By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
AMHERST — If there was any one play that could explain Friday night’s 2-2 tie between the No. 12/13 Boston University men’s hockey team and the opposing University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemen, it would be the very last play of the game.
With less than 20 seconds left in overtime, sophomore forward Charlie Coyle took a puck off the boards deep in his own zone and promptly turned it over, giving the Minutemen’s Danny Hobbs one last golden opportunity to allow the Minutemen to take the two points.
Although the turnover was not a great play by Coyle, it did not prove to be disastrous either, as Hobbs’s shot sailed wide of the goal and BU held on for the tie.
“Right to the very end, even with my best line out there, it was a numb-skull play,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “The idea of imminent danger does not seem to register for my team, especially from some of my stars.”
Indeed, strong performances were absent from players who are supposed to be leaders or veterans on the team. Parker entered the weekend looking for his team, led by its elder and star players, to prove it could play 60 minutes of hockey.
But on Friday night, junior defenseman Sean Escobedo took two unnecessary crosschecks. On Friday night, junior defenseman Max Nicastro attempted a pass to nowhere in front of his own net, leading to a UMass goal. On Friday night, offensive star Coyle turned the puck over in his own zone in overtime.
“I thought it was sloppy,” Parker said of BU’s effort. “The only time it looked like hockey broke out was when it broke out for [UMass]. It didn’t seem to break out for us at all. We were very sloppy. Thoroughness was not a word you could apply to us with the puck.”
To be clear, the game was not a complete disaster. BU did rally from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game. The Terrier defense did look better on most plays than it had a week before. Senior goaltender Kieran Millan did stone a few Minutemen on breakaways and looked solid in net for most of the night.
But as a team, the Terriers took a step forward in raising the bar of competition without reaching the next level. The offense did not play well, mustering just 23 shots in three periods plus overtime of play. The Terriers did not reach double-digits in shots in a single period of the game, and were outshot 15-6 in a particularly gruesome second period.
The Terriers also took six penalties to the Minutemen’s four, which is not terrible until realizing that the Minutemen are currently the most penalized team in Hockey East. BU had a power play in both the second and third period. The Minutemen had five power plays in the same span of time.
And while the defensive pairings were completely revised for the game, the defense was in and out in its level of play. Sometimes the defense shut down the UMass offense, such as when, late in the third period, the Terrier offense turned the puck over twice in a row, but Nicastro cleared the puck both times to prevent the Minutemen from making anything of the opportunity.
But those types of plays were too far from being the norm to help the Terriers win.
“I thought our defensemen played solid at times and just turned the puck over at times,” Parker said. “We gave them a couple of unbelievable chances where we had complete control of the puck and just passed it to them. So it wasn’t very thorough by us.”
In response to the lack of thorough play from his team, Parker said there will be consequences in the second game of the home-and-home night for some of his players.
“We’ll get people’s attention,” Parker said. “Some people won’t play tomorrow. Those who played well will be rewarded with further play.”
But while the Terriers lacked enough effort Friday night to get the win, they also did not lose the game. That, sophomore forward Matt Nieto said, was enough that, from a player’s perspective, the team was not too worried about its play.
“We’re not worried at all right now,” Nieto said. “We have a good team. A lot of returners. So we have a lot of chemistry. We know what we have to do.”