Pluses and Minuses: Oksanen, O’Connor lead the way for Terriers in win over Michigan State

Junior forward Ahti Oksanen scored the only goal of the night Friday. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Junior forward Ahti Oksanen scored the only goal of the night Friday. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

It may not have been the scoring output that fans of the No. 11/12 Boston University men’s hockey team have gotten accustomed to this season, but the Terriers were able to skate off the Agganis Ice Friday night with a victory, shutting out Michigan State University by a score of 1-0.

Here’s some of what right and wrong for the Terriers Friday night:

Pluses:

Ahti and Co. give BU a boost

Once again, BU’s first line left their mark on the box score of Friday’s match, as freshman forward Jack Eichel and junior forwards Ahti Oksanen and Danny O’Regan each registered a team-high five shots on the night.

In the end, the “OREO” line’s Finnish import provided all the scoring the Terriers would need. Oksanen beat MSU netminder Jake Hildebrand glove side with an impressive backhand shot 29 seconds into the second period.

Both Eichel and O’Regan have registered a point in all four of BU’s games (two exhibitions) this season.

O’Connor stands tall in net

Making his first appearance between the pipes since starting BU’s season-opening exhibition against St. Thomas University, junior goaltender Matt O’Connor performed well for the Terriers, recording 29 saves en route to his first career shutout.

While the Toronto native did occasionally struggle with rebound control – a problem that he acknowledged that he has been working on – O’Connor came up big in the third period, as the Spartans amassed 14 shots in the final stanza.

After the game, O’Connor gave most of the credit to his teammates in front of him for the victory.

“I think we had a lot of chances, so I thought it was maybe going to be a bit of a goalie battle and our D and forwards played excellent in our zone and players were blocking shots, so it made it easy for me to get the monkey off my back and get my first shutout,” O’Connor said.

Freshmen continue to make presence felt

While his efforts might have netted him an assist against Michigan State, Eichel wasn’t the only freshman on the Terrier roster to make his presence felt in Friday’s game. Chase Phelps contributed four shots from the fourth line while the team’s young defensive corps of Brandon Fortunato, Brandon Hickey, Brien Diffley and John MacLeod was consistently active in disrupting MSU’s presence in the Terriers’ zone.

The sample size might be small after just two regular-season games, but the efforts of BU’s freshman class have drawn the attention of many of the team’s veteran players.

“We knew we would have Jack, who is an amazing player, bit also, A.J. Greer, Hickey, they’re all wicked good,” Oksanen said. “The amount of talent in our team and especially in our freshmen group, I think it surprised us all.”

Terriers impress on penalty kill

Compiling six penalties is never a positive sign, but the Terriers were able to limit the Spartans’ effectiveness on the man advantage, holding MSU off the board on all six power-play opportunities. It was a much-improved showing from the Terriers’ penalty-kill unit, which surrendered two power-play tallies to the U.S. National Under-18 team on Oct. 18.

Minuses:

BU comes up short on man advantage

It was an up-and-down performance from BU in terms of special teams, as BU came up flat on the man advantage, failing to score on any of its five power-play opportunities.

After the game, Quinn noted that the team’s power-play unit still has much to improve on going forward.

“I don’t like our power play. I don’t like our look,” Quinn said. “A couple of them were broken power plays, 20 seconds and 40. We’re a work-in-progress on the power play. We’re still trying to figure out who should go where, and that’s part of the problem. These guys want to go to a spot and stand there – you gotta play hockey.

“Too many guys go into power-play mode, and you gotta play hockey. I thought we got better as the game went on, I thought our initial rush was better on the PP. Early on we waltzed up the ice and allowed them to influence the initial rush. … We obviously have to get better on the power play.”

MSU gets new life in third period

While the score read 1-0 after two periods, it looked as if Michigan State had thrown in the towel, as the Terriers were outshooting the Spartans by a margin of 31-15 and were consistently generating opportunities in MSU’s zone.

It seemed like more of the same from the Terriers in the third, as the team once again put together a few strings of sustained pressure against Hildebrand. As the clock began to dwindle however, the Spartans seemed to have been given new life – as Michigan State compiled 31 shot attempts over the final 20 minutes of play while consistently winning battles on the boards and up near the crease in terms of positioning.

“They came on pretty strong,” O’Connor said. “Their strategy was really throw it on the net and I think the boys really helped me out and blocked a lot of shots. I think it was a full team effort there to squeeze away that 1-0 win.”

Terriers struggle to generate good looks

When it comes to generating offense, quality takes precedent of quantity – a formula that that the Terriers struggled with all night.

The Terriers registered 40 shots against the Spartans, but most tended to be right towards Hildebrand’s chest for an easy save. After the game, Oksanen noted of the team’s frustrating at not being able to pad to its lead despite getting multiple opportunities to capitalize against the MSU defense.

“Especially in the first period, we had a ton of chances and we just couldn’t score,” Oksanen said. “It was pretty frustrating, but it was good that we didn’t get too frustrated. It didn’t affect our game, we were just able to keep going until the first goal in the second period.”

4 thoughts on “Pluses and Minuses: Oksanen, O’Connor lead the way for Terriers in win over Michigan State”

  1. I think he’s going to be fine. They were only following precautions/protocol that are in effect after a blow to the head.

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