By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
When they lost two of their top offensive players in Corey Trivino and Charlie Coyle last month, the Boston University men’s hockey team knew their remaining forwards would have to pick up the scoring pace. It takes a considerable amount of pressure off the forwards, though, when defensemen can contribute to a team’s offense the way sophomores Adam Clendening and Garrett Noonan have in the Terriers’ last several games.
In BU’s 6-1 defeat of Providence College on Friday, Clendening was named the game’s first star with four assists. He and Noonan teamed up to set up junior forward Ryan Santana’s goal in the first period, and Noonan also recorded his seventh goal of the year. He now leads Hockey East defensemen in goals.
“He goes to the net like a forward does, but he scores goals and he’s good defensively, and he’s a very good player,” Clendening said of Noonan. “I think it’s been his FIFA game that’s really made him the player he is. He plays a lot of FIFA these days, so he’s learning the soccer game to get to the net.”
Maybe Noonan is learning from soccer’s red-card system, too: while penalties have limited his effectiveness at times, he stayed out of the box on Friday night even as BU racked up 29 minutes in the box. Clendening, too, stayed disciplined against the Friars and proved his worth to the Terrier power play, where he picked up the last of his four assists.
Over his last five games, Clendening has 12 points: 11 assists and one goal. That outburst has propelled him into second on the team in scoring with two goals and 18 assists, just one point behind leading scorer Alex Chiasson. Despite typically matching up against opponents’ top lines, he’s also a plus-11 and has 22 blocked shots.
“Playing with [junior defenseman Sean Escobedo], he’s an easy guy to play with, and when you get pucks to him and he gets them back to you, I guess things just happen,” Clendening said by way of explaining his success. “Things have been going pretty well with him, and a lot of guys are going to the net on our team. That’s where you score goals.”
Last year, both Clendening and Noonan showed plenty of talent – Clendening led BU’s defensemen in scoring with 26 points and led the team with 21 assists, while Noonan had 15 points – but both also struggled with inconsistency and a lack of discipline, not rare problems for eighteen-year-old defensemen.
This year, they’ve come to lead a young defense corps that features only one senior, Ryan Ruikka, and BU head coach Jack Parker said he was pleased with both the offensive and defensive sides of their games in the Terriers’ win over Providence.
“I think they’re two of the best defensemen in this league,” Parker said. “We’re very fortunate to have both of them, and I think either one of them could be an All-Star in this league or an All-American type of candidate for us. Garrett Noonan gets his seventh goal as a defenseman and Clendening has a bunch of assists, so, a pretty good show.”
Although the Terriers haven’t exactly become a low-scoring team – they have at least three goals in five straight games – reliable defense is still every defenseman’s priority regardless of what the offense is doing, and Parker praised the way Noonan and Clendening have progressed in that area as well.
“Our core of defensemen have really grown up,” Parker said. “We’re a much better team at the blue line, getting the puck out of our zone, making plays at center ice, making plays at the attacking blue line than we were two months ago, that’s for sure. Maybe even a month ago. So they’ve grown up right in front of us.”