The 2013-14 Boston University men’s hockey team must be wondering where all of this scoring was last year.
For a team that finished ninth in Hockey East in offense a season ago, scoring has not been a thing the Terriers have been all that accustomed to in recent months. But after this year’s BU team skated off the ice with a 12-1 win against St. Thomas University on Saturday afternoon, it was clear the Terriers offense has changed for the better.
In a blowout win against the Canadian school, most things went right for the Terriers during this game. Here’s a closer look of what went right and wrong for BU against the Tommies.
Ahti, Ahti, Ahti…and more Ahti
Junior Ahti Oksanen has been part of the defensive unit since he stepped on to Commonwealth Avenue in 2012 as a freshman. But before this season, the Finland native had another position listed next to his name for the first time since he was a young kid: forward.
And in his first game action of the 2014-15 season, Oksanen was able to play on BU’s top line. To say he made the most of the opportunity is an understatement. The 6-foot-3 forward tallied four goals and earned the game’s No. 1 star. After depositing a second-chance goal a little over three minutes into the game, Oksanen added three more goals between the first and second periods.
Playing with freshman forward Jack Eichel and senior winger Evan Rodrigues, Oksanen took advantage of the open ice talent level around him.
“It’s almost a dream come true,” Oksanen said of playing on the top line. “Eichel and Rodrigues, too. I just feel like I just need to find myself open and [Eichel] would get me the puck. It’s really easy playing with both of those guys.”
Special Deliveries from Eichel
The freshman center gave BU of a taste of just what he can bring to the table. Eichel used his speed and quick hands to weave around the Tommies defensive unit all game long. From his first shift, Eichel appeared composed and in control of the game.
He did not score, but Eichel was the primary assist man on five of BU’s goals. On the Terriers’ fourth and fifth goals, the STU defense tried to contain Eichel’s explosiveness by putting multiple defenders on him. But the freshman found a wide open Oksanen both times to extend the Terriers’ lead.
Whether it was a toe drag or a quick deke to elude defensemen, Eichel got the job done against STU in the offensive end.
Young Defensemen Step Up
Before Saturday’s game, BU coach David Quinn said he hoped his corps of rookie defensemen would get used to the college level quickly. If the weekend’s contest is any indication of the unit’s ability, the group has a bright future ahead of itself.
Four of the five starting defenseman against STU had never played a game for the Terriers. The blue-liners’ inexperience mattered little, however. The defensemen excelled in both defensive zone coverage and in their ability to start breakout plays going toward the offensive end.
Defenseman Brandon Fortunato stood out among the pack with his plus-6, three-assist game. He also tied for a game-high in blocked shots with three. On BU’s final goal, Fortunato blocked a St. Thomas chance at the point, fed a pass through the neutral zone to freshman forward A.J. Greer, who finished the play with BU’s final goal of the game.
Freshmen Brandon Hickey also added two assists and John MacLeod scored a goal.
“I thought all of the defensemen did a great job moving the puck, Quinn said. “I thought we came out of our zone clean on numerous occasions, they showed great poise.
“To me, it wasn’t our D-zone coverage that was the issue last year, it was the fact that we had trouble breaking it out of the zone, which forced us to defend an awful lot. That certainly allowed us to generate offense on the initial rush and establish the offensive zone and create offense.”
One Unlucky Goal
It’s really nit-picking to say anything went wrong for the Terriers on Saturday, but the one goal prevented BU from a three-goalie shutout. With freshman netminder Connor LaCouvee in goal for the first time, St. Thomas went on the power play and scored with the help of the BU defense.
The Tommies took a shot from the blue line that was blocked and flew high and over an unsuspecting LaCouvee. In an attempt to help their goaltender, the BU defense swatted the puck out of the air to try to get it out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, the puck hit LaCouvee and into the net for a goal.
“And the goal was a flukey one, unfortunately for LaCouvee,” Quinn said. “You’re a freshman and you get in there and we bat it in the air and it goes off him and into the net.”