By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
More often than not, No. 14 Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker doesn’t fret over the dreaded, often talked about trap games his team plays the weekend before and the weekend between Beanpot Mondays.
Now, with a Friday contest looming against the basement-dwelling University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Parker is more concerned than normal about his team’s readiness in a battle for key Hockey East points.
“We just had the worst practice of the year [Thursday],” Parker said after dismissing his team after just half an hour of skating. “I’m real concerned about where our heads are at and whether or not we’re ready to play this game [Friday] night.”
The poor practice showing was particularly alarming to Parker because, throughout the season, the coach has had nothing but praise for his players’ motivation and participation in practices.
But Thursday, one day before the less-than-impressive River Hawks (4-20-2, 3-16-0 Hockey East) come to visit, Parker’s Terriers (12-7-7, 9-5-5 HE) have suddenly abandoned their concentrated ways.
“I don’t think I can think of three or four bad practices we’ve had all year,” Parker said. “This was, without question, a horrible practice … Lack of speed. Lack of concentration. Lack of effort. Lack of focus.”
Parker has praised the vast majority of his players for their focus throughout the season, but among the few who had disappointed the coach was junior center Corey Trivino.
Trivino, a second-round selection by the New York Islanders in the 2008 NHL entry draft, emerged last year as an elite penalty killer and has drawn Parker’s praise for his defensive abilities.
Where Trivino has disappointed many BU fans is with his offensive output. The Etobicoke, Ontario native was touted by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau as having a “good goal-scoring touch” back in 2008 but has failed to live up to that hype with 15 goals and 28 assists in 84 career games.
Since his demotion to third-line duties two weeks ago, though, Parker has noticed a new level of concentration and effort from the 21-year-old center.
“I thought he played real well [last weekend],” Parker said. “Ordinarily, you see him play as well as he did in those two games, you’d think about moving him back up with his old linemates, except he really elevated his other two linemates. I thought [sophomore Ross] Gaudet had his best weekend of the year and played extremely well.”
Parker said the improved play isn’t necessarily due to a mentality change on Trivino’s part –– Parker asks his forwards on lines one through three to play the game in more or less the same style and still looks for Trivino to act as an offensive catalyst on line three.
Rather, the progression in Trivino’s game has come entirely from improved dedication and effort.
BU’s third line of Trivino, Gaudet and sophomore Wade Megan was especially crucial during the Terriers’ 4-3 win over the University of Maine last Friday. The threesome combined for two goals and two assists as well as a team-best seven combined shots on goal.
“It’s been mostly how [Trivino has] played,” Parker said. “The improvement is he’s playing harder. He’s playing with more zip.”
The emergence of a legitimate third line makes BU a steady favorite over the visiting River Hawks, who have struggled in many areas this year, but none more so than defensively.
UML is allowing a league-worst 4.23 goals per game and have been outshot by opponents by an average of 7.2 shots per game.
Even worse than the defense has been the goaltending. Combined, goaltenders Doug Carr, Marc Boulanger and TJ Massie have an .878 save percentage.
“They’ve struggled, and I think mostly because of goaltending,” Parker said. “In general, overall team defense is important. The forwards have to help the defense, but you have to have consistent goaltending, and when you don’t, it can make everybody jumpy.”