Terriers can’t finish 2011 on a winning note

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Although they got on the scoreboard first, that was about the last of the good news for the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team against the No. 5/6 University of Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve. BU (10-6-1, 8-4-1 Hockey East) racked up 18 penalty minutes and couldn’t match Notre Dame’s (12-6-3) energy in a 5-2 loss.

“I don’t think we played well mentally at all, and I don’t think we played well emotionally,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We just weren’t there. I thought it was the worst night in a long time that our defensemen had.”

BU’s three first-period penalties made it difficult for them to find a rhythm or establish a presence in Notre Dame’s zone. Even outside of the three power plays, Notre Dame spent extended periods of time in front of senior goalie Kieran Millan as BU struggled to gain momentum through the neutral zone.

Despite being pinned in their own zone for much of the first period, the Terriers struck first with less than two minutes remaining in the frame. Freshman center Cason Hohmann sent a shot on net off of a faceoff, and the rebound came to junior forward Justin Courtnall, who lifted it over Summerhays for his second goal of the season.

When a tripping call on junior forward Alex Chiasson came late in the first, Notre Dame started the second period on the power play and made good on that opportunity. Anders Lee took advantage of sophomore forward Sahir Gill breaking his stick to rip his thirteenth goal of the year past Millan from the top of the left circle.

After that, the possession advantage the Irish had held throughout the first period began to show up on the scoresheet, as they scored twice in the next 10 minutes. Center Garrett Peterson controlled a wobbling cross-crease pass to give Notre Dame the lead, and winger Jeff Costello made it 3-1 when he guided a soft shot through Millan’s five-hole on an odd-man rush – one of many for the Irish during that period.

“I thought we turned the puck over too many times, and sometimes [Notre Dame] made a nice play with their stick, but most of the time we had a pass to make and we tried to make a hard pass, and we hit them,” Parker said. “We don’t backcheck on a 3-on-2 – we’re there but we don’t cover the guy – and then we turn the puck over twice and give them a 2-on-1 to score a goal. The defensemen made a couple really brutal turnovers.”

Lee struck again 3:30 into the third, when he maneuvered around BU junior defenseman Ryan Ruikka and one-timed a rebound past Millan, who was in no position to stop the secondary opportunity. And when junior defenseman Patrick MacGregor went to the box at 6:23 of the period, Irish captain Billy Maday tapped a puck into a practically empty net to as Millan was out of position just eight seconds into the power play.

As they fell further behind, the Terriers continued to rack up penalties, including a four-minute slashing double minor for junior forward Alex Chiasson after Notre Dame made it 5-1 in the third. Junior center Wade Megan, centering the second line after the departures of Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle, brought BU within three when he went five-hole on a breakaway late in the third, but that was all the closer they got.

Millan’s play was by no means perfect, but the defense frequently put him in difficult spots by failing to backcheck or clear pucks effectively. With Gill and Megan both playing unfamiliar positions and sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening missing to play in the World Junior Championships, BU had several adjustments to make, but senior forward Chris Connolly said the pressure of adapting is on the whole team.

“I think it’s all-in-all team defense,” Connolly said. “It’s going to be a little transition for [Gill and Megan] to get adjusted to the position, but in the same breath, I think it’s our [defense] and other wings’ job to be held accountable. It’s not just our new centers’ obligation to step up and fill that position. I think it’s all on the five guys in front of Kieran, blocking shots and boxing people out so he didn’t have to see too many, which he did. He saw way too many tonight.”