By Sam Dykstra/DFP Staff
Everyone’s immediate reaction to Friday night’s game is to blame the tie on every aspect of the game. But when all things are considered, the BU offense actually played as well as it has all season. The team’s 46 shots were the second-highest amount it had put on net in game this season, behind the 49 it put up against Harvard University in the Beanpot consolation. That’s 30 more shots than BU had in its first game against the Catamounts up in Burlington on Jan. 9 And those shots weren’t exactly the weakest of attempts. The Terriers had 27 Grade-A chances, including 10 in the first period alone, with all three goals coming below the dots. Sure, anyone would like to see a goal total slightly higher than three, especially after a tie, but if BU wants a blueprint to succeed offensively, you can’t get much better than the one they used Friday.
For 46 minutes and change, this looked like it would be an easy A- at the least for the Terriers. They held the Catamounts scoreless mostly by following the design they’ve used since the beginning of the season: forcing teams to shoot from the outside and limiting chances from in close. Vermont only had seven Grade-A’s in the first two periods. In fact, that trend continued in the third, but unfortunately for the Terriers, they allowed the Catamounts to take advantage of their chances from below the dots. Vermont had only four shots from the Grade-A trapezoid in the third and scored on two of those opportunities. (The other goal came on a shot from up top that flew through traffic.) As easy as it would be to reward the defense for its play early or completely punish it for its play over seven minutes in the third, you simply can’t talk about one and ignore the other so a B- feels about right in that situation.
You could almost copy and paste the pros and cons from the defense into Millan’s grade here. He played up to his standards of late over the first two periods. (In fact, there was some talk in the press box about who deserved the first star of the game: Millan or freshman forward Sahir Gill, who had a goal and an assist.) But then it all came apart in the third. He may have come out a bit too far on Anders Franzon’s goal, allowing the Vermont defender to scoot around him and place the puck into the net. Then on Vermont’s third and tying goal, he did little to control a rebound and kicked it right to Lance Herrington who had a wide open net on the left side. Mind you, the second goal had tons of traffic in front of him and he did have 38 saves on the night. But that last goal by Herrington really highlighted Millan’s weakness all night: his rebound control. Even when times were good in the first two frames, there were instances when Millan didn’t do as much to hold onto the puck as he’s done in the past. Luckily for him, those situations didn’t result in more goals, but it was still not the same Millan that we’ve perhaps grown accustomed to in the latter parts of the season.
Special Teams: C+
Coming into Friday, it was pretty easy to predict that the special-teams game for both sides wouldn’t be all that great. Vermont and BU came in ranked 50th and 51st in power-play success rate before the puck dropped, and neither side did much to prove that it deserved to be placed higher. Both teams went 0-for-4 with a man advantage. However, it’s easier to say that BU didn’t play nearly as well as Vermont in those situations. The Terriers had a 5-on-3 advantage halfway through the first that they couldn’t capitalize on – mind you, this is against the penalty-kill unit that was ranked a lowly 45th in the nation – and they had just over half the amount of shots on the power play that the Catamounts did (9 to 4) with the same amount of opportunities. The penalty kill, which continues to be a strong suit for BU, is probably what kept the special teams grade from dropping down into the lower C/D range.
X-Factor: Defensive mistakes
BU coach Jack Parker had mentioned in the lead-up to this weekend that he feared his team got a bit too selfish when it got a lead, that sometimes players would try to get “my goal” when the scored reach 2-0 or 3-0. However on Friday night, that didn’t appear the case. Instead, Parker praised his team’s effort throughout the game but blamed the tie on a few key mistakes. By allowing Franzon and Herrington to be that open in the slot, the Terriers essentially handed the goals to their opponents. If they had collapsed correctly on one of those plays or had not clogged up the middle on the second goal, perhaps BU would have walked away with two points instead of just the one.