By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
It was about as predictable as a Boston University men’s hockey game could get this season.
The stage was big (Beanpot semifinals at TD Garden) and the opponent tough (No. 2 Boston College). The Terriers kept it close, scoring in the third to make it a one-goal game, before ultimately losing, 3-1, after an empty-netter Monday night. For the third time in four years, BU will play the Beanpot consolation game.
Here’s a look at what went wrong and what went right for coach David Quinn’s crew.
BC’s ‘second’ line
The trio of junior Johnny Gaudreau, senior Bill Arnold and senior Kevin Hayes is listed second on the Eagles’ line chart, but they’re the top line not only at BC but in all of college hockey.
With a goal and an assist, Gaudreau’s point streak — the longest in the country — is up to 22 games. Hayes’ goal was his 20th of the year, and Arnold assisted on both of his linemates’ tallies for an even 30 helpers this season.
“Every time they’re out there,” Quinn said, “you’re holding your breath.”
BU’s man advantage
Typically a strength, the Terrier power play failed to score on its five chances, despite getting eight shots on net.
Quinn said his team was trying to be “too cute,” trying to take perfect shots from the blue line instead of getting the puck on net and looking for a rebound. This was particularly evident toward the end of the second when BU sustained pressure didn’t have any close scoring chances to show for it.
The strategy was clear: Get the puck to sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen, whose rocket of a slap shot has served him well this season. But the Eagles did a good job of staying on Oksanen, playing him tight and not allowing him much of a shooting lane. The Terriers kept getting him the puck at the point, but he was continually forced to dish it off to his teammates. When he did get a shot off, it was usually blocked.
“Obviously the difference in the game was they got a power play goal and we didn’t,” Quinn said.
Recent Beanpot history
With one game to go, the Class of 2014 has one just one win in seven Beanpot chances. Three of the six losses have come at the hands of BC, and two of those came in overtime.
Captain Garrett Noonan is the only senior to have played in all seven games.
As mentioned above, this is also the third time in the last three years the Terriers find themselves playing the early game in week two of Boston’s annual four-team tournament. The first two times — 2011 and 2013 — BU drew Harvard, then dropped the game to the Crimson, big blows BU’s NCAA Tournament prospects at the time.
This year, that isn’t really an issue. Only pride is on the line.
Killing the five-minute major
Freshman defenseman Doyle Somerby drew a hitting-from-behind major and game misconduct on a questionable call when he hit Hayes along the boards midway through the second period.
The result was a long power play for the Eagles. A goal — or more — would have buried BU. But the Terriers responded with what was arguably their best five minutes of hockey all night, getting clear after clear — and even a 2-on-1 shorthanded goal chance — before moving back to 5-on-5 play.
Quinn and BC coach Jerry York both identified the kill as a momentum shift, though one that ultimately proved insufficient.
“Early, their power play they had some great chances and then we settled down a little bit killing,” Quinn said. “Ironically that gave us a little bit of a lift.”
One theme of BU’s season didn’t hold true Monday night. BC won the shots-on-goal battle, 32-28, but the difference of four was impressive considering the talent gap between the teams and some of the SOG margins the Terriers have been on the wrong end of this season.
BU even outshot BC, 10-5, in the first period. It was the first time since. Jan. 11 against the University of Maine — the “flooded” Fenway game — BU outshot its opponent during an entire period.
The shot margin in turn made the game a bit easier for sophomore Matt O’Connor, who made 29 saves while turning in another strong performance between the pipes.