Hockey East Power Rankings January edition

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff


1. Maine (14-8-3, 11-7-2)
The Black Bears are one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. They are 12-2-1 in their last 15 games and are coming off back-to-back sweeps against Boston College and Boston University. Maine’s offense is tough to beat as their top line is made up of Hockey East’s three leading scorers, and goaltender Dan Sullivan proved against BU that he can be one of the league’s top netminders.

2. Boston University (15-8-1, 12-6-1)
The Terriers suffered two losses on the ice and two losses off the ice this past weekend. Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera will miss significant time with a broken wrist while junior defenseman Max Nicastro has a less serious but still significant shoulder injury. Despite the losses, BU remains at the top of the rankings by virtue of its position in the league standings and its showing in the losses to Maine. BU played the Black Bears close in both games despite being undermanned defensively.

3. Boston College (16-10-1, 12-7-1)
The Eagles look better in the standings by virtue of a weekend sweep over UNH. Parker Milner earned the start in net in both wins, but it remains to be seen if he will be BC’s starting goaltender down the stretch. Both of its wins against UNH were also by the tightest of margins. On Friday night, they came from behind and scored the game-winner with 51 seconds remaining in regulation. On Saturday, the Eagles allowed the Wildcats to tie it up late before BC won it in overtime.

4. Merrimack (14-5-5, 10-4-3)
The Warriors have been up and down in their last six games. They posted a strong showing against Maine with a tie and a win, and then struggled against UNH (overtime win and a 2-1 loss) before beating Providence on Sunday. Merrimack’s defense, however, has been terrific as Joe Cannata and the Warrior defense has not allowed more than two goals against in any game since losing to BU, 4-2, on Jan. 6.

5. University of Massachusetts Lowell (16-7-0, 11-6-0)
The Riverhawks swept the University of Massachusetts last weekend but struggled in the two games beforehand, losing 1-0 to Providence last Tuesday and requiring overtime to beat Northeastern following a 4-0 win the night before. It seems, based on the Northeastern overtime game and the loss to Providence, that the Riverhawks have an issue with matching its compete level to its capability. They rank in the top four in every major statistical category in Hockey East, but they need to play like the team they can be for a full 60 minutes.

6. University of New Hampshire (9-14-2, 6-11-1)
New Hampshire’s record does not look good, but the Wildcats are playing better than the results show. They played in four consecutive one-goal games against two of the top teams in Hockey East (Merrimack and BC) but came out of those games with a 1-3 record. It seems as if a bounce here or there could turn the tide for the Wildcats, but with nine games remaining, they need to figure things out quickly.

7. University of Massachusetts (9-10-5, 5-8-4)
The Minutemen were riding a 5-1-1 streak until last weekend, when they dropped two games to state school rival UML. Their 4-0 blanking of Boston College was a highlight for them, but they have yet to put a win streak together against quality opposition. They also need to improve their play on special teams. Massachusetts is second-to-last in the league in penalty killing (74.2 percent) and seventh in the league on the power play (17.2 percent).

8. Providence (10-12-2, 8-8-1)
The Friars enjoyed a hot start, but after posting a 6-3-1 record in their first 10 games, they have gone just 4-9-1. Since the start of December, their only win against an above-.500 team came in a 1-0 blanking over UML, which was hardly a strong showing but nevertheless an important win following their embarrassing weekend against BU. Providence also lost one of its top scorers, junior Tim Schaller, indefinitely due to mono.

9. Northeastern (10-11-3, 6-11-2)
The Huskies looked like a good team out of conference, but out of conference games will not help them make or win the Hockey East tournament. Northeastern was mired in a five-game losing streak before sweeping Vermont over the weekend, but wins against Vermont have not been hard to get for Hockey East teams this season. The Northeastern power play could use some drastic improvement. They have scored just 12 power-play goals all season and are running at an 11.5 percent success rate.

10. Vermont (5-19-1, 2-15-1)
The season continues to look bleak for the Catamounts who, despite two overtime thrillers (a loss to UMass at Fenway and a win over UML in the following game), could not seem to gain any momentum and has lost its last four. The schedule does not get any easier for Vermont. In its final nine games, Vermont will play BC three times and BU twice.

From the Freep: Men’s hockey loses two to injuries


By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

The No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team, the winner of 12 of its last 14 games entering the weekend, has been bitten by a bug – the injury bug.

The Terriers (15-8-1, 12-6-1 Hockey East) lost a pair of defensemen, freshman Alexx Privitera and junior Max Nicastro, to injuries in Friday night’s 4-2 loss to No. 20 University of Maine. These two developments had deep impact on Saturday’s 3-1 Black Bear (14-8-3, 11-7-2 Hockey East) win – and potentially the rest of the regular season.

The big blow – and BU’s first severe in-season injury of the year – was Privitera’s broken wrist. It came in the first period of Friday’s game when Black Bear captain Will O’Neill laid Privitera out in the slot in BU’s defensive end. The freshman’s right wrist bent backwards on the play, and tests later confirmed it was broken.

BU coach Jack Parker said Saturday Privitera is expected to return in four weeks.

“Maybe,” Parker said, knocking on a plastic table. “Hopefully.”

For more, visit dailyfreepress.com.

From the FreeP: BU falters against Black Bears

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

In the rubber game of the season series between the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team and No. 20 Maine, the Black Bears edged the Terriers, 3-1, and completed a weekend sweep. Maine is the first team this season to win a season series against BU.

Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan turned in another strong performance for the Black Bears (14-8-3, 11-7-2 Hockey East), totaling 38 saves on Saturday to bring his weekend total to 66 stops on 69 shots. BU senior goaltender Kieran Millan recorded 34 saves for the Terriers (15-8-1, 12-6-1 Hockey East) on Saturday in the losing effort.

“[Friday night], it’s 3-2 and an empty-netter makes it 4-2,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Tonight, an empty-netter makes it 3-1. Sounds like the same thing, but it was like night and day. I was extremely happy with how hard we played.

For more, visit dailyfreepress.com.

The good and the bad: Maine beats BU 3-1

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

The No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team couldn’t pull out the season series win against the University of Maine on Saturday, losing 3-1. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Terriers:

THE GOOD

Penalty kill

BU held Maine’s power play, scoring at a 29.3 percent rate, to just a 1-for-8 showing and 10 shots on those eight opportunities on Saturday. The Black Bears’ only power-play goal was actually an empty-netter with five seconds remaining in the game, with sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening in the box for a slash.

Although the Terriers took four penalties in the first period, limiting their offensive chances considerably, they held off the Black Bears on each of those. Even as the game wore on and the pressure on BU’s five defensemen increased, they killed off a slashing penalty to junior forward Wade Megan late in the third to keep themselves in what was then a 2-1 game.

Attempted shots
On five power-play opportunities, BU generated 15 shots. The Terrier defensemen in particular weren’t afraid to throw the puck toward the net, and sophomore Adam Clendening led that charge, recording five shots on net and several others that were blocked or deflected or missed the goal.

While they had problems throughout the game with the quality of their shots, struggling to get around defenders and shoot the puck cleanly on Maine goalie Dan Sullivan, BU did force Sullivan to make 38 saves to earn the victory.

Second period
After a slow start, the Terriers were much more energetic in the second period, outshooting Maine 19-6 in that frame. They drew penalties and got a power-play goal from sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan, his ninth of the year, on a deflection on a shot by Clendening. Although Maine scored a few minutes later to retake the lead, BU looked much more like a focused, conference-leading team in the second period than it had in the first.

“If I thought last night’s game was somewhat boring, I thought tonight’s game was much more interesting to watch,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “Much more intensity out there by both teams.”

THE BAD

Penalties
Although the Maine power play didn’t make them pay nearly as much as it could have, the Terriers took 11 penalties and made it difficult for themselves to generate much offense. While some of the later calls were questionable, they still didn’t stay as disciplined as they would have needed to be to beat a team like Maine.

“We buried ourselves a little bit in the first period by going to the box too much, and I think the message of playing harder and being more physical got the guys a little jumpy in the first period,” BU senior captain Chris Connolly said. “We were taking some unnecessary penalties, which ultimately delayed the start we wanted.”

Shot selection

Maine didn’t make it easy for BU to get a look at Sullivan, as they blocked 20 of the 74 shots BU attempted (another 15 missed the net). But too often when the Terriers did have a chance to shoot, they held onto the puck for an extra second or two, seemingly looking for an even better opportunity and rarely finding one.

On a power play late in the third period, junior forward Alex Chiasson called for the puck several times and got a shot off each time he received a pass, but multiple times, his shots were blocked or deflected wide by Maine defenders before they got near Sullivan. Chiasson was by no means the only player to delay taking a shot so long that the Black Bear defenders had ample time to get down on the ice and block it, though.

“They did a really good job of piling up in front,” Connolly said. “I think that was the key to them really winning the game. We had some good first opportunities and they did a very good job of boxing our guys out. We couldn’t get any rebounds. There were plenty of them to be had, and their D and forwards got back and got in lanes and they were blocking pucks and getting guys out of the way.”

Five defensemen
Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera left Friday’s game with what turned out to be a broken wrist, and junior defenseman Max Nicastro also missed Saturday’s game with a shoulder injury sustained the night before. Missing those two, Parker decided to use five defensemen and have junior forward Ben Rosen, who played as a center, available as a sixth in emergencies.

As a result, those five defensemen were understandably worn out by the third period, and at times it seemed that the unorthodox rotation was making it hard for the Terrier defensemen and forwards alike to establish a rhythm. Redshirt freshman Yasin Cissé was dressed and available as a forward on the fourth line, but he did not take a shift.

Chris Connolly: ‘Officials made some pretty game-changing decisions’

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

Following an empty-net goal with 4.6 seconds remaining in No. 2 Boston University’s 3-1 loss to No. 20 University of Maine, BU coach Jack Parker poured a tangent of frustration into a referee’s ear. His screaming fit earned him an ejection, and according to senior captain Chris Connolly, the ejection was price worth paying considering the way the officials called the game.

The Terriers seemed frustrated by multiple calls (and non-calls) throughout both Friday and Saturday’s game. On Friday, Parker wanted a five-minute major called on a hit that left freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera writhing on the ice. Privitera will miss the next four weeks of play with a broken wrist as the result of the hit. Parker was also upset later in Friday’s game by a hooking call against Wade Megan where Megan never seemed to hook the opposing player. After that game, Parker refused to fully comment on the officiating, simply saying, “the only thing that counts is what the referee thinks.”

Saturday’s game featured a different officiating corps, but it drew the same frustration from the Terriers.

At 9:41 in the second period on Saturday, sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan was whistled off on a hooking call. The play happened quickly. Noonan was able to push a player off a puck in a situation where there can be a tendency for a penalty to occur, but in that specific situation, Noonan seemed to simply lift the opponent’s stick rather than blatantly hook him.

Noonan was on the receiving end of another controversial call late in the game. BU had five seconds remaining on a power play and 1:55 left in the game when Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan held on to a shot. Noonan was standing at the side of the net and was cross-checked after the whistle by Ryan Hegarty. Noonan fell to the ice and was whistled off for embellishment while Hegarty received a cross-checking penalty. Maine was clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time. Another power play for BU in that situation could have been a difference-maker.

Sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening received the final penalty of the game, a slashing call on his attempt to stop Maine’s empty-net goal. By that point in the game, Parker had enough. He screamed into the official’s ear and was promptly ejected and served with a bench minor and a game misconduct.

Parker did not address the officiating following Saturday’s game, but senior captain Chris Connolly did. Connolly, a player who has never publicly criticized refereeing, candidly spoke at length about the officiating, starting with an unprompted statement about the calls in the game after a question about Sullivan’s rebound control. The following is a transcript of Connolly’s comments.

On his general thoughts on the officiating:
I will say, I thought the officials made some pretty game-changing decisions. Normally, you wouldn’t blame the officiating for the outcome. You don’t like to make excuses but I think there were some glaring mistakes there. But other than that, it’s a testament to their team and their goalie. [Maine] played well and they found a way to win.

On how players keep their cool when they feel slighted by the officials:
That late in the game, when a call could really be to your advantage in a one-goal game, it’s hard not to get upset. It’s hard to keep your head and not be frustrated. I was standing right by it. I have a hard time believing Noonan dove with his back facing the play and the whistle and the play being dead and not expecting to be hit from behind. I’ve had that happen to me numerous times and it’s pretty hard to stand up straight when you’re getting hit in the back like that and you don’t expect it to come. The ref said he flopped and called an embellishment penalty and coincidental. That’s what he saw. Being a player and being in that situation, I completely disagree, but you can’t change it. That’s just how the game works sometimes.

On Parker getting thrown out of the game:
It’s the end of the game. Being the captain, I have a hard time disagreeing with Coach in that situation. I had a few words I wanted to say that I reserved. I was feeling the same emotions that he was feeling. To see that happen, it was the end of the game. It didn’t necessarily have any deciding factor on the game. He was just sticking up for the team and like I said I thought there were some glaring mistakes that they made. I support what Coach was trying to tell them.

On whether Parker’s actions helped validate his own feelings:
It’s nice. It’s different when it’s happening in the middle of the game and things can kind of get out of hand, but when you feel like you deserved a few calls here or there and they don’t get called your way, it could mean the difference between tying up the game or even getting a couple and pulling out a win. It’s a tough pill to swallow. The team was behind him on it and you never want to see a coach get kicked out or anything, but like I said, everyone was frustrated with what was going on out there.

Maine sweeps BU, captures season series

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

In the rubber game of the season series between No. 2 Boston University and No. 20 Maine, the Black Bears edged the Terriers, 3-1, and completed a weekend sweep.

Maine goaltender Dan Sullivan turned in another strong performance for the Black Bears, totaling 38 saves.

The Terriers were looking to stay more disciplined Saturday night, but they failed in that endeavor in the first period. BU took four penalties in the frame and managed to hold Maine off for most of the four power-play chances. Maine freshman John Parker negated BU’s effort, however, when he jumped on a loose puck out to Millan’s left and lifted it over Millan’s shoulder to give the Black Bears a 1-0 lead with 6.9 seconds left in the frame.

BU evened the score with a power-play goal 2:41 into the second. After Maine captain Brian Flynn was sent to the box for a trip, birthday boy Garrett Noonan tipped a shot off Adam Clendening’s stick past Sullivan for the score.

Maine regained the lead slightly over three minutes later, when junior Nick Pryor blasted a slap shot from the point off the post and in to give the Black Bears a 2-1 lead. The goal was the first of Pryor’s career, making him the 17th player to score his first collegiate goal against the Terriers this season.

Other than Pryor’s goal, however, BU controlled play in the second period. They entered the frame facing a 21-8 shot deficit but proceeded to out-shoot the Black Bears 19-6 in the period to even the shot total by the end of the period.

The Terriers continued to pepper the Maine net with shots from all angles in the third period, but Sullivan seemed to be prepared for every attempt and barely gave up any rebounds.

BU had a golden chance at the end of the third period when, with Maine on the power play, Flynn took a high sticking penalty. Senior captain Chris Connolly held onto the puck on the delayed call long enough to run down the Maine power play to 29 seconds, giving the Terriers a longer power play after the end of 4-on-4 play. BU could not get set up until the end of the power play, however, and failed to capitalize on the opportunity.

Matt Mangene clinched the win with an empty-net goal with 4.6 seconds left in the game.

BU coach Jack Parker was ejected from the game for yelling at the referees following the empty-net tally.

Penalties key for both teams in 4-2 BU loss

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

When the two most penalized teams in the country meet, it’s not hard to predict that special teams will play a role in the game. Although the Boston University and the University of Maine men’s hockey teams – averaging 20.35 and 18.54 minutes per game in the box, respectively – kept the total number of infractions in Friday’s game to just seven, it was a pair of successful power plays that gave Maine the victory.

“I thought we did a good job killing their penalties and yet they got two power-play goals,” Parker said. “One was a bad turnover by us – 17 seconds to go and we get the puck on our own stick and all we’ve got to do is throw it out, we try to make a play instead and they turn around and score. Then we tipped the last shot on the power play [in the third period] and it still went in.”

On the first play Parker referenced, a hooking call on freshman forward Evan Rodrigues was about to expire early in the second period. Junior defenseman Max Nicastro stole the puck away from a Maine forward, but instead of clearing it, he tried to carry it out of the zone himself and ended up turning it over to Maine forward Adam Shemansky, who scored to tie the game at 1.

Then halfway through the third period, with the game tied 2-2, junior forward Wade Megan was pursuing Maine forward Matt Mangene into the BU zone. Unable to catch up with Mangene, Megan tried to use his stick to knock the puck away, and he was called for hooking. Twelve seconds into the ensuing power play, Black Bear forward Mark Anthoine tipped a shot from the point past BU goalie Kieran Millan to give Maine the lead.

Parker was visibly upset about the call against Megan at the time. Asked about his thoughts on the call after the game, he said, “The only thing that counts is what the referee thinks.”

Maine’s power play has been making opponents pay for penalties all season, firing at a 30.4 percent rate, and in that regard they simply prevailed over an 83.6-percent Terrier penalty kill.

“They just have an unbelievable power play,” senior forward Ross Gaudet said. “The three forwards, I think it’s Abbott, Flynn, that line, they just have a knack for scoring goals on the power play. Our PK did pretty well. We could do better, obviously.”

On the flip side, though, the Terriers had just one power-play chance, on an interference call against Maine’s Will O’Neill in the first period, and junior forward Alex Chiasson scored on the ensuing man-advantage opportunity. Parker said he thought his team looked flat through much of the game, and that lack of energy led to a lack of power-play chances.

“We only got one power play because we didn’t play hard enough for them to defend us,” Parker said. “We went 1 for 1 on the power play. I can’t remember the last time we only got one power play in a game. And that has nothing to do with the referee…we never put that much pressure on them to have them really defend us.”