The Boston University Terriers skated in their last exhibition game of the 2018-19 season, and it was a wild one. The Terriers defeated the United States National Development Program’s U-18 squad, which featured a number of BU commits and the highly touted Jack Hughes, who is expected to be the first-overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
It was a back-and-forth game all the way through. The U-18 team certainly drew quite the crowd, especially compared to BU’s tilt against the Acadia Axemen two weeks prior. However close the matchup, Shane Bowers was able to execute in overtime to hand the Terriers the 5-4 win.
BU Survives First Period
Bowers, who was sent to the Colorado Avalanche in the Matt Duchene trade, had the first prime scoring chance of the game. He skated his way across the crease and put the puck on net, but US goalie Cameron Rowe was able to snuff it out. Judd Caufield of the U-18 squad went on to score just seconds later, assisted by none other than BU commit Trevor Zegras and Hughes.
The U-18 squad seemed to have the advantage in the opening frame, dominating possession and directing 17 shots toward the BU goal. “It’s amazing,” said BU’s first-year head coach Albie O’Connell “The 2001-born class in the United States is as good as it’s been in a long time.” But the Terriers held their own, getting a number of scoring chances in the first period. They lacked zone time, however, and made a number of questionable plays in their own zone. There was one instance where freshman Mark Cheremeta had the opportunity to chip the puck into the neutral zone but instead attempted to drop the puck down to his defenseman. The decision resulted in a US possession.
Oettinger stood strong, however, despite the bombardment he endured. He made a number of key saves on pucks fired upon him from prime locations and battled well when there were loose pucks in the crease. In these instances, he got help from his defensemen as they cleared the puck from the slot.
Halfway through the period, junior defenseman Dante Fabbro streaked down the left wing. He opted not to pass the puck as BU created a 2-on-1 opportunity and instead fired a wrist shot to the top-right corner to tie the game. The play showcased Fabbro’s versatility; he’s not afraid to jump up into the rush and has a shot that could compete with a number of forwards in the NCAA.
By the first period’s end, BU only notched eight shots on goal – two of which came in the dying minute with the man-advantage. It was clear they had to create more opportunities during the second frame and, most importantly, get those pucks on net.
Bowers Takes Charge
Bowers really started to make his presence known in the second period. “I thought (Bowers) skated well,” said O’Connell “He plays a 200-foot game as a center. He did a really good job tonight.” The centerman was able to battle his way to the slot early on in the second frame, though he was thwarted by Rowe from that location once again.
Late in the frame, however, he was able to execute. After receiving a little five-foot pass from sophomore Logan Cockerill in the neutral zone, Bowers was able to take the puck in stride as he skated down the left wing and snapped a shot on goal, beating Rowe via the five-hole to tie the game at 2-2. It handed his team the momentum as grad-student Max Willman went on to receive a puck in the slot, spin, and score just minutes later to give BU the 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
Bowers held his own in the defensive zone, often being up against the U-18 squad’s top line which featured Hughes. “He’s a special player, you just have to be aware when he’s on the ice,” said Bowers as he praised Hughes after the game. “Taking care of the puck and being aware of that helped us a lot.” The Halifax-native was a big reason why BU was able to hold Hughes to just two assists in Friday night’s game.
When he wasn’t contributing to his team’s defensive efforts, Bowers was creating scoring chances. In the final minutes of the third period, the centerman fired a pass to junior Patrick Harper who ripped a shot on goal. Though it was saved by Rowe, it seemed to inspire some intensity from the Terriers as they tried to notch the game-deciding goal late in the third frame.
In overtime, Bowers saw plenty of ice time. The U-18 team dominated play much like they did in the opening frame, mustering eight shot attempts. BU was able to thwart a number of opportunities, however, blocking a couple of shots and forcing opposing forwards to the outside which resulted in bids going wide of the net. In the end, Bowers was able to receive a pass from junior Patrick Curry, isolate himself from the US defenders, and send the puck to the back of the cage to net BU a win. “Obviously it’s an exhibition game,” said Bowers “But for us, coming off last weekend with two losses, it was big for us to get a win.”
From here, the Terriers will start conference play with battles against Merrimack, Providence, Northeastern, UNH, and UMaine within the next 30 days. Their grind against a talent U-18 team, who has given a number of college teams a tough time this October, should give BU a boost of confidence as they embark on their quest for a national championship.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.