SCHENECTADY, New York — It looked as though one of the hallmarks of the 2014-15 Boston University Terriers' season was carrying over.
A year after outscoring opponents 69-29 in the third period, BU (0-1) seemed poised to put away Union College (1-0-1) in dramatic fashion, with freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy forcing a 3-3 tie off of a putback with 4:36 left on clock.
Unfortunately, the 2015-16 Terriers were not able to replicate the same late-game success, as the Dutchmen regained the lead less than two minutes later en route to a 5-3 victory Saturday night at Messa Rink.
The loss stands as BU’s first season-opening defeat since the Terriers fell to the UMass Amherst, 3-2, on Oct. 16, 2009.
"We lost this game for one reason: our d-zone coverage. … "We were acting like the puck was a magnet," said BU head coach David Quinn. "We’d watch one guy play his man and all of a sudden, five guys start gravitating towards him and don’t know what’s going on around him. The good news is it’s very correctable."
Union’s victory over the Terriers clinched head coach Rick Bennett’s 100th career win, with BU standing as the highest-ranked squad to be defeated at Messa Rink since Jan. 28, 2011, when the Dutchmen downed #1 Yale.
Senior captain Matt Wilkins had a hand in Union’s final two goals on the night, scoring the game winner at 17:11 in the third before assisting on sophomore Spencer Foo’s empty-net score with 46 seconds to go.
BU junior defenseman Doyle Somerby assisted on BU’s first two scores on the night, while senior goaltender Sean Maguire recorded 26 saves in the loss.
Sophomore forward Ryan Scarfo’s power-play strike put Union on the board at 6:03 in the first, but the Terriers would answer back with two scores of their own in the waning moments of the opening frame.
Senior forward Matt Lane buried BU’s first goal of the year off of a rebound at 15:20, while freshman forward Ryan Cloonan muscled the puck through a scrum in the crease a little over two minutes later for his first tally as a Terrier.
The second period looked much more akin to a track meet than a hockey match — with odd-man rushes and special-team opportunities abound for both clubs.
The Dutchmen strung together a number of quality looks in BU’s zone, but Maguire held firm in net, recording several sprawling saves over the span of three Union power plays.
"I kind of realized that it was going to be a goalie battle," said Union junior netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos, who recorded 31 saves in the victory. "He played one great game and I just had to one up him I guess."
Despite Maguire’s efforts, Union finally broke through with 1:58 remaining in the middle stanza, with junior winger Michael Pontarelli’s one-timer from the right circle tying the score at 2-2.
Junior forward Eli Lichtenwald put Union back out in front after beating Maguire off a ricochet less than three minutes into the third, with McAvoy’s equalizer knotting the game at three goals apiece almost 13 minutes later.
BU’s counter would ultimately do little to rattle the Dutchmen, as a flurry of Union shots set up an easy goal for Wilkins, who wristed the puck into the net to put the game away at 17:11.
Starting a season with a loss isn’t an ideal situation for Quinn, but getting an opportunity to gauge a young team such as the Terriers served as a positive takeaway from BU’s sojourn out to Schenectady.
"There was an awful lot to like about our team tonight," he said, adding: "You want to win every game but I guess in the first game, every coach is curious to what type of team they have — how they compete, how physical they are.
"I thought both teams played really hard and really fast and unfortunately they got one more than we did."