In the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team’s first game in 15 days, the Terriers earned a 3-3 tie against the defending national champions, Union College, at Agganis Arena.
Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues’ goal with just more than four minutes remaining in regulation salvaged the tie for the Terriers. His goal was one of many positives for BU on Saturday.
Here’s some more of what we liked — and didn’t like — in BU’s first game of 2015:
The Terriers returned two key players who had missed nearly two months to the lineup on Saturday, and both had a positive impact on the result.
Sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon — BU’s leading scorer last season — saw his first playing time in nine games. He recorded two shots on goal.
“I thought Robbie did pretty well,” said BU coach David Quinn. “He hasn’t played in long time. He played a lot of minutes, probably too many minutes, but I thought Robbie did a good job.”
Freshman forward Nikolas Olsson, who had also missed nine games, tallied a goal and was a plus-1 on the evening.
“I took about two months off so that was pretty rough, but I just tried to stay positive and remind myself that I’d be back soon enough,” Olsson said. “I’ve been practicing hard. I’d been skating for a while, even though it was no-contact, so I tried to keep up to speed and make contributions once I got out, and I did.”
BU played without freshman forward and leading scorer Jack Eichel, whom the coaches chose to bench after he competed for the United States in the IIHF World Junior Championships during winter break. But still, three freshmen made it on the score sheet Saturday: forward A.J. Greer, who had the game-opening goal, defenseman Brien Diffley, who added an assist, and Olsson.
Greer’s goal came off a rebound to open the scoring 5:47 into the game. It was his second goal of the season, and his first since BU’s 8-1 win over the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 10. Diffley’s fourth assist of the season came on Olsson’s goal — his third of the year — at the 13:42 mark of the 1st period.
Union presented a physical test to the Terriers, which BU matched with a consistent tough effort. The Terriers had a number of physical challenges along the boards — in turn, accumulating five penalties on the night, but Quinn said he was pleased with the effort.
“If we’re going to be able to have success moving forward, we need to be physical for 60 minutes, we can’t pick and choose our spots,” Quinn said. “I thought we were pretty consistent with our physical play tonight.”
Olsson’s return gave BU a boost physically, and he said he was happy to come in and get a few big hits.
“The first thing I thought about was going out and getting a hit,” Olsson said. “That’s how I kind of … get more mentally into it than you can get just by prepping yourself.
“I try to maintain a physical presence when I’m out there, and remind guys on the bench on our team that you can’t let up on a hit, just to finish guys and then try to incorporate that into my game in a big way.”
Quinn noted the significance of Olsson’s return to the lineup as pivotal to the Terriers’ physicality.
“He gives us a swagger,” Quinn said. “He’s got a physical presence out there. He’s a horse. He’s looking to hurt people and hit them, and he’s got skill. Once he gets out there right from the get go and makes a big hit in his first shift and everyone kind of follows his cue.”
As previously mentioned, it was the Terriers’ first game action in 15 days, and their first regular-season matchup in three weeks. Quinn mentioned before the game that he had some concerns about the team having a bit of dust, and said that he thought BU’s effort early was a bit shaky.
He did note, however, that BU was able to settle in, save for some rough play in the second frame.
“I thought in the second period, we completely got away from supporting the puck,” Quinn said. “I thought we cheated too much, our forwards were leaving our defenseman on an island, and it showed.”
The Terriers allowed three goals in a game for the first time since Nov. 25 — just one of three times this regular season they have given up three or more scores to an opponent.
Midway through the first period, with the game tied 1-1, freshman defenseman Brandon Fortunato trailed Union forward Daniel Ciampini on a breakaway attempt. He wrapped his stick around, but was unable to stop the attempt from reaching the back of the net.
BU also left a number of wide-open chances for the Dutchmen when junior goaltender Matt O’Connor couldn’t control a few rebounds, which at one point early in the game led to a goal for forward Spencer Foo.