By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
Friday morning, Jack Parker had an idea.
After Friday’s 5-4 overtime win against the No. 8/9 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, it looked like the No. 4 Boston University men’s hockey coach’s idea might change his team’s entire season.
Parker knew the Terriers would be playing shorthand for 3-to-4 weeks as junior Nick Bonino recovered from a separated shoulder suffered against the University of Michigan last Saturday. He also knew that his power play was struggling, capitalizing on just 3-of-19 chances –– a .158 conversion rate.
When Parker came up with the idea, the third-winningest coach in Division-I hockey history shared it with his assistants.
The idea: promote sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky to the top power-play unit –– and play him at forward.
“I said to my assistants, ‘You know what, with Bonino out, maybe we should go with our quote-unquote top five out there, see if we can’t go get something going on one half of our power plays at least,’” Parker said.
When UML senior Jeremy Dehner took a tripping penalty with 2:27 left in overtime Friday, Parker, considering his tired core of forwards and a lackluster 0-for-3 showing on the man advantage to that point, decided to make his move.
When the Terriers came out for the left-side offensive draw, sophomore Corey Trivino lined up at center with the regular top power-play unit, except Warsofsky, already two goals into his first-star night, was crouched at his right wing in the slot.
“We never practiced it and never told them about it,” Parker said. “I just said, ‘Hey David, go play up at the shooter’s position.”
On its last outing late in the third period, the top power-play unit struggled mightily to even set up in the attacking zone. After an initial clear off the faceoff, the Terriers tried three times to enter into the UML zone and establish possession. All three times, the River Hawks cleared the puck within a few seconds of its entry.
The line changed one minute into the man advantage without so much as sniffing a scoring chance.
In overtime, with Warsofsky at the right-side half-wall position, the unit clicked almost instantly.
A few passes off the opening faceoff, Warsofsky gave the Terriers their first scoring chance of the power play, detonating an explosive one-time slap shot from atop the right circle that was turned away by senior UML netminder, Carter Hutton.
About a minute of quick puck movement later, when junior Colby Cohen rocketed home the game-winner at 3:54, he did so with Warsofsky setting a screen in front. The defenseman was posted up atop the crease, back to the net like a basketball forward.
For the Marshfield native, the decision to set up in front was a natural one, and carried a potential message to teammates who had opted to hang around the perimeter on the power play in the past.
“It felt kind of good,” Warsofsky said. “You’re out there on the power play and some of your forwards aren’t setting you screens. Everyone takes it for granted how important that screen really is, so I just wanted to get in there and block the goalie’s eyes and create an opportunity to score.”
Warsofsky, who played forward as a youth and some in high school, said he’s “always kind of had that offensive instinct” in his game. With him, Cohen and junior Kevin Shattenkirk on the ice at the same time, the BU power play adds yet another dynamic to an already talented core.
“They’re three of our best players, no doubt about that,” Paker said. “I talked to David about playing him at center and start practicing him at center, just because, I hope we never have to play him at center, but with Bonino out, if somebody else gets an injury, it’s a thin area for us. He’s one of the few defenseman –– he’s the only defenseman who can go up and play forward for us.”
The right wing in BU’s power play might be the ideal position to suit Warsofksy’s dynamic skill set, according to Parker.
“[Warsofksy’s] a real clever player,” Parker said of. “I think he might be better off playing the half wall than the point because at the point he’s a little too clever. On the half wall he can drill it. He can really one-time a shot if he gets a chance to do that, but when he gets it he can close, he can beat people. He can retrieve pucks. He’s a very, very smart player.”
“We’ll probably use him there at least until Bonino gets back.”