Trying to earn its second weekend sweep of the season, the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team played to a 4-4 draw with the University of Connecticut Saturday night.
The Terriers (5-1-1, 3-1-1 Hockey East) scored within the first 40 seconds of the game on junior forward Danny O’Regan’s goal, but the Huskies (2-4-3, 1-2-1 Hockey East) battled back in a neck-and-neck, fast-paced affair.
Here’s a closer look at what went right and wrong for the Terriers on the back end of a two-game weekend:
An Early Tally
Against Boston College at Conte Forum Friday night, the Terriers didn’t get any sustained attacking time early. It took over three minutes for the team to get a chance on net.
Saturday was a completely different story.
Even without junior forward Ahti Oksanen in the lineup, the first line was aggressive from the get-go. Freshman forward Jack Eichel skated down the left wing, and fed O’Regan on a cross-ice pass down low. After a few pretty deke moves, O’Regan buried the shot past goaltender Rob Nichols.
“Well you always like to get on the board early — it’s easier said than done,” said BU coach David Quinn. “One of the things that I thought happened on that first goal, Jack did a great job driving wide and then pulling up and finding Danny.”
The Eichel-O’Regan Connection
The top BU forwards continued their impressive play even after the opening goal. After multiple chances throughout the first and second periods, the two were rewarded for their hard work with less than five minutes to go in the third.
Eichel started the rush when he sped out to center ice. As O’Regan charged toward the blue line, the freshman split the defense with a pass, allowing O’Regan to spring forward. The junior did the rest, and after fancy stickhandling in front of Nichols, O’Regan found himself on the scoresheet again.
The two finished the night with three points each — Eichel with three assists and O’Regan with the two goals and an assist.
Unsung Heroes Come Up Big
When the 2014-15 season started, junior forward Mike Moran was out of the lineup with an injury. Freshman defenseman Brien Diffley found himself on the third defensive pairing. On this night, though, both made big contributions in the tie.
For a more in-depth look at Diffley, check out Conor’s sidebar.
Moran, who scored his first goal of the season on Friday night, added his second of the year against UConn 30 seconds after the Huskies grabbed a late lead in the third.
After Diffley took a shot from the point, Moran batted in the puck out of mid-air — and under the crossbar — for the goal at 9:30 of the second period.
“He’s a smart player, he’s got some skill, he shoots the puck a ton and he’s a very physical player and he goes to the net,” Quinn said of Moran. “I’m happy to see a guy like that get rewarded. He’s getting a lot of ice time because he’s earning it.”
An Early Tally
How does a plus become a minus? When complacency sets in, issues can arise and create chances for the opposition. This is what Quinn said happened after BU’s first goal of the game.
“It was nice to get that first one, looking back, as crazy as it sounds, I don’t know if you want to score 20-plus seconds into the game because, like I said, all of sudden we thought this was going to be easy,” Quinn said. “We all know it wasn’t going to be easy.”
After O’Regan’s opening tally, things were far from being painless. UConn scored about three minutes later on a rebound by forward Shawn Pauly, his first of two on the night.
BU held two one-goal leads throughout the game, but none lasted more than 3:08. As much as Quinn has used the word “resilient” to characterize the Terriers, UConn threatened all night and was not deterred by the initial goal.
Penalties Upon Penalties
What seems to be a recurring theme for this Terriers team is the amount of time it spends on the penalty kill versus the man advantage. Before the game against UConn, the Terriers had 66 total minutes shorthanded against 40 on power-play chances.
By the end of the night, the Terriers added seven more penalties to its season total.
There were two infractions, though, that hindered the Terriers the most. BU was forced to work with one less skater on its bench after freshman forward Nikolas Olsson’s game misconduct for making contact to the head at 15:29 in the second period. Quinn used a combination of players like Moran and sophomore forward Kevin Duane on the second line to keep things stable.
Then at the end of the third and teams in the midst of a 4-on-4, junior captain Matt Grzelcyk held forward Trevor Gerling as he drove to the net. On the ensuing Huskies power play, Pauly scored his second goal of the game, which was the final score of the contest.
“It’s nothing new, Quinn said of the penalties. “You look at what’s happened this year, we probably have the biggest discrepancy between power plays and penalty kills. I can’t explain it, I don’t want to talk too long about it.
“[UConn] played well, they deserved the chances that they got. They had the five-minute major, they capitalized on it and the four-on-three goal.”
Trouble with Pauly and Gerling
Other than penalties being a major issue, the Terriers had their difficulties defending the second line. Pauly, who did not have a goal coming into the game, finished with two tallies, five shots on goal and a plus-2 rating. Gerling doubled his season output with two goals, while also adding two helpers.
UConn’s first unit had trouble keeping up with BU’s top line, but the Huskies’ second line combined for seven of UConn’s 12 points.