional Final

By Michael Wax

Cover Photo Credit: Joe Eachus

Boston University Men’s Hockey (28-10-0) will head to the NCAA Regional Final after a 5-1 victory over Western Michigan (23-14-1) on Thursday afternoon.

“Overall, great effort by our guys,” BU Head Coach Jay Pandolfo said. “They’re [WMU’s] a tough team to play against, and they pushed the pace. They had some odd man rushes against us, but overall I thought our effort was excellent.”

BU got senior forward Wilmer Skoog back into the lineup following a one-game suspension that saw the forward miss the Terriers’ 2-1 OT win to clinch the Hockey East Championship.

“It was painful just watching that game,” Skoog said. “I’m so happy that the team got it done last weekend. It was really nice to be out there again and I for sure had some extra energy from missing that game.”

BU controlled the pace in the early minutes, getting a few quality chances, including a breakaway from senior forward Matt Brown. Still, WMU junior goaltender Cameron Rowe held steady to keep it scoreless.

WMU thought they had struck first with 11:34 remaining the first, as a 3-on-2 for the Broncos was initially covered by Terriers junior goaltender Drew Commesso, but found its way over the line thanks to junior forward Hugh Larkin. After review, it was determined that Larkin had interfered with Commesso, and the game remained scoreless.

“I just once would love to be in a big game that we score a goal and it doesn’t get called back,” WMU Head Coach Pat Ferschweiler. “We’ve had a little history of that here. Obviously, we think it’s a good goal… Unfortunately, I’m not in control.”

The disallowed goal lit a fire underneath WMU as they took over in the Terriers’ zone and began to lead in shots on goal midway through the frame.

Freshman defenseman and Hobey Baker nominee Lane Hutson made it 1-0 with 4:36 left to play. After a dump-in from the neutral zone, senior forward Ethan Phillips out-hustled and out-worked WMU to gain possession of the puck. Phillips sent it to senior forward Jay O’Brien, who found a charging Hutson down the slot. Hutson’s shot went over the shoulder of Rowe for the game-opening goal.

“Great forecheck by Ethan Phillips to create that turnover and got it right to [O’Brien],”Hutson said. “[O’Brien] found me there, drifting in, and I’m just trying to get on and off my stick pretty quick.”

BU and WMU combined for three goals in less than four minutes to open the game up. BU scored twice in quick succession, with freshman forward Quinn Hutson finishing a 2-on-1 off a cross-ice pass from senior captain Domenick Fensore. Quinn Hutson’s goal was the game-winner, the third game in a row where a Hutson scored the game-winner.

“Yeah, it’s pretty special,” Lane said. “I’m really happy to see him scoring big goals.”

Less than two minutes later, the first line of Brown, O’Brien and Phillips was once again buzzing in the Broncos’ zone. Following a board battle, Phillips got the puck to an open Brown in the slot, who sent a one-timer home to make it 3-0 BU.

“Ethan Phillips was excellent tonight,” Pandolfo said. “That was probably the best game he’s played all year. Give him a lot of credit.”

WMU found their way onto a scoresheet following another chaotic back-and-forth. After Brown missed the net on the back post during a 2-on-0, the Broncos came back the other way 2-on-1. Freshman forward Ryan McAllister feathered a pass over to senior forward Jason Polin, whose deflection trickled by Commesso to make it 3-1 BU.

BU restored their three-goal lead with just under three minutes to play. The Terriers’ third line went to work in the offensive zone, winning multiple board battles to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Freshman forward Jeremy Wilmer dug the puck out and got it over to Skoog, who waited and waited before sending one past Rowe to make it 4-1.

The third period saw each team’s penalty kill shine. WMU killed off a lengthy 5-on-3 to keep it at 4-1, while BU’s penalty kill handled business not to let the Broncos back into the game.

Phillips sealed the win for BU with an empty net goal with a little over two minutes to play.

“It was really good to see him get that empty net,” Skoog said. “I’m happy for him and for the team.”

BU will play fourth-seeded Cornell in the NCAA Regional Final on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.