By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
DURHAM, N.H. –– It’s not often that the Boston University men’s hockey team and the University of New Hampshire meet with both teams seemingly struggling to keep their skates beneath them.
After Friday night’s game, it’s starting to look like one team has finally found its footing. Unfortunately for Terrier Nation, that team is not the Scarlet and White.
With a 4-2 win in front of the home crowd at Whittemore Center Arena, the Wildcats (4-6-2, 4-2-1 Hockey East) catapulted themselves into a tie for first in the conference with Boston College.
With the loss, the Terriers (3-7-0, 2-6-0), entrenched themselves one game deeper into Hockey East’s cellar, maintaining just a two-point lead over Providence College for last place, despite playing twice as many conference games as the Friars.
“We’ve really put ourselves in a hole here as far as Hockey East is concerned,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We’ve gotta put more than a few games together to get out of where we’re at.”
UNH senior Bobby Butler earned the game’s top star by netting the go-ahead goal 11:24 into the second period.
UNH went two-men up after penalties by BU sophomore Vinny Saponari and freshman Sean Escobedo were called within 39 seconds of each other. Midway through Saponari’s minor, BU sophomore goalie Kieran Millan (23 saves) made a diving, highlight-real, paddle save to rob Butler on a one-time chance from the left faceoff dot.
However, just seconds later, Butler got the better of Millan with a one-time bomb from the same spot. Junior Matt Campanale set up the power-play goal from the right point, with sophomore Blake Kessel credited the second assist.
The goal was Butler’s 10th of the season, making him the first Hockey East player to hit double digits in the goal column this season.
After the game, Parker addressed BU’s reoccurring troubles taking penalties when already a man down.
“That’s a pathetic problem,” Parker said. “It’s a pathetic problem. They don’t get the message. It’s not that important to them to fight hard –– be tenacious without being stupid.”
The scoring chances came early for UNH, which almost netted the game’s first goal just seconds into the contest when BU freshman Ben Rosen misplayed a pass at his own blue line. UNH sophomore Stevie Moses scooped up the puck at the left wing, and rocketed to the BU cage, joined by senior captain Peter LeBlanc on a 2-on-0 break.
Moses gave to LeBlanc at the right circle, who immediately slid the puck back to Moses at the left doorstep, throwing Millan off the puck’s scent. Moses had an open net to shoot at, but his momentum had carried him too deep into the zone, and the shot bounced harmlessly off the side of the cage.
The rest of the first period was highlighted by a lack of scoring chances either way until the Wildcats struck gold off a faceoff win in the BU zone 16:43 into regulation.
Junior Phil DeSimone flipped the draw to winger Paul Thompson, who tipped the puck back to sophomore Damon Kipp at the right point. Kipp wristed the puck through a mass of players in front, which shielded the disk from Millan’s vision until the last second. The goaltender whiffed with a flailing glove stab, and the puck sailed over his left shoulder and under the crossbar for the game’s first tally.
BU responded five minutes into the second period with an equalizer from senior Zach Cohen. Taking the faceoff on the left side of the UNH zone, sophomore Corey Trivino managed to bounce the draw toward Cohen in the slot. As the puck came down from a substantial hop, Cohen slapped the disk at net and dislodged UNH goalie Brian Foster’s water bottle with a rising, top-shelf laser.
The Terriers and Wildcats would exchange tallies midway through the third as UNH freshman John Henrion netted the first goal of his career just before BU sophomore Ross Gaudet netted his second of the season.
With 8:46 left in the third, UNH expanded its lead back to two goals with yet another power-play conversion.
Once again, it was Campanale setting up a teammate in a grade-A scoring area. This time, the junior defenseman found Thompson all alone at the right post from the left point. Thompson corralled the pass, sitting comfortably next to the BU crease –– all but ignored by BU junior defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen.
Millan slid and got to the right post with his leg pads, but his upper body couldn’t catch up, leaving a window into the top-right corner of the cage. Thompson lifted the puck over a falling Millan, and knocked over the Terriers chances of a comeback in the process.
The Terriers allowed two goals on six Wildcat power plays, marking the third consecutive game BU has allowed multiple goals on the penalty kill.
Kibbles and Bits
Sophomore David Warsofsky returned to the lineup after missing 3-of-4 games with a hip injury. Warsofsky made his first collegiate start at forward, registering one shot on the night . . . UNH’s Butler led all players with seven shots on goal, followed by Shattenkirk with six and Zach Cohen with five . . . BU was 0-for-5 on the power play, cutting their season-long conversion rate 16.2 percent . . . Millan’s save percentage on the season is now .873, far below his .921 clip a year ago . . . Parker said after the game he thought it unlikely sophomore Chris Connolly (shoulder) would return to the lineup tomorrow night at Agganis Arena, where the Terriers will play host to UNH in game two of the weekend’s home-and-home series . . . Parker said he would consult goaltending coach Mike Geragosian before deciding who would start in net for BU Saturday.