BOSTON – In a matchup of top-five teams, it was the sixth man that was the problem.
It wasn’t the Agganis Arena crowd that caused the No. 5 Michigan hockey team’s 3-2 loss Saturday as much as it was the Wolverines’ own extra man on the ice.
No. 3 Boston University (1-2-0) scored two power play goals to take a 2-0 lead, with both coming after the Wolverines were handed penalties for having too many men on the ice in between shifts.
“We have to work harder to get off the ice, and we have to be more patient about getting on the ice,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I can’t blame our players for wanting on, but you have to wait till the other guy’s off or nearly off and then if the puck’s in that vicinity, it’s an opportunity for the ref to call it.”
The bench minors were the start of a flurry of penalties – the teams combined for 66 minutes in the box. Freshman Chris Brown was ejected three minutes into the third period, and senior Steve Kampfer got a 10-minute misconduct at the same time. Those penalties, along with Michigan’s lack of offense, led the coaching staff to switch the lines.
The line change paid dividends minutes later as sophomore Robbie Czarnik and junior Matt Rust each scored in a third-period onslaught.
Four minutes after Terrier goaltender Kieran Millan bobbled the puck into his own net to give up the shutout, Rust streaked down the left side and shot a backhand into the upper right corner of the net to tie the game at two with 5:30 remaining in the game.
“One thing I’ve been working on lately is taking the puck more to the net and not veering off wide,” Rust said. “I tried to take it to the net and saw a spot top right and put it there. Normally I don’t actually put it there, but I put it there this time.”
After the goal, the small Wolverine contingent of fans in the east corner cheered for the first time all night as the momentum completely shifted in Michigan’s favor. Thoughts of beating the Terriers on their own ice for the first time in 19 years crossed the Wolverines’ minds.
But the satisfaction for Michigan (2-2-0) was short-lived.
Just three minutes later, junior goaltender Bryan Hogan made another puck-handling mistake behind the net. Hogan went out to play the puck with a man on him, and an errant pass found its way to Boston forward Joe Pereira’s stick. Pereira quickly wrapped around the net and buried the puck, beating Hogan’s last-second stick lunge.
“He’s anticipating the puck is going to move better than it did,” Berenson said. “His decision was not good and his execution wasn’t good either. It was a bad goal. It’s too bad because he had a good game, but you can’t hide it.”
Despite allowing three goals, the defensive zone was a strong point for the Wolverines, especially when compared to the seven goals the team surrendered to the Terriers last season. The defensemen were able to get sticks on attempted passes in front of the net, especially in the first two periods, when the Terriers were carrying the play.
After allowing 34 shots to Niagara two nights earlier, the defensive unit cut that down to 22 against Boston. Boston’s inability to get the puck out of their own zone in the third period caused the Terriers to register only four shots in the final stanza, and they were outshot for the first time all season as the Wolverines launched 35 shots at Millan.
But of those 35, too many ultimately fell short.
“We worked a lot on it in practice, just honing in on the defensive zone, making sure we’re doing our responsibilities,” senior captain Chris Summers said. “I think it’s starting to show. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s still early in the season and hopefully we can put some things together here.”