Boston University had plenty of incentive heading into last night’s matchup against Maine at Agganis Arena.
The second-ranked Terriers were still smarting from a loss to the No. 20 Black Bears the night before, and a second defeat would mean a loss of the season series to their Hockey East rivals, which hadn’t happened since the 2003-04 season.
And with Boston College beating New Hampshire in overtime, BU wanted to stay ahead of the Eagles in the conference standings.
In the end, though, the Terriers couldn’t muster much offense in a 3-1 loss in front of 5,847. After five straight wins, BU has dropped two in a row and is now 15-8-1, 12-6-1 in league play.
Maine, which has won four straight and is unbeaten in its last five, improved to 14-8-3 and 11-7-2.
“I was extremely happy with how hard we played,’’ said BU coach Jack Parker. “I thought we did a great job killing penalties [7 for 8]. I thought we did a pretty nice job in an awful lot of areas. Kieran [Millan] played great, [Maine goalie Dan] Sullivan played great. It’s not surprising that both those guys were the first two stars [of the game]. I was happy with my team.’’
Although the weekend series featured two of the hottest teams in the nation, the Terriers went into last night significantly hobbled. After losing their top two centers at the end of the first semester, BU took a hit on the blue line, playing last night without defensemen Alexx Privitera and Max Nicastro, both injured Friday night. Privitera suffered a fractured right wrist and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks, while Nicastro, who injured a shoulder, could return next weekend or for the opening round of the Beanpot Tournament Feb. 6.
If nothing else, the first period was a testament to the talents of Millan, who made 21 of his 34 saves, several of which were stellar. The Black Bears, meanwhile, gave up eight shots to the Terriers, half in the final five minutes of the period.
The lopsided totals were somewhat a result of BU taking four penalties to one for Maine. But Maine’s only goal of the period came at even strength with 6.9 seconds remaining when a turnover resulted in a tally by freshman right wing John Parker, who beat Millan from the right circle.
One of Millan’s best saves of the period came early when BU lost the puck and junior right wing Matt Mangene charged in on a breakaway. He raced through the right circle, cut across the slot, and attempted to beat Millan inside the left post, but the goalie denied it with his right pad.
The Terriers pulled even with a power-play goal at 2:41 of the second. Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening took a shot from the right point that was redirected by fellow blue liner Garrett Noonan past Sullivan for his ninth of the season.
Maine, which was outshot, 19-6, in the middle frame, regained the lead at the six-minute mark after a clean faceoff win. Junior right wing Joey Diamond beat BU’s Ben Rosen on the draw, and junior defenseman Nick Pryor delivered a rocket from high between the circles that blew by Millan for his first collegiate goal.
BU came close to tying it at 17:59 when junior right wing Alex Chiasson tried to redirect a pass between the pads of Sullivan (38 saves), but he made the stop.
The Terriers had another great opportunity with 1:22 remaining in regulation and Millan pulled for an extra attacker. Junior left wing Ross Gaudet skated through the left circle and had a quick release that Sullivan blocked.
Mangene added an empty-net goal with 4.6 seconds remaining. “It was an exciting game,’’ said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We do feel fortunate, and I’m not just saying that. I think Dan Sullivan just had a tremendous weekend. Without a doubt, I think he was the difference tonight, for sure. [Nick Pryor] had a missile of a shot there. They had to go to the video because it was so fast, you couldn’t see it. But we know we dodged a bit of a bullet there to get out of here with 2 points, so it feels good.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.