By Sam Dykstra/DFP Staff
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — New year, same problems.
Due mostly to untimely mistakes caused by the leaky defense and poor goaltending that plagued it heading into the end of the previous calendar year, the No. 10/11 Boston University men’s hockey team fell 6-1 to Brown University in the opening game of the Shillelagh Tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Saturday. The Terriers (8-5-5) will play No. 12 University of Notre Dame, who fell to Minnesota State University-Mankato 4-3 in the other first-round matchup, in Sunday’s consolation game at 6 p.m. EST.
“I was really disappointed with my team tonight. From goaltender on out,” said BU coach Jack Parker.
In their first game following three winter break practices in which the team focused exclusively on the penalty kill, the power play and defensive coverage, the Terriers struggled the most in the latter category.
Despite outshooting the Bears (4-4-4) by a vast 42-24 margin, BU couldn’t clear out their own zone quick enough to keep the ever-forceful Brown squad from taking advantage.
That was never more evident than on Brown’s third goal of the afternoon when forward Bobby Farnham collected his own rebound off a shot in the right circle and scooped a backhanded shot past a diving Kieran Millan (18 saves), who struggled all afternoon to corral rebounds in and around the crease.
From there, Brown kept the pedal to the medal while BU seemed stuck in neutral, especially around its own net. The remaining three goals came off bounces in front of the BU crease that the Terriers just simply couldn’t gather.
Although it may have seemed that a bounce this way or that may have saved the Terriers from such a devastating defeat, Parker noted that it wasn’t the occasional misdirect that hurt his team. It was its overall effort.
“In general, it wasn’t like we made a bunch of mistakes,” Parker said. “You want to say this was a 3-1 game after you take away three key mistakes. But effort-wise, it was like a 20-1 game. It has nothing to do with the score. The score was not what I’m upset about. What I’m upset about is the fact that there wasn’t enough compete in my team compared to Brown University’s team by a mile.
“It has nothing to do with technical things. . . If you don’t line up next to the guy and beat him to the puck, it’s like what they say about football, it’s a game of blocking and tackling. We didn’t block and tackle tonight. We got run over.”
Offensively, the Terriers had more than their fair share of chances with 73 total shots attempted in the contest. But without anyone to truly finish on those opportunities, even with the most of open of nets, the only number that counts – the big one on the scoreboard – remained at one after freshman forward Matt Nieto’s tally 17 minutes into the first.
Parker and senior captain Chris Connolly, who made his return after missing five games with a broken finger, noted that without the Terriers truly crashing the net and attacking the puck like their Brown opponents, the offensive output was going to suffer as it did Saturday.
“Tonight was pretty odd for us,” Connolly said. “We put up 30-odd shots, but they were all from the perimeter. We weren’t getting anything from in close. We weren’t really digging and battling like they were. They got some lucky bounces, some lucky chances, but they were creating those opportunities and we weren’t.”
“We used fall-away jump shots and hoped they went in,” Parker said.
With the calendar flipping to 2011, this is not the way BU and most Terrier fans envisioned the team opening the second half of the season, especially given its history of successes in the latter portions of the season. Connolly, though, envisions that Saturday’s loss, which for all intents and purposes could very well be considered the team’s worst of the season, just might be the kick in the pants it needs as it tries to regain the national standing it held earlier in 2010.
“We can definitely learn from this, especially being first game after break,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a lull or what it was. But the big test will be tomorrow to see if we can rebound and face the adversity. “
GAME NOTES: Connolly said that he felt fine in his return and that his pinky finger has “healed nicely.” . . . Despite BU and Notre Dame’s losses Saturday, the two teams will still play in the second game of tomorrow’s championship-consolation games as per Shillelagh Tournament rules that stipulate that the Irish get the second game no matter what. . . The announced attendance for the game at the Sears Centre Arena was 3,580.