NORTH ANDOVER — For the second time this season, the No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team skated to tie, this time with Merrimack College, 1-1, Friday night at Lawler Arena.
A sluggish beginning and a sloppy second period slowed the Terriers (9-3-2, 6-1-2 Hockey East) until junior forward Matt Lane lit the lamp early in the third. They forced overtime, but the Terriers could not get the game-winning tally despite a power-play opportunity in the final minute of sudden death.
As always, things went both right and wrong for the Terriers. Below is a detailed look at Friday night’s contest at Merrimack (10-4-2, 4-3-1 Hockey East):
Life in the fast Lane
Lane finds himself toward the middle of BU’s statistics page, although his play this season has been better than a middle-of-the-pack point-getter.
His net-front presence has been crucial for the Terriers this season, especially in third periods. Two of his three goals before Friday night’s game came in situations to either tie or win a game. And at 1:37 in the third stanza tonight, Lane added to this total.
Standing at the right place at the right time, the Rochester, New York native tapped in loose puck past goaltender Collin Delia to knot up the score.
“He’s had a great year. He’s played very well,” said BU coach David Quinn. “He’s skating, he’s being more physical, he’s going to the net more. Maybe that was his third or fourth, and I think if you combine the length that all his goals have traveled it would equal two feet, so that says something for going to the net.”
If you looked toward the penalty box Friday night, chances are you saw a BU player sitting in it. The Terriers had a combined penalty-minute time that totaled more than a third of regulation.
That tally was skewed by a 10-minute misconduct from freshman defenseman John MacLeod, but the number of penalties the Terriers took was staggering. But as bad as the infractions were, the penalty kill was just as good.
The four-man unit stuck bodies in front that stood in shooting lanes. When it came down to it, junior goaltender Matt O’Connor made the saves, and his defensemen chipped pucks out of the zone at opportune moments.
Hickey continues to move it along
Along with freshman forward Jack Eichel, his classmate in defenseman Brandon Hickey has time and again proven the strength of BU’s rookie class. The blueliner’s play on the penalty kill can’t be understated, but it’s been his ability to move the puck that has stood out the most.
Hickey found open forwards in tight windows and pinched down low for chances when he had the opportunity. When he threw the puck toward the net a little over 1:30 in the third period, he set up Lane for the tying goal. The helper was Hickey’s seventh of the year, good for fourth in assists on the team.
Everybody clap your hands
The Merrimack sound crew provided quite the array of songs for this game, and for that, they make the cut with a plus. It was a good selection of hits spanning multiple generations. The players even got into the fun, as Hickey was spotted clapping along to the “Cha-Cha Slide” from the bench.
The only minus? They played Sail by AWOLNATION twice.
Man down … over and over again
The Terriers played with four skaters. A lot. BU was called for six penalties in the second period, including successive penalties to freshman forward Chase Phelps. The referees called the game tight to the vest, and the Terriers ended up on the wrong side of most calls.
For more on the penalty issues, check out Judy’s sider.
The ice shrinks and so do the shot totals
Lawler Arena is a smaller venue, both in capacity and in ice size. For a team like the Terriers that rely on speed to create open looks at the net, the rink proved to be an issue.
Eichel, who’s consistently stickhandled his way into open areas, could not really use his usual tricks on this night. BU’s vaunted first line really had nothing going for most of the contest aside from a few chances.
The Terriers had trouble getting pucks toward the net as whole, putting 22 on goal for the game, a season-low.
“There’s not a lot of room out there and we that’s why you need to move the puck quicker, to not allow them to smother you, which they’re very good at, and I mean that in a complimentary way,” Quinn said. “We don’t shoot the puck enough either. I mean we had some chances to shoot the puck and 22 shots is just not acceptable.
“I mean we’re definitely a little bit snake-bitten, but we’re not shooting enough. You become snake bitten when you get 22 pucks on net. You’d be a lot less snake bitten if you got 35.”
Second period misses
In what proved to be a poor period, the Terriers did have two golden opportunities to score twice. But they shot themselves in the foot both times.
Senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann got a partial breakaway and walked right in on doorstep. Instead of deking to get Delia out of position, Hohmann shot it right at his glove.
Hohmann’s fellow senior assistant captain, Evan Rodrigues, charged up the ice on a 2-on-1 with junior forward Ahti Oksanen. Instead of taking an open shot, Rodrigues attempted a saucer pass to the junior. Merrimack’s defense poked away the pass, and BU was left shaking its head again.
“We had a 2-on-1, clear as day we should shoot the puck, and we don’t,” Quinn said. “We’ve gotta bear down more, we gotta get more pucks to the net, and we’re getting too cute, we’re getting too cute, and we drive people wide, throw pucks to the net.”