Boston – When you have a hot-hand, you just have to keep going back to it.
Boston University head coach David Quinn had no problem running sophomore center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson out onto the ice at a bitter cold Fenway Park.
That’s because there is no cooling down the Stockholm, Sweden native. The Boston Bruins draft pick scored the first two goals of the game, his third and fourth consecutive goals for the Terriers, dating back to their 5-4 overtime win over Union on Thursday night.
“It works that way sometimes. For a while it won’t come anything then the next game you’ll get three. It’s nice to get that start to 2017,” said Forsbacka Karlsson.
“A couple of kids were asking for my stick, but I want to keep it since it’s a nice stick,” he added with a smile.
The first three BU goals were scored by Bruins prospects as the Terriers held on for a 5-3 win over Massachusetts in the first of two Hockey East games at Boston’s hallowed ballpark on Sunday afternoon.
The Terriers opened the scoring with 28 seconds left in the opening period. Forsbacka Karlsson cut into the middle after rushing down the left side. His shot was initially saved, but knocked in by a UMass defender.
“A lot of people have asked me what the difference between this year and last year is,” began Quinn, when asked about Forsbacka Karlsson’s improvement.
“It’s his skating. He’s a little more agile and elusive. Slippery would be another good word to use. He looks like he’s picked up a half step of quickness. He has the ability to take a guy wide and cut into the net. You want to talk about an elite player and elite person,” Quinn continued.
Just over a minute after BU killed their third penalty to open the second period, the Terriers extended their lead to 2-0. Kieffer Bellows wheeled around the offensive zone and sent a backhand pass out front from the right corner. The feed landed right on the stick of Forsbacka Karlsson, who backhanded it through the five-hole of UMass goalie Ryan Wischow.
Bellows, who had maybe his best game in a BU uniform, was playing in his first game after being benched twice. However, he had a very good World Juniors, including in the Gold Medal game in which he had two goals.
“I thought Kieffer had a really good tournament from start to finish. Obviously he played really well in the Gold Medal game. He played really well today. He’s a really good player. He’s going to be a big part of our success moving forward,” said Quinn.
Boston University extended its lead to 3-0 at the 13:52 mark of the second period with a power play strike. Quick puck movement from the right wing boards allowed Charlie McAvoy to be wide open on the backdoor off a rebound of a Clayton Keller point shot. Patrick Harper picked up the secondary assist.
“One of the adjustments we made as a team was to get the backside guy down low to see if we could exploit that. It was a good job by Clayton up top to get it past those two wingers. It was kind of a lucky bounce, but I shot it as hard as I could,” explained McAvoy.
UMass cut the deficit to just two goals before the end of the second period. Freshman Griff Jeszka found a little space between the near post and BU goaltender Jake Oettinger from just above the goal line below the left wing circle.
The Minutemen made things interesting for a while when Ray Pigozzi scored on an odd man rush at the 8:21 mark of the final period. The shorthanded tally was assisted by Steven Iacobellis who was able to sneak in back of the BU defensemen.
BU re-gained its two goal edge with 5:09 to play in the game. Chad Krys turned around in the high slot and sent a backhander through the wickets of Wischow. Jordan Greenway and Bobo Carpenter picked up the helpers.
Gabriel Chabot put the game on ice with a rebound goal 48 seconds later. Nick Roberto’s shot, as he was streaking into the zone down the right side, was saved, but the puck went right to Chabot for his second of the season to make it 5-2.
With the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker Iacobellis connected on a pass from Austin Plevy, but that was as close the Minutemen would get.
Oettinger, playing in his first game in nearly a month after being the third goaltender for the U.S. at the World Juniors, made some significant saves.
“Our goalie had to make some big saves to keep it 3-2,” said Quinn. “Our goalie played a big part of it. He did a lot of things he’s been doing all year long. He makes timely saves. He makes it look easy.”
Lost in the hubbub of the week that was, which included six Terriers earning a Gold Medal at the 2017 World Junior Championship, is the fact that BU picked up two key Hockey East points before their weekend home-and-home series against archrival Boston College.
“It was a good win for us. It was two valuable league points after not playing a league game for a while. It was a hectic week for all of us, getting seven guys back from the World Juniors and playing that game Thursday night without seven players,” said Quinn.