By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
The No. 10/11 Boston University men’s hockey team may not have picked up a win against Providence College Saturday night, but it still came away with three out of four points on the weekend.
The points are particularly important considering the Terriers (13-9-1, 10-6-1 Hockey East) started the weekend tied with the Friars (10-10-4, 8-6-3 Hockey East) for third in the conference, and missed a pair of prominent players (Garrett Noonan for both games, Evan Rodrigues for Saturday’s contest).
Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for BU.
BU takes the season series
Saturday’s tie doesn’t affect this at all, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.
By winning two of the three regular-season games against the Friars, BU won the series and therefore gets the tiebreaker in the event that the teams finish the season with the same number of points.
The way things are going in Hockey East right now — the top five teams are separated by just five points — the tiebreaker could be a difference-maker, especially if BU and PC are on the cusp of who gets the home-ice advantage during the conference quarterfinals.
“We got five out of six points against Providence College this year in the regular season, and that’s an accomplishment because this team, Providence College, really works hard,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “They pride themselves on outworking the other team. They’ve got plenty of talent as well.”
With another goal and another assist, the freshman forward continued his absolutely torrid stretch of 11 points in his last six games. His most recent point, the game-tying goal in the third period Saturday, proved to be especially important, allowing the Terriers to salvage a point after falling behind twice.
He is now second on the team in total points (nine goals, 13 assists for 22 points) and second in goals, trailing only senior captain Wade Megan’s 12.
Parker said he was impressed with both O’Regan and junior forward Matt Nieto — both San Jose Sharks draft picks — because their line continued to score even in Rodrigues’ absence.
O’Regan’s game-tying tally allowed him to tie the freshman goal total of his father Tom, who was a rookie at BU in 1979-80.
Terriers blocking shots, still
It has been a theme all season, and Saturday was no different.
BU blocked 26 Friar shots — led by sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera’s eight and senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka’s five — considerably more than PC’s 17. Privitera now has 70 on the season.
The Terriers did a good job getting in shooting lanes, and although their shot selection wasn’t always the best at the other end, they did a good job giving the Friars similar problems while in the BU defensive zone.
Parker generally rids his goalies of a lot of the goals they let up, but the Terriers’ freshman netminder Saturday night gave up a couple softies.
The first came in the opening period when PC tied it on a one-timer from the point. O’Connor looked like he made the save but the puck trickled through his legs.
It happened again in the second when freshman forward Sam Kurker turned the puck over and PC’s Steven McParland scored unassisted. McParland drove to the net on the left side and appeared to have barely tapped the puck before it went throug O’Connor’s five-hole again.
To be sure, O’Connor did make 26 saves and his outing represents an improvement over his last few games. His three goals allowed are the fewest in four starts since Christmas.
The game was progress, so Parker will take it.
“I don’t think he is quite as … dominant as he was first semester in many of his games,” Parker said. “But he is certainly playing really solid right now, and he doesn’t look antsy or rattled.”
Another slow start
BU’s bench boss hasn’t used the phrase “60 minutes of BU hockey” or a “a good 60-minute effort” of late, but that doesn’t mean Parker isn’t looking for it.
Both nights this weekend the Terriers came out of the gate slow in the first before waking up and looking like the team they have the potential to be. Bad turnovers and sloppy passes marred BU’s play before senior forward Ben Rosen gave the team a 1-0 lead at 17:34.
“We’re still coming out of our grand funk since Christmas,” Parker said. “We’re a little jumpy with the puck. That’s why we’re turning it over. We’re hesitant sometimes, but it’s almost like a tennis match. You take a little time to get your stroke down and then all of a sudden now we feel like we’re getting going.”
If BU can get the slow starts out of the way and play a strong game for all three periods, it has a good chance of again becoming the force it was during first semester.
The Terriers are likely thinking “No harm, no foul,” but this one could have very easily gone the other way.
After O’Regan tied it up 3-3 and gave BU much of the momentum, it started to swing in favor of the Friars thanks to a pair of ill-advised Terrier penalties.
Junior defenseman Patrick MacGregor got called for interference at 13:59, then Privitera went to the box for a blatant trip at 16:10. Both plays handicapped a BU team that had been flying around the ice looking for a sweep but instead was left a man short.
On the weekend BU took just eight penalties — all of them minors— which is a marked improvement over recent weeks. But it again took the steam out of the team late.