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.