From the FreeP: Nieto’s two goals lead offense in BU victory

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

Luck robbed junior forward Matt Nieto of multiple chances at a hat trick Tuesday, but the Boston University men’s hockey team will take the two goals it got from the junior forward in a 5-2 win over Merrimack College.

Nieto scored both of the Terriers’ (15-14-2, 12-9-2 Hockey East) second-period goals — their fourth and fifth of the game — giving them a cushion that came in handy later when Merrimack (14-12-6, 12-8-3 Hockey East) scored twice in the third. BU is now 6-2-2 when Nieto scores a goal and 9-5-2 when he has a point. Along with his linemates, he led the way in the most dominant offensive performance BU has had in months.

“The puck jumped in the net for us,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We got some pucks, we made some nice plays, got some goals, took the pressure off.”

Both of Nieto’s goals were of the highlight-reel variety. On the first, sophomore center Danny O’Regan sent Nieto a perfectly timed pass across the slot, and Nieto knocked it past Merrimack goalie Rasmus Tirronen while diving through the air. Nieto began the play himself back in the neutral zone, finding O’Regan with a pass as he cut through center ice.

His second goal came from a long breakout pass by senior defenseman Sean Escobedo, who also set up a goal for Nieto’s linemate, sophomore wing Evan Rodrigues, by blocking a shot to send him on a rush in the first period.

For more, including a look at why Nieto has struggled to score as consistently this year as in the past, go to dailyfreepress.com.

From the FreeP: Terriers turn it around in Tuesday night rout

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

Tuesday night at Agganis Arena, the No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team made coach Jack Parker look like a hockey psychic.

“Don’t get yourself in a negative frame of mind and a negative attitude, because you never know how close you are to turning it around,” Parker said Monday of the team’s second-half struggles. “At any moment we can turn it around.”

It is hard to tell when that exact moment was, but the Terriers (15-14-2, 12-9-2 Hockey East) played what was arguably their best game in more than two months, beating Merrimack College 5-2.

Junior forward Matt Nieto scored twice and assisted on another, while freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor took care of business at the other end, making 32 saves in 34 chances.

“One of the things that has been a problem for us is that we’ve been playing games trying not to lose,” Parker said. “I don’t think we went out here trying not to lose. We went out trying to win tonight.

“It was nice to get a ‘W,’ it was nice to get a W at home. It was nice to get some goals. I liked our team tonight … I was happy with my goaltender. In the second period, he came up with some big saves to keep them off the scoreboard.”

For more, including a look at BU’s position in the Hockey East standings, go to dailyfreepress.com.

Three-Up, Three Down: Early scoring leads BU to 5-2 win over Merrimack

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Not a lot went wrong for the No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team in its 5-2 win over No. 17 Merrimack College Tuesday night at Agganis Arena. The team’s offense struck early and often as it scored its most goals in a regulation win since Nov. 16, 2012 at the University of Vermont.

Here are three things that went right and two things that went wrong for the Terriers.

Three up

Fast start
BU struggled to get any offense going in its weekend losses to No. 10/12 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, but that was not the case Tuesday night. The Terriers peppered Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta with 19 shots in the first period, which is three more than they recorded through the entire game in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the River Hawks.

The best part of the offense for BU was that it was capitalizing on its opportunities, especially on the rush. Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues’ first goal came on a one-on-one rush, while the next two goals developed with some crisp passes upon entry to the offensive zone.

Tuesday’s game was the perfect time for BU’s offense to get back on track. With Vermont and Northeastern University left on its schedule, BU will be facing two of the bottom four defenses in the league in its final four games.

Matt O’Connor
Lost in BU’s scoring parade was the stellar play of freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor, who made 32 saves in his team-leading eighth win of the season.

The former Youngstown Phantom played particularly well against Merrimack’s Grade-A chances, stopping 16-of-17 shots from high-scoring areas. The only goal that was scored outside of a Grade-A chance was on a hard shot through a screen on the power play by defenseman Jordan Heywood.

O’Connor has picked his play up after a rough start to the second half of the season. After allowing four goals or more in his first three starts of the semester, O’Connor has allowed three goals or fewer in his last five starts.

Sam Kurker and the third line
The third line may not have added any goals to the scoreboard, but it had one of its best games of the season Tuesday night. The unit applied consistent forechecking pressure and created several high-quality scoring chances.

Sam Kurker in particular had an impressive game, recording three shots on goal and nearly scoring on a breakaway. The Reading native had been struggling recently and was frequently replaced on the third line by senior forward Ryan Santana in third periods.

BU coach Jack Parker said the team played only three forward lines for the most part Tuesday night. If this trend continues, Parker will need continued strong play from his third line to make the NCAA tournament.

Three down Two Down

Third Period
The game looked like it would be perfect for the Terriers until the third period, when Merrimack outscored BU 2-0. BU still outshot the Warriors in the period, but part of that was because Merrimack spent 10 minutes of the frame on the penalty kill. BU had trouble with Heywood specifically, as he netted two goals within two minutes of each other in the middle of the third.

BU has not been good in third periods over the past five games, as it has a minus-5 goal differential during that span.

Power play
The Terriers certainly had enough opportunities to score on the power play, as they had eight chances throughout the game, but they could not put the puck past Marotta or sophomore Rasmus Tirronen.

The most chances came in the third period, when Merrimack took five penalties and even gave BU a 5-o-3 chance. However, BU only earned four shots throughout those opportunities despite having several opportunities to score.

With the 0-for-8 performance, BU is now goalless in its last 17 power plays dating back to Feb. 16 at the University of Maine.

Matt Nieto, Matt O’Connor lift BU past Merrimack, 5-2

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
Tuesday night at Agganis Arena, the No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team made coach Jack Parker look like a hockey psychic.
Don’t get yourself in a negative frame of mind and a negative attitude because you never know how close you are to turning it around,” Parker said Monday of the team’s second-half struggles. “At any moment we can turn it around.”
It’s hard to tell when that exact moment was, but the Terriers (15-14-2, 12-9-2 Hockey East) played what was arguably their best game in more than two months, beating Merrimack College, 5-2.
Junior forward Matt Nieto scored twice and assisted on another while freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor took care of business at the other end, making 32 saves in 34 chances.
BU controlled the pace from the outset and held a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period.
Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues got the Terriers on the board at the 9:47 the , taking the puck up the right wing, cutting across the slot and backhanding it by Merrimack goalie Sam Marotta. Senior defenseman Sean Escobedo was credited with the primary assist on the play after blocking a shot with his head to start the Rodrigues rush.
A minute and a half later, junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan fed senior captain Wade Megan a slick pass from the left circle. Megan deked around a Warrior in the slot and shot low to beat Marotta again.
Sophomore forward Cason Hohmann also found the back of the net on a rather odd play, which started when freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s shot got saved. The rebound kicked out into the slot before being tipped by Nieto and finished by Hohmann for a 3-0 lead at 15:41 in the first.
By the end of the frame, the Terriers had collected 19 shots on net — three more than they collected the entire game vs. UMass-Lowell Saturday.
The second period featured a new goalie for the Warriors (14-12-6, 12-8-3 Hockey East), as sophomore Rasmus Tirronen relieved Marotta when the teams returned to the ice.
Unfortunately for Merrimack it was more of the same, as Nieto found the back of the net twice to extend BU’s lead to 5-0.
First Nieto gave his freshman linemate, Danny O’Regan, a pass on the right side. O’Regan took it up the wing before centering to Nieto, who caught up to the play and got a shot off while falling down for his 10th goal of the season at 5:59.
At 12:38 in the second, Escobedo sent a clean breakaway pass to Nieto, who easily beat Tirronen high stick-side.
Warrior captain Jordan Heywood ruined O’Connor’s shut out bid in the third with a pair of goals, first from the point on the power play at 9:01 and then by netting a rebound at 10:54.

The Terrier defensive corps locked it down — and endured a couple Merrimack power plays — in the final half period to solidify the win.

Live blog: BU hosts Merrimack in mid-week make-up game

Time/location: 7 p.m., Agganis Arena


BU lines: 
Wade Megan – Cason Hohmann – Sahir Gill
Matt Nieto – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Matt Lane – Ben Rosen – Sam Kurker
Mike Moran – Ryan Santana – Jake Moscatel
Sean Escobedo – Ryan Ruikka
Garrett Noonan – Matt Grzelcyk
Ahti Oksanen – Patrick MacGregor
Matt O’Connor
Sean Maguire
Anthony Moccia
Merrimack lines:
Mike Collins – Brian Christie – Quinn Gould
John Gustafsson – Shawn Bates – Josh Myers
Kyle Singleton – Rhett Bly – Ben Bahe
Justin Hussar – Vinny Scotti – Connor Toomey

Tom McCarthy – Jordan Heywood
Brendan Ellis – Dan Kolomatis
Justin Mansfield – Kyle Bigos

Sam Marotta
Rasmus Tirronen
Nick Drew

Referees: Tom Benedetto, Tom Quinn
Linesmen: Bob Bernard, Charles Hanafin
Live blog:

From the FreeP: Men’s hockey expects tough Merrimack team Tuesday

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

The No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team may not have had practice Sunday, but BU coach Jack Parker spent his afternoon the same way a lot of college hockey fans in the area did: Watching No. 4 Boston College beat No. 17 Merrimack College in overtime.

And what Parker saw concerned him to an extent. The Warriors held Hockey East’s top offense — the third best in the country — to a single goal in regulation using a defense extremely similar to the one that stifled the Terriers (14-14-2, 11-9-2 Hockey East) all weekend.

“[Merrimack] played exactly like Lowell,” Parker said, referring to the team that held BU to one goal in two games over the weekend. “One man went down and then backed off. The other four guys waited at center ice because they wanted to bottle BC up and not give them anything through center ice.

“The bottom line is they played BC completely differently than they’ve played all year long.”

It could spell trouble for BU when the Warriors (14-11-6, 12-7-3 Hockey East) visit Agganis Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday, a game the teams have to squeeze in after winter storm Nemo postponed it from its original Feb. 8 date.

Three up, three down: PK gives BU chance at win, but offense overwhelmed

LOWELL — The Boston University men’s hockey team’s postseason hopes took another hit this weekend as they were swept by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in Saturday’s 3-1 loss.

Three up Two up
The penalty kill
With the characteristic parade of Terriers to the box on Saturday, the BU penalty kill had plenty of time to continue sorting itself out after struggling in Maine last weekend. And it acquitted itself well, allowing one goal on 13 shots in 16:16 of UML power-play time and improving to 82.5 percent on the year.

Killing off an early 5-on-3, with junior defenseman Garrett Noonan and then sophomore forward Cason Hohmann in the box, helped keep the game close, although BU didn’t get the momentum boost it could have from the kill.

Sean Maguire
As in many of his starts this semester, freshman goalie Sean Maguire played better than his final stat line indicates (and the final line – 36 saves on 39 shots – is nothing to be ashamed of). Lowell forward Joseph Pendenza’s goal, which snuck through Maguire’s five-hole to give the River Hawks a 3-1 lead, was the only one that reflected badly on the goaltender.

On the River Hawks’ first goal, Lowell forward Scott Wilson executed a near-carbon copy of his play from the night before, taking advantage of a badly timed BU change to rip a shot from the top of the circle into the net.

The second goal came from an overzealous shorthanded rush from which BU couldn’t recover when a UML defender sent the puck back toward BU’s zone quickly. Maguire made the initial save on Pendenza, sprawling to rob him of a sure goal, but couldn’t get up in time to stop defenseman Chad Ruhwedel’s shot off the rebound.

“On the second goal, he made an unbelievable save and the guy just buried the rebound,” sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues said.

Three down
Offense stifled again
All year, the Terriers have struggled with aggressive forechecks, finding themselves pinned in the defensive zone and unable to establish possession in the offensive zone. This weekend, they faced the opposite in UML – a team that sits back and focuses on overwhelming teams in its own defensive zone – and fared no better.

BU finished Saturday’s game with 16 shots. UML had 39, more than twice as many. They failed to challenge freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck on rebounds or

The forwards’ issues were apparent at even strength, but they were underscored further when, in eight minutes of power-play time, BU got just one shot through to Hellebuyck.

“When we tried dumping it in, it was just little battles that they were winning,” said Rodrigues, the only BU player to score. “They were getting bounces, the puck and from the refs. It just wasn’t our weekend.”

Penalty troubles continue
No matter how hard the penalty killers work, it’s difficult to win games by taking 36 minutes’ worth of penalties, especially when those include two prolonged 5-on-3 disadvantages.

Junior defenseman Garrett Noonan received a 10-minute game misconduct, bringing his total penalty minutes on the year to 86. Parker said he thinks some of the calls made against BU were questionable.

“Most of the time I think we deserve our penalties,” Parker said. “I think we probably deserved about six or seven of those.”

PairWise, Hockey East standings take a hit
BU is now looking up at five teams in the Hockey East standings, sitting in sixth place with 24 points. In their final five games, they face fourth-place Merrimack College, the seventh-place University of Vermont, and tenth-place Northeastern University. They have clinched a playoff spot, but nothing else – certainly not home ice – is guaranteed.

The Terriers also fell to 22nd in the PairWise rankings. That puts them just ahead of Merrimack, as UML jumped into a tie for 11th.