In its toughest test this season thus far, the No. 13/14 Boston University men’s hockey team knocked off an aggressive U.S. National Under-18 Team with a 6-4 exhibition win Saturday evening at Agganis Arena.
Here’s some of what went right and wrong for the Terriers:
BU’s first line of junior Danny O’Regan, freshman Jack Eichel and junior Ahti Oksanen — the OREO line, as it has become affectionately known by the Twitterverse — had a strong performance yet again.
The trio combined for four of BU’s six goals. Perhaps the most impressive goal was the Terriers’ first of the game, on a crisp tic-tac-toe play between Eichel, Oksanen and O’Regan, who rang the puck home right in front of the net.
“It wasn’t really how you draw it up,” O’Regan said about the goal. “I didn’t really see Jack — he did a good job speaking up and yelling for the puck, and he feathered a nice pass to Ahti and then I just had a wide-open net after, so it was kind of the skill and chemistry that you talked about kind of took over right there.”
Eichel also noted the line’s fantastic chemistry.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with Danny and Ahti,” Eichel said. “They’re two really good players, so it’s nice to be able to go to school with them every day and you get to know them, so you build chemistry off the ice and I think that translates onto the ice. They’re two unbelievable players, so it’s a lot of fun.”
BU head coach David Quinn said he has been impressed with his team’s play thus far, noting each player’s skills — O’Regan’s hockey IQ, Oksanen’s strength and hard work and Eichel’s “world-class skillset.”
“That line, there’s a little bit of everything on that line,” Quinn said. “I should say a lot of everything on that line.
“I love what I see, but I think their best hockey is ahead of them. I think they can really be a line that’s going to be difficult to match up against and I think they’re just scratching the surface.”
A week after generating zero power-play opportunities against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Terriers had three in this game — and converted goals on two of them.
The first power-play goal came on a right-circle wrister from Eichel, and the second came from freshman J.J. Piccinich on an empty-net opportunity.
“We were just moving the puck, keeping things simple,” Eichel said. “We’re getting pucks to the net, getting bodies to the net.”
BU’s first power-play opportunity impressed Quinn, who said the Terriers had an opportunity to shine in the future despite limited chances in the team’s pervious two games.
“I think with our skillset, I think we’re going to be able to have two really good power-play units,” Quinn said.
The Terriers, after playing with what Quinn described as a “lack of physicality” first two periods, made a number of defensive adjustments in the third period, holding Team USA to just six shots in the final frame.
“I thought we backed off a little,” Quinn said. “I thought we were much more aggressive in the neutral zone, taking away time and space for us. And then to chip pucks instead of carrying with full possession into our end. And I thought we defended much better in the third period.”
Though the team excelled on the power play, BU also committed four penalties, allowing two goals on the penalty kill.
The first PK goal for the U-18 team came after freshman defenseman John MacLeod was called for interference 16:35 into the first period. Forward Jeremy Bracco was able to score 39 seconds into Team USA’s power play, tying the game 1-1 at that point.
The U-18 team scored again after a boarding penalty from Nick Roberto. Auston Matthews scored the first of what would be two goals for him in the game at 6:21 into the second period.
“I think it was a microcosm of what was going on in the game, I didn’t think we were alert,” Quinn said about the Terriers’ penalty kill. “Killing penalties, you’ve better bear down and pay attention to details and work hard. I thought the second one, Matthews makes an unbelievable play – bats it out of the air. So sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other team and I certainly attest to the second one they scored. The first one I just thought we were lackadaisical and just kind of casual.”
Defense lagging in first 40 minutes
Quinn said he was not impressed with his team’s defensive effort, as the Terriers were outshot 9-8 in the first period. They gave up another nine shots to the aggressive Team USA in the second period before holding the U-18 team to just six in the third.
“I didn’t think we did a great job in the neutral zone,” Quinn said. “I thought they really created some odd-man rushes coming out of their end. And a lot of that had to do with our lack of physical play in open ice.”