Men’s Hockey: BU bears down against UMaine to advance to Hockey East Championship

By Devora Slonim 

The energy was electric in TD Garden. 

The No. 2 Boston University Terriers (26-8-2, 19-4-2 HE) and the No. 7 University of Maine Black Bears (23-11-2, 14-10-1 HE) faced off in the Hockey East Semifinal for the first time since 2012, this time with the Terriers finishing on top. 

An albeit sloppy game overall for the Terriers, the difference maker came on special teams, with BU going 2-for-3 on the man advantage to cruise past Maine.

Despite a slow start for both teams and unsustained zone time for the Terriers, sophomore forward Ryan Greene was able to sneak a wrist shot past Black Bear freshman goaltender Albin Boija for the early 1-0 lead on just the second shot on net in the game. 

With just over three minutes remaining in the first, Maine put continued pressure on BU. Still, junior goaltender Mathieu Caron stood tall in the net, bailing out the Terrier defense from repeated turnovers all night, and staying composed when it mattered most.

“No one’s gonna be perfect and mistakes are gonna happen, but knowing he’s back there, it makes it easier for us,” Lane Hutson said postgame about Caron’s performance in net. 

The second period began with a man advantage for the Black Bears, who went to the power play on a trip called on Lane Hutson with 12 seconds remaining in the first. 

Leading the league in blocked shots, Cade Webber did what he does best and blocked a big shot on the Maine man advantage to hold on to the lead. 

“He had an excellent game,” coach Jay Pandolfo said of Webber’s play. “He sacrifices himself to help us win.” 

The Black Bears were buzzing in the second, capitalizing on the multiple turnovers from the Terriers in the neutral zone and firing away on Caron. 

However, on a holding penalty to Maine junior Nolan Renwick, BU found their rhythm. Hobey Baker nominee Lane Hutson netted one past Boija, with a slick toe-drag to get around Thomas Freel and fire a shot to make it a 2-0 lead. 

With five minutes remaining, the Black Bears had yet another unsuccessful power play on the hooking call on Nick Zabaneh. 

Tension was palpable as the clock ran out, with a frustrated Maine looking to generate some offensive momentum. 

The third period picked up right as the second left off, with scuffles breaking out at every whistle. 

Terrier freshman Shane Lachance took a short-lived 3-0 lead on the penalty to Black Bears junior Cole Hanson, but the goal was quickly negated as the play was determined to be offside. 

Maine caught a break and found another surge in offensive power. 

Fourteen seconds into their man advantage on a high sticking call to Webber, the Black Bears senior captain Lynden Breen cut BU’s lead in half, firing the puck past Caron and keeping Maine in the match. 

The Terriers responded and found themselves in the offensive zone, eventually drawing a holding penalty, returning them to another powerplay opportunity.

Greene found the back of the net for his second of the night on a feed from Macklin Celebrini, Player (and Rookie) of the Year, giving BU back a two-goal lead. 

There was no quit for the Black Bears, who pulled their goaltender with just over three minutes left and kept the remainder of play on the offensive end. 

However, the Terriers remained strong, with graduate senior Sam Stevens sealing the deal on an empty net goal.

BU will look to defend their Hockey East Championship title when they face off tomorrow night, Saturday, March 23, against their Comm. Ave rivals, the Boston College Eagles, at 7:30 p.m. back at TD Garden.  

“It’s obviously going to be a crazy atmosphere,” Greene said about tomorrow’s matchup against BC. “But we’re going to be ready. It’s always exciting playing those guys and to play in the Hockey East Championship makes it even more special. We’ll be ready to go.”