By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
The moment the puck moved back to the point, freshman forward Kevin Duane knew exactly where to go. The 6-foot-5, 210 pound winger anticipated the shot from sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and did what he does best — get to the front of the net.
University of North Dakota goaltender Clarke Saunders saw little else besides the No. 18 on Duane’s back as the puck caromed off of his outstretched pad and into an open space to the right of the goal. Saunders had no shot to recover, as Duane simply scooped the rebound up and put it into the gaping net.
The goal helped give the Boston University men’s hockey team some insurance in its 3-1 win over No. 14/15 North Dakota Friday night at Agganis Arena, and it was the result of Duane’s increasing success at his role on BU’s power play.
“He’s got great reach obviously, does a good job screening the goalie, quick in small areas, understands what his role is,” said BU coach David Quinn. “That was a big goal for us.”
It was the second game in a row that Duane has scored a power-play goal. Sunday night against the University of Connecticut, Duane once again found himself in front of the net on the power play, and this time deflected the puck into the back of the net before the rebound opportunity.
For Duane, he is not trying to create his own shot on the power play like the players who move the puck around the outside of the offensive zone. Duane is playing a role that the Terriers used sophomore winger Sam Kurker in during the end of last season and the first few games of the season.
“For the most part I’m just trying to take away the goalie’s eyes and just make sure that when Grzelcyk and Rodrigues get shots from the point they get through and the goalie doesn’t see it,” Duane said. “The last couple games I have been able to find the rebound and get a goal out of it.”
With Friday’s goal, Duane matched sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen and junior winger Cason Hohmann’s team best two power-play goals on the season. His efforts have helped boost BU’s power-play percentage to 22.0 percent on the season, which is good for second-best in the league. The team’s power play has produced 37.9 percent of its goals on the season, making it an integral part of their offense.
Duane has not limited his improved play to the power play though. He has been a part of a line that features fellow freshman Dillon Lawrence and sophomore Mike Moran that has been very impressive as of late. Quinn put the unit together last Friday night at the University of Maine as a fourth line, but it impressed him enough to keep the trio together and increase its ice time over the past two games.
While none of the three have scored a 5-on-5 goal yet, it has been good at keeping puck possession in the offensive zone. One would expect the unit to remain intact for Saturday night’s rematch with North Dakota.
However, with Hohmann injuring his shoulder in Friday night’s game and expected to be out “for a while” according to Quinn, there is more opportunity for the freshmen wingers like Duane, Tommy Kelley, Brendan Collier and TJ Ryan to see the ice and get scoring chances. If Duane keeps playing the way he has as of late, he could help fill a serious void in the Terriers’ offense.
“This is going to be another opportunity for freshmen to continue to take advantage of opportunities and playing time and hopefully they can continue to flourish,” Quinn said.