By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
With three of its top five scorers from 2011-12 now gone, the Boston University men’s hockey team needs its young players to grow up fast this year and fill those roles. In the Terriers’ exhibition against the University of Toronto on Sunday, three of the Terriers’ five goals came from freshmen and sophomores, and their three youngest defensemen combined for seven points.
“This is kind of a split team,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We’ve got a lot of juniors and a lot of freshmen, not too many sophomores and not too many seniors. But we’ve got to get them all in the lineup because they’re all pretty good. I thought every one of them played well and a couple of them really stood out.”
The young defensemen in particular made an impact: freshmen Matt Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen each recorded two assists, and sophomore Alexx Privitera had three. Oksanen, a native of Finland who came to BU to fill the spot vacated in June by Adam Clendening, showed off a powerful slap shot and moved the puck well on the power play.
“We lost two good point men on the power play last year, but we got two freshmen in and these two guys are going to pick up the slack,” Parker said of Grzelcyk and Oksanen.
Grzelcyk, whom Parker said he’s liked since his high school days at Belmont Hill School, also looked capable of quarterbacking the Terrier power play. And Privitera continued with the success he started to see at the end of last season, consistently firing pucks on net to create rebounds. One of those rebounds led to a goal for sophomore winger Yasin Cissé.
Up front, the Terriers featured an all-rookie fourth line of Matt Lane, Wesley Myron and Sam Kurker. None of those three recorded a point, but neither did they look afraid to mix it up physically, digging pucks out of the corners and controlling play in the offensive zone. Of course, an exhibition against a Canadian university team isn’t the greatest gauge of anything, but all three looked comfortable in their BU debut.
Sophomore forwards Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues also got ample playing time in which to prove themselves on Sunday. Hohmann centered the second line (although the lines shifted constantly throughout the game so Parker could try out different combinations, and also because BU and Toronto racked up a combined 50 penalties). He scored a goal and an assist, while Rodrigues had the Terriers’ second goal.
Privitera, Hohmann and Rodrigues were all 18-year-old freshmen last year in a league where freshmen as old as 21 are not unheard of. All are relatively small – Privitera is listed at 5-foot-11, Rodrigues at 5-foot-10 and Hohman at 5-foot-8 – and the forwards especially looked physically overmatched at times last year.
Again, an exhibition isn’t a great indicator, but Hohmann, who will always be one of the smallest players on the ice, was able to muscle around some Toronto players and held his own in both zones on Sunday. Parker said he expects him, as well as Rodrigues and Privitera, to come into their own this year thanks to what they learned last year.
“They would have been better off [last year] had they played a year of junior maybe before they got to college, so last year was a bit of a struggle for them,” Parker said. “But now they’re better off as sophomores this year after having played a year of college hockey instead of playing juniors. I’m sure they’ll make a big jump.”