The Boston University men’s hockey team faced a situation it had not been in all year — a deficit.
Worst of all for the Terriers (3-0, 1-0 Hockey East), they trailed going into the final period against the University of Michigan. With some determination up front and the help of video reviews, BU won 3-2 after a back-and-forth third period.
Here’s a closer look at what went well and what didn’t for the Terriers against the Wolverines (2-3):
A long-awaited third period comeback
The last time the Boston University men’s hockey team won a game in which it trailed heading into a third period, Jack Parker was still coaching. To be exact, the Terriers had not completed the feat since Jan. 4, 2013 in an overtime victory against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
For a team that went winless all last year during those situations, this win felt even more special. Freshman forward Jack Eichel turned a 2-1 deficit into a tie game on a deflection just under three minutes into the frame. Junior center Matt Lane finished off the win on a tip-in of his own at the 16:50 mark.
BU coach David Quinn said having quality play from all four lines has made for improved third periods this season.
“I think our depth up front allows us to kind of keep guys fresh,” Quinn said. “When you kill five penalties and get two power plays that kind of throws things out whack a little bit.
“It’s nice to be winning when you think you’re going to get better and when you think your best hockey is ahead of you.”
One game-changing penalty kill
BU’s special teams unit allowed two goals on three chances through the first two periods of Friday’s contest. When Michigan went to the power play again with four seconds remaining in the middle frame, an already shaky PK would have to work hard to keep the game within reach.
After the Wolverines rattled off shots toward junior goaltender Matt O’Connor, the defensive corps warded off the infraction.
It was not pretty, but according to junior captain Matt Grzelcyk, it set the tone for the rest of the game.
“It was huge. It was something that we focused on going into the third,” Grzelcyk said. “To get that kill was very big and it carried our momentum going for the rest of the game, so, I think it was good to get the crowd back into it and kind of feed off their energy.”
Not long after the penalty was over, Eichel potted the game-tying goal, putting BU in prime position to earn at least one point. As much as the penalty kill had its problems, this one attempt changed the complexion of the game.
Doyle Somerby steps up
Before Saturday night’s game, freshman defenseman John MacLeod was ruled out with an injury. Somerby, the sophomore New York Islanders draft pick, shined in his absence. This play more than juxtaposes his freshman campaign where he led the team in penalty minutes.
Despite being listed on BU’s third pairing, Somerby played significant time with Grzelcyk on the top unit. The sophomore worked hard along the boards, used his body to knock pucks loose and made key clearances out of BU’s defensive zone.
On top of all of that, he recorded the primary assist on the tying goal after his shot from the right point was redirected.
“He’s more physical,” Quinn said. “I mean he’s not just content with keeping people on the outside. He’s been a lot more aggressive in his 1-on-1s. … With a guy with that reach and that size, if he can continue to be physical around puck, he’s going to be a problem for other teams.”
Penalty kill issues
The Terrier defensive unit combined to kill six Michigan State University penalties on Friday night. The story was not the same for the penalty kill unit against the Wolverines. Both of Michigan’s goals came via extra-man chances.
Whether it was failed clearance opportunities or leaving snipers wide open, the Wolverines took advantage of BU’s mistakes.
“The first goal they score, we don’t ice the puck,” Quinn said. “The second power-play goal they score, a 50-50 puck off the faceoff, and we try to clear it and they keep it in. The second one we just completely blew our responsibility.”
Lack of success in the faceoff dot
One area the Terriers have struggled in through three regular season games is their effort on the draw. In BU’s first game of the weekend, it won just 37 percent of its chances on the draw. Saturday night’s effort did not improve, as the Terriers won 39 of 62 efforts in the dot. Eichel especially had problems corralling faceoffs, losing more than he won in both games. For the Terriers to maintain more possession, draw control success is essential.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time on it,” Quinn said. “We spent a little time on it, we obviously need to spend a lot of time on it because we can’t be getting hammered on faceoffs to the level that we are. It really makes a huge difference in the game.”
Second period woes
Junior forward Ahti Oksanen’s goal 34 seconds into the second frame looked to give the Terriers the jolt they needed. After an initial offensive rush, though, Michigan controlled the flow of the stanza and took 12 shots on goal to BU’s nine. The Wolverines attacked in the offensive zone and the young crop of Terriers had trouble regaining momentum.
What started as a good period nearly ended in disaster.
“It was doom-and-gloom at the end of the second when they made it 2-1 because I thought we played in the early second,” Quinn said. “I though we controlled the play, having some great opportunities. And then they get that power-play goal. And we were on our heels quite a bit.”