By Sarah Kirkpatrick/DFP Staff
DURHAM, N.H. — Close, but not close enough. Better, but not good enough.
The Boston University men’s hockey team came close to a win against the University of New Hampshire Friday night and, were it not for several highlight-reel saves from Wildcats goaltender Casey DeSmith against an improved first line, the Terriers very well could have left Whittemore Center with a victory.
Instead, BU (8-17-4, 3-9-3 Hockey East) lost 4-3, its six consecutive game without a win. BU outshot UNH (17-15-1, 9-8 Hockey East) 40-27, including 13 shots in the final frame. It was the first time the team has outshot an opponent since a 4-1 win over Bentley University on Dec. 13, and much of that recent improvement can be attributed to the play of the first line.
That line, consisting of junior Evan Rodrigues, freshman Robbie Baillargeon and sophomore Danny O’Regan was doing nearly everything right on Friday. Those three combined for 15 of BU’s 40 shots, and each scored a goal against UNH. They are responsible for five of the six Terrier goals in the past two games.
“I thought the three of us were really moving tonight and making smart plays and being creative when we could and making plays down low,” O’Regan said after the loss to UNH. “I thought we were really clicking tonight.”
Rodrigues gave the Terriers life near the end of the first period, scoring a power-play goal on a rebound with 7.7 seconds left in the frame. He also assisted on an O’Regan goal at the 8:53 mark of the second period. It was the second consecutive multipoint game for Rodrigues, as he notched a goal and an assist against Harvard University in Monday night’s 6-2 loss.
BU coach David Quinn attributed the improved play of the first line in part to Rodrigues’ health. Rodrigues dealt with a knee injury earlier in the year but has started to recover.
“Well he’s getting healthier,” Quinn said. “I really like that line … Evan still has to shoot the puck more. He has to shoot quicker because he gets a lot of chances, but it’s nice to see him getting on the scoreboard because we need him. We need him to score goals and create offense.”
O’Regan’s goal came midway through the second period on a deke around DeSmith, bringing the Terriers within 3-2.
“We were all going off the adrenaline of the score and the chances on each shift,” he said. “We felt great.”
The Terriers certainly felt that adrenaline late, and were within 4-3 after a Baillargeon goal midway through the third frame. O’Regan could have tied the score up and gotten his 10th goal of the season with just minutes left in the game, but an unbelievable save from DeSmith preserved the score at 4-3. O’Regan lay on the ice in disbelief for several seconds after the save.
“We played the right way in the second and third period,” O’Regan said. “The whole team was really buzzing. We were all over them. A couple mistakes cost us, but I think offensively we were right on point. We ran into a hot goalie, got a little unlucky. A bounce here, a bounce there … I thought we did the right things. It was a tough loss. It seemed like stuff was starting to come together.”
Quinn said that the first line is starting to come together due in part to the players’ increased focus on simplicity.
“The game dictates that you need to just chip it behind somebody and go get it, or just make the simple play and that’s one thing we’ve been talking about,” Quinn said. “This isn’t about special plays, this is about making the simple by over and over again and if you do that, the special plays will just happen. And I thought that line is doing a much better job of it.”
O’Regan also noted that the line has been playing in a much improved, simpler fashion as of late.
“We have been playing a lot better lately,” O’Regan said. “We are starting to work hard. Making the simple plays is starting to work out. We are three guys who have some pretty good chemistry and have been keeping it simple. I think that was the key tonight.”
But Quinn said ultimately, while the Terriers and the first line in particular have shown great improvement over the past few weeks, it is frustrating not to escape with a win.
“We’ve made a lot of strides, we’ve played a lot more purposeful, we’ve been a lot more mature as a hockey team over the last month and we don’t have a lot to show for it,” Quinn said. “… [I’m] happy with the effort, happy with the progress we’ve made, very disappointed in the result.”