It took a bit of a wake-up call from head coach David Quinn, but the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team managed to salvage the second half of a home series against the University of Vermont.
After falling behind 2-0 early, and then again facing a 3-2 deficit late in the third period, goals from senior assistant captain Matt Lane and sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey, plus a last-second empty-netter from sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato, secured the 5-3 victory for the Terriers.
Initially in this game, it looked like we might have to be a bit grumpy in our pluses and minuses. But BU managed to turn it around, so we get to be cheerful first today:
We were admittedly skeptical at first about Quinn’s changes to the lines, but they worked well — at the very least, the changes helped “to wake up the whole team,” in the words of senior forward Ahti Oksanen.
Oksanen, after playing on the first line for most of the season, was bumped down to the left wing on the second line, alongside Lane and freshman forward Jordan Greenway.
“It’s nice having two big wingers like that, those guys protect the puck well, and they get me the puck,” Lane said. “Then Ahti being a shooter, it’s easy to find him, he’s gonna let it rip. He played well, and I’m happy to see him score.”
Sophomore forward A.J. Greer moved up to the first line, alongside freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and senior right wing Danny O’Regan. He recorded a secondary assist on O’Regan’s early goal.
BU recorded a season-high 51 shots on goal, behind six players who recorded four or more shots. Oksanen led the way (shocker) with eight shots, while Hickey and freshman center Bobo Carpenter had seven shots on goal apiece.
Improved power play
After going 1-for-13 on the power play in its past four games entering Saturday — and a night after Quinn called the PP unit “lazy” — BU had a much more impressive showing on the power-play unit.
“There was more urgency, we were shooting it, we looked like a power play,” Quinn said. “There was a heightened awareness…We, too often, go into power-play mode and think it’s going to be a beauty contest.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to get pucks to the net, you got to pass it quickly, you got to pay attention and you got to crash the net. There’s really no other way to go about it, so I thought we had a lot more simplicity to our power play tonight.
Just to clarify: there was a bit of confusion as to exactly how many power-play opportunities BU technically had. Because Vermont winger Brady Shaw was sent off with a game misconduct, after Hickey scored a power-play goal, the Terriers remained on the man advantage — thus, technically, giving BU a fifth power-play opportunity after that.
Then Fortunato scored the empty-netter on BU’s next man advantage. After Fortunato’s empty-netter, there was no faceoff, since the teams were already retreating to the locker room, but those remaining 0.3 seconds apparently technically counted as a new power play for BU, even though nobody touched the puck after Fortunato’s goal.
I just used “technically” a lot in that description, but…you get the idea. “2-for-6” is a bit deceiving. Regardless, it was a much improved showing from the Terriers.
Carpenter won praise from Greer against Cornell University on Nov. 28, simply for the fact that “he wins draws.”
Well, we couldn’t help but give Carpenter a shoutout for that very fact. Today, he went 6-for-6 on faceoffs, but he currently leads the conference in faceoff percentage, with a .679 mark.
Forsbacka Karlsson went 14-5 on his draws, while Lane went 12-8. As a whole, BU won 38 of 60 faceoffs.
Strong finish to first half?
In the final home game of 2015, the Terriers were able to escape with a win. It’s the final time they’ll play at Agganis until Jan. 9.
After the game, Lane stressed the importance of BU concluding the first half of Hockey East play with a win.
“We definitely could not afford to drop two,” Lane said. “Unfortunately we got a split, and obviously you’d like to win both, but it’s nice to see our resiliency especially after losing a full game and being down the whole game to come back and get a win. So obviously for Hockey East standings and just finishing out the weekend, it’s nice to end on a win.”
Quinn stressed the importance of the seniors’ leadership in this game. You can read more about that in Andrew’s sider.
That part I mentioned earlier about thinking early on that we’d have to be grumpy in these pluses and minuses? Yeah, we’re at the grumpy point now.
Two goals today came for Vermont off of bad, bad, bad turnovers on BU’s part. The first was on the goal that allowed the Catamounts to take a 2-0 lead in the opening period, when sophomore defenseman John MacLeod gave up the puck to Vermont forward Mario Puskarich behind the net and Puskarich was able to convert.
Later in the third period, with the game tied 2-2, freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy mishandled a pass from Hickey right in front of BU’s net. He left the puck up for grabs directly in front of sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee, and Catamount forward Anthony Petruzzelli took full advantage of it.
Oksanen, a former defenseman himself, noted the slip-ups in the defensive zone.
“Our D-zone coverage has to be better,” Oksanen said. “Those goals scored today were kind of easy bounces we shouldn’t give up.”
Yet again, BU fell to a 2-0 deficit early before having to put together the comeback it did. While the Terriers have been able to more or less come away with wins and ties this season, it’s certainly not a habit they want to keep falling into, as Lane noted.
“Yeah, we definitely would rather score the first goal of the game, obviously,” Lane said. “But definitely, we’ve got to start scoring the first goal, we’ve got to win first periods. That’ll help us in the long run, because parity in this league, and the difference in one-goal games is so small.”
After Lane scored the game-tying goal, it was announced that the goal counted for his 100th career point.
Agganis Arena erupted into an ovation, but soon thereafter, a correction was issued. It was actually Lane’s 50th career point.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t 100,” Lane said. “I wish.”