Pereira out for Saturday, hopeful for BC on Jan. 8
By Scott McLaughlin, Cary Betagole and Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
Note: Grades are based on how each player’s performance thus far compares to what our expectations were for him before the season, with an ‘A’ exceeding expectations, a ‘B’ meeting expectations and a ‘C’ or ‘D’ being below expectations. Players are listed in numerical order.
Eric Gryba: B
Parker has repeatedly singled out Gryba as the only returning defenseman who has met preseason expectations. He’s been BU’s most physical blue-liner, and he’s done the best job of keeping guys in front of him, getting in passing and shooting lanes, and not turning the puck over on breakouts. He also leads the team in penalty minutes, though.
Kevin Shattenkirk: C
The junior captain leads the Terriers in points (14) and has done a very good job jumping up on rushes and quarterbacking the power play. However, he has regressed defensively. He’s been closer to the freshman who struggled 1-on-1 than the sophomore who rarely let anyone beat him, and he’s been plagued by bad breakout passes that have been easily intercepted. Also, as captain, at least some of the blame for the team’s attitude and focus issues has to fall on his shoulders.
Ryan Ruikka: Incomplete
Ruikka tore his ACL and meniscus before the season even started and will not play this year.
David Warsofsky: B+
In games that he’s played defense and been healthy (he missed three games with a hip injury, played through it in another and played forward for two games), he’s been arguably BU’s best player. He’s been solid defensively and he’s done a good job starting rushes, both with his passing and his skating. His plus-3 rating puts him second behind Bonino and makes him the only defenseman in positive numbers.
Joe Pereira: A
Pereira has undoubtedly been the Terriers’ most improved player this season. He’s exceeded expectations no matter where Parker has put him –– first line, third line, power play, penalty kill. He’s consistently shown the most effort and hustle, and he’s learned how to control his abundance of energy and not take penalties –– he has just one this season.
Max Nicastro: B
Nicastro has provided plenty of glimpses at the talent that made him a third-round pick in 2008. His physicality and brutish defense, combined with a good deal of offensive promise, provide reason to think he could someday be a star in Hockey East. Right now, though, he still turns the puck over a little too much to warrant a higher grade.
Ben Rosen: Incomplete
Rosen has recorded no points and a minus-2 rating in six games. He’s looked pretty good in his limited time, as he’s shown the ability to play solid defense and jump in on the rush. He’s not very physical, though, and he needs to get stronger on his skates if he wants to earn more playing time.
Alex Chiasson: B
Chiasson got off to a fast start with four goals in his first seven collegiate games, but has failed to find the back of the net in his last six games entering the break. Part of that slump can be blamed on some noticeable hesitancy to get physical following a chin injury suffered in practice in mid-November and a bout with the flu in late November.
Corey Trivino: C+
Trivino is tied for third on the team with 10 points (3g, 7a), but he still hasn’t performed at the level you would expect a second-round NHL pick to perform at. His vision and passing have definitely improved from last season to this season, but he still isn’t physical enough and he still doesn’t go to the net enough.
Zach Cohen: C
The senior forward experienced a career renaissance of sorts last season. But this year, he has hurt more than he’s helped en route to a team-worst minus-12 rating.
Chris Connolly: B+
Connolly was “snake-bitten” earlier this season by Parker’s account, but he’s broken out of that funk in the last month and a half and now has five goals and 12 points, both good for second on the team.
Nick Bonino: B-
A shoulder injury interrupted the encore to this junior’s 50-point 2008-09 season, but he’s shown signs of returning to form with a goal in each of the Terriers’ past two games. His 0.91 points per game average and plus-4 rating are tops on the team.
Andrew Glass: B-
After proving himself a prolific scorer at the prep level, he has no goals and just one assist in his second season with the Terriers.
Ryan Santana: B-
Santana’s energy has been useful in sparking rushes, but he’s also prone to making freshman mistakes.
Kevin Gilroy: C+
Gilroy has been given ample opportunity to contribute offensively, but hasn’t done much to prove he deserves to be anything other than a fourth-liner.
Victor Saponari: Incomplete
Saponari has appeared in just three games this season.
Wade Megan: B-
Megan made an impact early on, stringing together solid shifts as the center of the third line, but he’s been largely silent the past few weeks.
Justin Courtnall: B
Courtnall’s been the enforcer this team needs him to be, but his game hasn’t shown enough versatility to merit a higher grade.
Sean Escobedo: B
Escobedo has lived up to his reputation as a physical, stay-at-home defenseman. The freshman has laid a number of big hits, especially around his own blue line, and has proven athletic enough to handle the position at the collegiate level. Like the entire defense, Escobedo has occasionally been caught in poor position. But for a freshman, he has stepped in and exceeded, or at the very least met, expectations all season.
Ross Gaudet: A-
The sophomore made his collegiate debut on Oct. 30 against UMass-Lowell, and has since made himself a staple on the Terrier roster sheet. Gaudet appears to have embraced his role as a checking-line player, and though he is arguably the Terriers’ most aggressive hitter, he has seldom been overaggressive and whiffed on a big hit when he should be playing it safe.
Colby Cohen: D+
Cohen is an absolute weapon on the power play –– Cornell coach Mike Schafer constructed his entire penalty-killing unit around eliminating Cohen’s NHL-ready slap shot. However, Cohen has, if anything, taken a step backward when it comes to defensive responsibility, and has often created chances for opponents with careless passing. In the end, seven points (3g, 4a) in 15 games simply isn’t enough production to overlook Cohen’s poor defensive play and minus-10 rating.
Luke Popko: C+
Popko has been one of BU’s top faceoff men, winning 114-of-220 draws (51.8%), and has continued to prove himself one of the Terriers’ best penalty killers. The Terriers are killing 83.3 percent of opposing power plays, and as the quarterback of the PK, Popko deserves credit for BU’s staunch man-down play. However, he has tallied just two assists and has been dropped from fill-in first-line center earlier this season to permanent third/fourth-line center.
Vinny Saponari: C
Saponari is tied for third on the team with 10 points (3g, 7a) through 16 games, and has at times been one of BU’s better players on the ice. At the same time, Saponari has not taken the big step forward Parker had hoped he might as a second-line winger. The sophomore has been much better over the last month or so after a tough start, but if the Terriers are going to make a second-half run in Hockey East, Saponari is going to have to be one of their best players on a night-in, night-out basis.
Kieran Millan: D+
Millan has been great at times for the Terriers, including outstanding performances against Michigan and No. 5 Boston College. With the good has come plenty of bad, however, as inconsistent play has Millan entering the break with an .862 save percentage and a 3.52 goals-against average. Millan suffered a similar sophomore slump while playing juniors at Spruce Grove, but rebounded nicely then, and could do the same for BU this spring.
Adam Kraus: C+
Kraus has only seen 17 minutes in goal, where he stopped 11-of-12 shots after relieving Millan against Merrimack. There is a notable talent disparity between Kraus and the sophomore goalies, but Kraus is, by all accounts, a great teammate and a hard worker, and received praise from Parker for “competing hard” against Merrimack. Parker says Kraus will be given an equal shot at playing time in the second half, but we have heard that before, as Parker said the same thing at the beginning of the season.
Grant Rollheiser: C-
Parker entered the year figuring he’d have one of the nation’s top goaltending tandems in Rollheiser and Millan, but neither has met expectations. In four starts since returning from a high-ankle sprain suffered just before the season started, Rollheiser has posted an .870 save percentage and a 3.07 GAA. Rollheiser has proven susceptible to soft first-period goals, but has also rebounded well from those tallies. Rollheiser doesn’t have the same fluidity and rebound control that Millan has flashed, but is plenty athletic and, at 6-foot-4, has the build to become an NHL netminder. Rollheiser still has a ways to go in his development, but with some minor improvements to his positioning and rebound control, he could easily improve to get some revenge on Millan and steal away late-season playing time from his roommate.
By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
1) No. 5/6 Boston College (10-3-2, 7-3-2)
The Eagles ended the first semester on a seven-game unbeaten streak and have clearly emerged as the best team in Hockey East. Yes, they’re technically second in the standings, but the standings don’t tell the whole story. BC is currently tied for first in the conference in scoring offense (3.67 goals per game), is second in scoring defense (2.60 goals allowed per game) and is first on the penalty kill (85.9 percent). That offense is arguably the most balanced in the league. It’s tied for fifth nationally despite not having anyone rank in the top 50 in points. Eight BC forwards have recorded at least eight points, led by junior Brian Gibbons’ 16 (5 goals, 11 assists), and each member of the Eagles’ top three lines has a positive plus/minus rating.
2) No. 15 University of Massachusetts-Amherst (10-5-0, 6-4-0)
The Minutemen raced out to a 4-1 start in conference play to stake an early claim to first place, but have now dropped to fourth after going just 2-3 in their last five. However, UMass’ offense is still tied with BC for tops in the conference, its defense ranks fourth (2.73 goals allowed per game) and its special teams rank second (plus-11 net goals). Whereas BC has no true superstars and really spreads its offense around, UMass has arguably the best one-two punch in college hockey. Junior James Marcou (5-21-26) leads the nation with 1.73 points per game, while sophomore linemate Casey Wellman (13-9-22) is tied for fifth with a 1.47 pace. Junior Paul Dainton has provided stellar goaltending, as he’s tied for second in the league with a .922 save percentage.
3) University of Maine (9-7-1, 7-4-1)
They’re baaaaaack. The Black Bears have won five straight to climb up to third in the standings. Like BC and UMass, Maine is led by an explosive offense, ranking right behind those two with 3.65 goals per game, good for third in the conference and seventh in the country. The Black Bears also boast the conference’s best special teams with a plus-13 net. Their 28.8-percent power play is tops in the conference and second nationally. The leader up front is sophomore Gustav Nyquist, whose 25 points (11 G, 14 A) are the second-most in Hockey East and seventh-most in the nation. Maine has also gotten a boost from sophomore goalie Scott Darling’s breakthrough season. He ranks third in the league in goals-against average (2.47) and fourth in save percentage (.912).
4) No. 12/14 University of Massachusetts-Lowell (10-6-1, 5-4-1)
The break comes at the perfect time for the River Hawks, who have lost four of their last six and dropped to fifth in the standings. Still, there’s a lot to like in Lowell. UML owns the league’s best defense (2.41 goals allowed per game), paced by the conference’s best goaltending tandem. Senior Carter Hutton (5-4-0) ranks first in both goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.927), while fellow senior Nevin Hamilton (5-2-1) places fifth in both categories (2.61 and .911). Leading the blue-line corps is senior Nick Schaus. His 18 points (4 G, 14 A) are tied for the most among Hockey East defensemen, and his plus-12 rating is second in the conference. The River Hawks’ 3.41 goals per game are good for the conference’s fifth-best offense.
5) No. 16 University of New Hampshire (8-6-3, 8-2-2)
The Wildcats’ seven-game unbeaten streak and conference-leading 18 points say they’re an elite team. Their sixth-ranked scoring offense (3.35 goals per game), ninth-ranked scoring defense (3.47 goals allowed per game), eighth-ranked power play (16.0 percent) and ninth-ranked penalty kill (75.0 percent) say they’re not even a middle-of-the-pack team. Putting them fifth splits the difference. The biggest positives for UNH have been senior forward Bobby Butler, who ranks third in Hockey East with 24 points (13 G, 11 A) and first with a plus-13 rating, and sophomore defenseman Blake Kessel (5-13-18, plus-11). The biggest negative has been senior goalie Brian Foster, who ranks 10th in save percentage (.892) and 11th in goals-against average (3.44).
6) University of Vermont (8-6-2, 4-5-2)
Since an embarrassing 7-1 loss at BC on Nov. 14 that dropped them to 3-4-1, the Catamounts have gone 5-2-1 to steer the ship back on course. But much of that success has come out of conference, resulting in Vermont making little headway in the standings, where they’re currently sixth. Much like UNH, UVM’s peripheral stats aren’t too pretty. The Catamounts rank seventh in offense (2.81 goals per game), seventh in defense (3.12 goals allowed per game), ninth on the power play (15.9 percent) and seventh on the penalty kill (80.7 percent). Senior forward Brayden Irwin has been Vermont’s biggest bright spot. After having his point totals regress in each of the last two seasons following a 19-point freshman campaign, he leads the team with 14 points (6 G, 8 A).
7) Merrimack College (7-8-0, 4-6-0)
The Warriors just can’t get off the schneid. After starting the season 6-3-0, they went an abysmal 1-5-0 to end the first semester, falling to eighth place in the process. Things won’t get any easier over break, either, as Merrimack heads to Madison, Wis. for the Badger Showdown, where it’ll face No. 7 Wisconsin and either No. 8/9 Yale or No. 11 Ferris State. The Warrior defense, a veteran group expected to be the team’s strength this season, ranks eighth in the conference with 3.27 goals allowed per game. During the current six-game skid, that number jumps to 4.00. Not on the schneid is forward Stephane Da Costa, who’s leading Merrimack’s fourth-ranked offense (3.47 goals per game) as a rookie. The Paris native is tops among Hockey East freshmen with 19 points (9 G, 10 A).
8) Northeastern University (6-8-1, 4-7-1)
No. 1 on the Huskies’ Christmas list is offense. Northeastern is last in the conference with 2.27 goals per game. Senior Kyle Kraemer (5 G, 5 A) and freshman Garrett Vermeersch (4 G, 6 A) are tied for the team lead with 10 points. To put that in perspective, every other team in Hockey East has at least four double-digit scorers and at least one 14-point scorer. In their last four games, the Huskies have scored just six goals. Not surprisingly, they’re 1-3-0 in those games. Despite the offensive power outage, Northeastern sits in seventh place in the standings, thanks in large part to the play of freshman goalie Chris Rawlings, who ranks sixth in the league with a respectable .908 save percentage.
9) Providence College (7-9-1, 2-7-1)
The Friars have been unable to climb out of last place thanks to a five-game losing streak to end the first semester. They’re currently one point behind BU for ninth, but they have something the Terriers don’t right now –– good goaltending. In fact, Providence has arguably the best goaltender in Hockey East. Sophomore Alex Beaudry is second in goals-against average (2.43), second in minutes played (839:11) and tied for second in save percentage (.922). He’s done a complete 180 from last season, when he ranked 13th in both goals-against average (3.50) and save percentage (.888). Other than him, though, there’s not much for the Friars to be happy with. They’re ninth in offense (2.41 goals per game), last on the power play (15.4 percent) and last in special teams net (minus-6).
10) Boston University (4-9-3, 2-7-2)
The list of problems for the Terriers is about as long as a seven-year-old’s Christmas list. They don’t score enough, as evidenced by their eighth-ranked offense (2.75 goals per game). They don’t defend well enough, as evidenced by their last-ranked defense (3.50 goals allowed per game). That minus-0.75 goals-per-game net is the worst in the league. BU also owns the league’s worst goaltending right now. Sophomores Grant Rollheiser and Kieran Millan rank 12th and 13th in Hockey East in save percentage at .870 and .862, respectively. The Terriers can’t put together a 60-minute effort, either. They’ve allowed 23 third-period goals, the most in the conference, and their minus-9 third-period net is the worst of any Hockey East team in any period. Given all that, it should come as no surprise that BU has won just one of its last seven games and two of its last 12.
By Josh Mellits/DFP Staff
With 17 days until they meet in the Winter Classic, the Boston Bruins froze against the Philadelphia Flyers, allowing three unanswered goals in a 3-1 defeat at the TD Garden Monday night.
The third annual outdoor game will take place Jan. 1, 2010, and the Bruins (16-10-6) will have to wait until then to avenge their meltdown against a struggling Flyers squad (15-15-1)
“I think that if you want to win a hockey game, you have to play for 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara said. “There were parts of the game when we were just making uncharacteristic mistakes. I don’t know if it was fatigue or lack of effort –– there’s no excuse.”
Early in the first period, a goal by center Vladimir Sobotka was called off after the cage was dislodged. But an even bigger moment came with seven minutes remaining in the period, when the Bruins suffered back-to-back penalties to give the Flyers a two-man advantage.
Boston’s league-leading penalty kill kicked into gear, deftly robbing Philadelphia of the opportunity to strike first. In a stellar effort, defenseman Dennis Wideman blocked three shots and eventually had to leave the contest, though coach Claude Julien insisted “it had nothing to do with” the stops.
“That’s a big sacrifice,” Chara said. “That’s obviously huge, putting his body out there and blocking those shots. That’s one of the reasons why we killed it.”
The first two periods were marked by physical play and outstanding goaltending, as the lamps were dark for the first 38 minutes of the contest. Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher was first to crack, allowing Sobotka to redeem himself with a shot that just trickled into the net. That gave Boston the lead heading into the second intermission, a situation in which the team had not lost this season. Going into the game, the Bruins were also 11-1-0 when they scored first.
“When you score the first goal of a game, it’s usually a good sign,” Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. “But one wasn’t enough.”
It wasn’t enough because the game started to unravel in the third stanza. Less than three minutes in, Flyers rookie and University of New Hampshire alum James van Riemsdyk poked the puck into the net for his first goal since Nov. 18.
“We lost a race to a puck in the corner,” Julien said. “They had a guy drive the net and they just hit him with a pass to get that first goal. So again, lose that race, not just for the puck, but you also lose that race to get back to the front of the net, that guy tipped it in. So it’s about races and battles.”
About ten minutes later, Flyers defenseman Kimo Timomen unleashed a rocket from the top-center of the blue line. The puck curved into the top shelf of the net after a deflection off a player’s glove for the go-ahead goal before Thomas could even react.
“I picked it up late,” Thomas said. “From that far away, you’d like to be able to find it and get to it, but I wasn’t able to.”
The Bruins had one more chance with a minute left in regulation when Flyers winger Scott Hartnell gave a high-stick to former Flyer wing Mark Recchi, awarding the home team a two-man advantage with an empty net. But barely twenty seconds elapsed before Timonen added a tally from the other side of the ice to seal the game.
“He got me good,” Recchi said. “But you get ready –– we called the timeout to get an opportunity to get our setup and unfortunately we weren’t able to get it.”
The Bruins look to regroup and refocus with a tough road trip ahead to Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa, and especially with New Year’s Day circled on their calendar.
“I was really surprised we didn’t compete the way we needed to compete,” Recchi said. “That’s just not like us, especially with a lead in our home building –– we’ve really started to play well here. It’s disappointing that’s what ended up happening, the way we responded in the third, and I hope this gets us focused for our trip.”
By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
I thought we killed penalties well. Six penalties, three shots. Thought we played pretty well in the first period, made two huge mistakes, and literally gave them two goals. And then in the third period, we were afraid to lose, so we lost. And we were a little exhausted, too. We self-destructed in the second period with all the penalties we took. We wound up with Gryba in the box for 10 minutes plus his two. We wore out Shattenkirk and Warsofsky and Escobedo and Nicastro killing penalties. And they were really legless in the third, I thought. But that team came out and played hockey in the third wanting to win, and our team came out, was afraid they were going to lose, so we lost.
On how BU’s goaltending has been
Goaltending is one of our problems, and we’ve fallen back greatly from last year. Overall team defense, you could say the goaltending isn’t playing that well because we can’t protect the front of the net. They got four goals, not including the empty-net goal, they got four of their goals at the crease. We literally gave them goals. Three out of the four goals were pathetic plays by us. I thought Kieran made a few good saves.
Before the season started, I thought we’d have one of the best goaltending tandems in the nation. I thought we’d be in really good shape there. We’d be pretty solid on defense with the guys we got back. We’d have a good power play because we’d have at least one of the power-play units back from last year. And none of that is true now. None of that has been true from day one.
We have a lot of guys that are either underachieving right now or they overachieved last year. As a team, we are almost searching for an identity. We can’t seem to find it. We had all those opportunities in the first period and we come out of it losing 2-1, and they must be saying to themselves, “Oh no, here we go again.”
We come out for the third period winning 3-2, and we literally got run out of the building, I thought. I thought the third period, they were more physical than we were, looked a lot faster than we did, and I really think we were just, “Oh God, what if we lose? What if we lose this game?” So we did. We don’t have anyone stepping up and taking the reins here and saying, “OK, we’re going to get this done.” We have those telltale factors. We won 19 faceoffs. They won 33.
On whether he’s seen the fear of losing before
I think it’s happened. I think against BC, we were back on our heels in the third period. I think there have been times this year where the more you know you are not playing well, the more you are thinking, “Oh no, what if we lose this game? What if we lose this game? What is the coach going to think if we lose this game?”
On whether the break will be a good thing
There’s no question we need a break. I was hoping we’d get a break with a W tonight. Didn’t happen. This is going to be a hard one. It’s a long break for this one to be the last game
On how being afraid to lose affects his team’s play
I think it’s a slow start, overthinking, being jumpy with the puck. We’re not making stick-to-stick passes. We’ve had three or four games this year where we’ve played pretty well on the power play going into the third period, and then we had to get a power-play goal. In the first period, we had three power plays and we had eight shots. In the third, we had one power play and we didn’t get a shot on net. That happened to us at Northeastern, 1-0 game, we couldn’t get a goal on the power play. That happened to us with BC where we had some opportunities early and we were ineffective on the power play. That is a sign. You look at the shot chart in the first period and you look at the shot chart in the third period, it shows you there’s a different look out there. There’s a different mindset. And what’s really sad is that shot chart in the first period, they get one grade-A shot in the first period and it’s off to the side of the net, and the other two are goals. They don’t even get a look, and we’re losing 2-1. And I don’t think that’s the goalie’s fault. We’re just making unbelievable breakdowns giving them two goals.
On the decision to sit Colby Cohen
He hasn’t been playing well. He hasn’t been playing fast enough or smart enough.
On whether the first two RPI goals were the defense’s fault or the goalie’s fault
I think it was a little bit of both on the first one. Guy goes off, one goes out to play his friend. We told them they like to get the puck to the point and then drive down the boards. Same guy takes it down the boards. He didn’t even get blocked. I loved when he didn’t even get blocked. It was no problem for him to be able play that. And he lost him and everyone else just took their man, and he went right to the net and scored.
The second one was a scramble out front. Three guys lost their men, one after another. All the sudden, the puck is in the net. No problems whatsoever, they should be able to control those three guys.
This club gets half their shots off of winning 33 faceoffs. Half their shots were off of faceoffs, one pass and a shot. Losing two-thirds of the faceoffs is a bad sign because it isn’t skill.
On the penalties BU took
Undisciplined play. Stupid play.
On how he feels about the upcoming break
I think it’s definitely a great time. I think we need to just cool off and think about things over the break from a coaching standpoint and from our standpoint as players. It’s going to be good to rest for a little bit and not have to worry about hockey.
On the idea that BU was afraid to lose in the third period
I think once we get up by a goal or into those pressure situations, it seems like we don’t believe in ourselves. We’ve said it time and time again. I don’t know where or why we’re losing that confidence, but it’s creeping in for whatever reason and we need to figure that out.
On how as a captain he’s able to boost team morale
It’s just a matter of letting everyone know that we are good enough. I know it, and Coach knows that we have a great team. It’s just a matter of keeping our younger guys aware of it and letting them know that we have the ability to do something like that.
On whether the defense felt legless in the third
Initially, we had Gryba sick, so he wasn’t at his full potential tonight. Once we get all those penalties and you’re sending out the same guys over and over again, especially in the second period, it definitely kills your energy, not only from a physical standpoint, but mental as well. Coming into the third period, I think guys were huffing and puffing a little bit. That can’t be an excuse. We need to bear down in those situations, and we did on the penalty kill, but we couldn’t do it 5-on-5.
On whether benching Colby Cohen sends a message to the rest of the team
It definitely sends a message to Colby. I know from past experiences that Colby’s rebounded well from it. As far as other guys getting a message, it didn’t really seem like it tonight. So hopefully when it happens to them, it will be a slap in the face, and hopefully it will be a good thing and turn them around.
On whether the penalty kill’s success was able to boost guys’ confidence
It’s obviously a morale booster when you’re killing off penalties, but at the same time we killed off a bunch. I think we were killing a penalty after the second period. We came back out and had to kill off a penalty. That should be something that fires guys up, and like I said, it’s just a matter of us losing confidence in ourselves. We’re not really having any belief that we can build off of things like that.
Left legless after killing six penalties, BU’s defense gave up three third-period goals to blow a 3-2 lead. BU coach Jack Parker called his blue line’s effort “pathetic,” as RPI reached the crease on four of its five goals. Junior defenseman Colby Cohen was a healthy scratch for not playing “fast enough or smart enough,” but the rest of the backline didn’t seem to get the message.
The Terriers scored three goals Friday night — two of them on shorthanded breaks. Junior defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was involved in both, earning the No. 1 Star of the Game. In the first, he forced a turnover on the blue line that junior forward Nick Bonino turned into a goal. He went coast-to-coast flanked on a 2-on-1 to put BU up 3-2 with 10:05 left in the second. But that was all she wrote for the Terriers, as they were unable to strike back after RPI’s third-period surge.
Special Teams: A-
BU held an RPI team with a 22-percent power-play efficiency to an 0-for-6 showing on the man advantage. Senior forward Zach Cohen tied the game at two on the Terriers’ lone power-play conversion. He screened RPI goalie Bryce Merriam on freshman defenseman Max Nicastro’s wrister from the point, and got a stick on the puck to tip it in on the way by. The Terriers finished 1-for-6 on the power play.
“Our goalie effort has fallen back greatly from last year,” BU coach Jack Parker said after the game. Sophomore goalie Kieran Millan made 20 saves on 24 shots, and the Engineers netted an empty-netter with under a minute remaining. But Millan didn’t have a lot of help in front of him.
The Terriers lost the faceoff battle, 33-to-19, Friday. As Parker noted in the postgame press conference, RPI is a team that thrives on making a single pass after the faceoff before shooting on goal. The Terriers’ inability to win faceoffs led to numerous Engineer opportunities. Parker also noted that faceoffs aren’t about skill; they’re about effort. The latter was clearly lacking, and nothing was more revealing of that fact than BU’s faceoff ineptitude.
The good news is that the Terriers killed all six Rensselaer power plays, holding the Engineers to just three shots while scoring two shorthanded goals. The bad news is that five of those kills came in a 17:31 stretch from the 8:13 mark of the second to the 5:44 mark of the third, and that the Terriers were without senior defenseman Eric Gryba for 10 of those minutes due to a misconduct.
At the end of that span, BU was exhausted. That –– combined with the Terriers being “afraid to lose,” according to coach Jack Parker –– allowed RPI to take the game and run with it. The Engineers potted two even-strength goals in a four-minute span midway through the third to take the lead, and the Terriers were never able to recover.
“We self-destructed in the second period with all the penalties we took,” Parker said. “We wound up with Gryba in the box for 10 minutes, plus his two [for a holding minor]. We wore out Shattenkirk and Warsofsky and Escobedo and Nicastro killing penalties. And they were really legless in the third period, I thought.”
The devastating string of penalties began when Gryba got called for holding, and then picked up an additional 10 minutes in the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Junior defenseman and captain Kevin Shattenkirk seemingly shifted the momentum back to BU during that kill when he roofed a shorthanded goal to give BU a 3-2 lead. But just 27 seconds after junior forward Victor Saponari was done serving Gryba’s minor, freshman defenseman Sean Escobedo was sent off for contact to the head roughing.
Less than two minutes after that infraction was killed, sophomore forward Kevin Gilroy became Gryba’s third box buddy when he was called for a trip. A little more than two minutes after he was set free, sophomore forward Vinny Saponari picked up an interference penalty that carried over into the third.
If that wasn’t enough, sophomore forward Chris Connolly added his own interference minor to the list three minutes after Saponari got out.
“Undisciplined play,” Parker answered when asked what caused his team to take so many penalties in succession. “Stupid play.”
Sometimes, killing a string of penalties can swing the momentum in that team’s favor, and give them a boost once they’re back to even strength. On Friday night, though, that didn’t happen for the Terriers, thanks in large part to the fact that they were simply too tired to come out flying.
“Once we get all those penalties,” Shattenkirk said, “and we’re sending out the same guys over and over again, especially in the second period, it definitely kills your energy, not only from a physical standpoint, but mental as well.”
Shattenkirk, however, was also quick to say that the team can’t use that as an excuse for the way they performed at even strength for the rest of the game.
“We need to bear down in those situations [when we’re tired],” he said. “And we did on the penalty kill, but we couldn’t do it 5-on-5.”
Despite getting shorthanded tallies from juniors Nick Bonino and Kevin Shattenkirk, the Boston University men’s hockey team blew a third-period lead to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Friday night on the way to a 5-3 loss.
BU (4-9-3) entered the third with a 3-2 lead, but consecutive goals by seniors Erik Burgdoerfer and Christian Jensen midway through the third gave RPI (9-9-1) the lead. Junior Tyler Helfrich added an empty-netter with 53.9 seconds left to seal the deal for the Engineers.
“In the third period, we were afraid to lose, so we lost,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We go into the third period, we’re winning 3-to-2, and literally get run out of the building. I thought the third period Rensselaer beat us to every puck. They were more physical than we were –– looked a lot faster than we did.
“I think we’re really just, ‘Oh my God, what if we lose this game?’ So we did.”
Burgdoerfer tied the game at 3 just before the 10-minute mark of the third. With a delayed penalty coming on senior Eric Gryba for hitting Joel Malchuck from behind, RPI sophomore Patrick Cullen found Burgdoerfer at the right doorstep, who lifted a shot past BU netminder Kieran Millan.
Jensen netted the game-winning goal with about six minutes left after freshman Brandon Pirri fired wide of the net from center point. The puck bounced off the boards behind the cage and found its way to Jensen atop the crease.
Jensen threw one shot off Millan, then put his own rebound back at net. The put-back weaved its way through a jungle of sticks and skates sliding into the back of the cage. Jensen described the goal as a “greasy one.”
BU jumped to an early lead just two minutes into the game with a shorthanded goal. Fighting an aggressive BU forecheck, RPI netminder Bryce Merriam tried to clear the puck up the left boards, but his attempt ended up on junior Kevin Shattenkirk’s stick at the right point.
With RPI in full breakout mode, Shattenkirk had an open lane to sophomore Chris Connolly, positioned just inside the left faceoff dot. Connolly hesitated momentarily before passing to junior Nick Bonino atop the right side of the crease. Bonino one-timed Connolly’s pass under the crossbar for the shorthanded finish and Bonino’s fourth goal of the season.
The Terriers’ early lead was short lived. Just over two minutes after Bonino’s tally, RPI freshman Brandon Pirri wheeled behind the BU cage and backhanded a pass to a charging Alex Angers-Goulet from the left post to the top-right corner of the crease. Angers-Goulet beat both the BU defender and Millan to the puck and pushed his third goal of the year across the red line.
Just 19 seconds later, a defensive breakdown left RPI defenseman Bryan Brutlag with an open lane from the right halfwall all the way to the BU cage. The junior skated along the circumference of the right side circle to Millan’s front porch, where he beat the sophomore goalie five-hole to put RPI up, 2-1.
The BU power play came up with the equalizer 3:10 into the second period as freshman Max Nicastro rifled a wrist shot from the right point. The shot deflected off Malchuck in the slot, then again off BU senior Zach Cohen atop the crease before working its way around Merriam and into the cage. Cohen was credited with the goal, his sixth of the season.
With the game tied at 2 in the second period, the BU penalty kill again went on the offensive, with Shattenkirk converting on a 2-on-1 rush with sophomore Ross Gaudet. Shattenkirk rushed the puck up the ice on the right wing before slowing in the slot and faking a pass to Gaudet. The fake froze Merriam momentarily, and BU’s captain lifted a wrister into the window between Merriam’s left shoulder and the crossbar to put BU ahead. It was Shattenkirk’s third goal of the year.
The loss comes at the end of what has been a disastrous first half for the defending national champions, which has been lowlighted by a number of blown third-period leads.
“The more you go not playing well, the more you start worrying about, ‘Oh [shoot], What if we lose this game? What are they gonna say about us if we lose this game? What’s the coach going to think if we lose this game?’” Parker said. “I think that has really crept in now.”
With a three-week break next on BU’s schedule, Shattenkirk thinks time away from the rink might be the remedy for the Terriers’ woes.
“We need to just cool off and just think about things over break from a coaching standpoint and from our standpoint as players,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s gonna be good to rest for a little bit and not have to worry about hockey.”
“I don’t think there’s any question we need a break,” Parker said. “I was hoping we’d get a break with a ‘W’ tonight –– didn’t happen. It’s a long break to have this one be the last game.”
Kibbles and Bits:
After being called for holding in the second period, Gryba was awarded a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The 12 penalty minutes gave Gryba 295 career minutes in the sin bin, enough to eclipse Freddy Meyer’s all-time mark for penalty minutes accrued by a Terrier . . . Junior Colby Cohen was a healthy scratch for the Terriers Friday . . . RPI is the only team in the country to make multiple visits to Agganis Arena and remain undefeated at ‘The Greek.’