BOSTON — Maine’s Marc Anthoine scored at 10 minutes, 8 seconds of the third period to give Maine a 3-2 lead over Boston University Friday night. The Black Bears added an empty-net goal to seal a 4-2 win at Agganis Arena. The win was Maine’s third in a row and 10th in its last 14 games.
For BU, the loss was its first in its last six games. Despite a 1-0 lead entering the first period, the Terriers struggled to generate offense throughout the night. A 20-minute delay caused by an issue with the lighting at Agganis resulted in BU dominating the second half of the second period at the restart. However, Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan (28 saves) kept BU from running away with the game.
What I saw
- Maine clogged the neutral zone effectively throughout the game. Both the forwards and defensemen pressured puck carriers and stepped into passing lanes well, forcing BU to defend against the Maine transition attack. All four lines confidently pressured BU when they could, opting against any high-risk plays and trusting their coverages. The Terriers’ offense was especially effective when they managed to cycle the puck. Maine limited those opportunities with their strong play through the neutral zone. Late in the game, Maine sent its forwards into the BU zone, preventing the Terriers from breaking out cleanly. After the Black Bears went up, 3-2, in the third, they managed possession with an effective cycle that kept the Terriers from creating chances. BU coach Jack Parker commented after that the game that the play was atypical of Maine. However, creating turnovers through the neutral zone has helped Maine on its current 10-2-2 run.
- Wade Megan, Chris Connolly and Alex Chiasson continued to be BU’s most effective line. The odd pairing off three natural wingers with differing skill sets was effective again for the Terriers. Maine’s neutral zone play negated BU more often than not. Still the top line trio created some chances throughout the game, including BU’s first goal. While it came on the power play, Megan, Connolly and Chiasson combined on a picturesque passing play in the first period. Connolly worked the puck on the wall and found Megan cycling behind the goal line to the left of Sullivan. Megan accepted the pass, hesitated for the shortest of seconds to draw a defender, before laying a perfect pass to Chiasson in the slot. Chiasson instantly sent the puck on net, beating Sullivan. The group has been an odd line combination, with Chiasson taking a majority of the faceoffs, but Connolly playing the pivot. Megan’s role as a grinder with a decidedly offensive slant hasn’t changed despite his jump from the bottom six to the first line. In fact, playing with teammates the caliber of Chiasson and Connolly has allowed his game to shine even further. The Terriers weren’t good enough to win Friday night, but their top line looks like the type that can lead them down the stretch.
- Sullivan continued his confident play in goal, making 28 saves in the win over BU. Last weekend, he was equally strong in Maine’s sweep of Boston College in Orono. The sophomore hasn’t been spectacular, and he wasn’t Friday night against BU. He was, however, solid, and that’s a major improvement over the inconsistency that hampered him last season and through his first seven starts of this year. In his last 14 games — the length of Maine’s current 10-2-2 run — he has a .901 save percentage, and a 2.64 goals-against average. Again, not spectacular. But they’ve been enough to guide Maine through their current run. Friday night, he made the saves he was supposed to, and a stole a few from BU.
What I Thought
- Maine’s depth scoring continued on Friday, and the type of goals they received from their second through fourth line players show this isn’t an aberration. All three of the goals scored with a goaltender in the net — the fourth Maine goal was an empty netter — came from a player not named Joey Diamond, Brian Flynn or Spencer Abbott. Adam Shemansky scored Maine’s first goal, stealing a puck from a BU defenseman on the backheck and firing a slapshot through Kieran Millan in the first period. John Parker potted the second Maine score, beating BU defenseman Max Nicastro through the BU zone and slipping a backhand shot past Millan. The third goal came on the power play in the third, with Anthoine deflecting a shot from Abbott into the BU goal, giving Maine a 3-2 lead. Each of these players, along with Matt Mangene and others, have propelled Maine on its current three-game winning streak.
- Following the game, BU coach Jack Parker said his team simply lacked the intensity throughout the game to pick up two points. Most representative of that was BU’s power play total for the game, which stood at one. The disparity naturally raised the arms and voices of a few in the stands, but the Terriers didn’t play hard enough to force Maine into taking any penalties. Maine’s uncharacteristically disciplined play also factored into the figure, but BU gets more than one man advantage if it’s playing hard enough. The 14-1 weekend it has against Providence last time out may have impacted the Terriers’ intensity, but this time of subpar effort right now doesn’t mean quite as much as it would have a few months ago.
- On its one power play, BU looked dangerous. The Terriers converted on their first and only man advantage of the night, with Chiasson picking up his fourth goal in six games. As a unit, their top power play group moves the puck as well as any unit in Hockey East. With Adam Clendening and Garrett Noonan playing the points, things gets even scarier for opponents. The losses of Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle have galvanized BU, and the near flawless execution on the power play are the best example of that. Maine had the right idea on Friday in only giving BU one power play, but there’s a good chance that won’t happen again anytime soon.
What They Said
“We’ve really been focusing a lot on (taking fewer penalties) lately. I thought both teams had very good discipline tonight. It was a very well played game. There were no cheap shots or heavy slashes. Both teams have obviously worked very hard to improve in the second half. I know (BU has) … Both teams have dropped their (penalty) minutes (in the second half).” — Maine coach Tim Whitehead
BU and Maine rank first and second in the league in penalty minutes per game, with 20.3 and 18.5 respectively. The coaches of each club have reiterated consistently that these things need to change. In the last month, it appears as though their players have finally figured the best way to do that. Like any other Hockey East game, Friday came with scuffles, shoves, face washes and the occasional poke or two. Still, both Maine and BU appear to have finally stopped hurting themselves.
What They Didn’t Say
Neither Whitehead nor Parker specifically stated whether or not players who suffered injuries on Friday would play tomorrow. For Maine, Diamond missed most of the third period after suffering an injury to his hip. He should be in the lineup for Maine on Saturday night for the second game of the series but is questionable. Meanwhile, BU lost freshman Alexx Privitera to a bad wrist injury in the first period, and he did not return to the game. Parker did say that he “may have broken his wrist.” It’s likely that tomorrow’s game won’t be the only one Privitera sits out. Look for Ryan Ruikka to fill in for the freshman.
What Else You Show Know
- BU and Maine meet again Saturday night for their final meeting of the season. The game will decide the season series. Maine’s win on Friday evened it at 1-1, with BU winning the first meeting, 5-1, on Dec. 10.
- The win lifted Maine into third place in Hockey East, one point clear of Merrimack. Meanwhile, it shot the Black Bears up the PairWise. They are currently tied for 12th with Denver and Union.
- BU fells to second in the PairWise behind Minnesota-Duluth with the loss. BC inched closer to the Terriers, defeating UNH, 4-3, on Friday. The Terriers currently lead the Eagles by two points and Maine by three in the league standings. Another loss to Maine on Saturday could make the top of the league standings as interesting and the middle and bottom.