Pluses and Minuses: Freshmen key in draw with Union

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:

Pluses

Reinforcements back

Freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

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.”

Skilled youth
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.

Physical presence
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.”

Minuses

Cobwebs
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.”

Defensive miscues
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.

20 thoughts on “Pluses and Minuses: Freshmen key in draw with Union

  1. Does Quinn want to win games ? He “benched” his top scorer ? Are you kidding me ? I got home late and put the game on and saw Eichel signing autographs for the fans. As good as he has been HE HAS NOT WON ANYTHING YET. America has become soft and pampered in the extreme. If one wants to see this all one has to do is put on a replay of the US against Canada. In this game Eichel and company play like girls on the Boston Frog pond. Quinn gets good players here but they seem very soft save Olsson. I think Quinn should turn over some of the game responsibilities to an assistant who can kick some a__. Would Jack Kelly have “rested” Eichel ? I think not.

  2. Sorry to disagree Walter – but I think benching/resting Eichel was a very good idea. To me, it’s a matter of Quinn knowing that winning the war is more important than losing a battle.

  3. OMG walter, calm your jets!! Holy smokes!!! LOL I’m with Glen and Fred here. I was HAPPY they “benched” him….stupid choice of words…he SAT him out. He is a BOY…just turned 18. Maybe Quinn has more respect for him than to just use him to win a “who cares” game. I bet you’d be singing a different tune had Quinn played jack and the kid got hurt!!
    Anyway, onto Wisconsin!!

  4. Alison, a “who cares game”? These games count as far as NCAA seeding go. And Fred, we like ties now ? What has happened to BU Hockey ?
    I think the real problem here is the general malaise we find ourselves in this time. We are going soft in America. I saw how poor the American did against the Canadians. We have lost our pride. I go back to the 60’s when an available player would have played. Back then a player would have played with a broken bone to win for BU. The point is that he is 18 and should have been in there. By the way the BC skaters played and they just won a tournament. When is the last time we won a tournament?

  5. Walter,

    Are you familiar with the history of ice hockey in the United States. Yes, Team USA is in elite territory now, but back in the 1960s luck was the most important thing Americans needed, and a player like Eichel would not be around- a Canadian boy would be dressed in his place.

    BU players have not played games they could have played due to the WJC. It’s a fact (of course, it’s also a fact that Parker was livid he could not play them.) Also, BU hasn’t played in a tournament yet this year. We’ll see how things go come February.
    And UMass/Lowell has won TWO tournaments this year. I guess that makes the Eagles a bunch of pansies in your book.

  6. John, I was a BU Hockey fan in the 60’s. Eichel would have been a college hockey player somewhere. BU had many Americans way back. If you remember Parker was a starting center on one of those teams. But to the point Parker had a player from Europe who was in the WJT picked up and driven to New Hampshire for a game. That is why he won so many games and championships. YOU PLAY YOUR BEST PLAYERS. How is that hard to understand ?

  7. I would love to see a more physical game but it’s not possible anymore. As long as the likes of Benedetto, Bunyon and Gravallesse are around you might as well let them play in basketball uniforms. It seems like these 3 show up to see how many ticky tack penalties they can call. The new Supervisor of officials has done a great job bringing in many new good officials who let them play a little bit. The other 3 need to be shown the gate after a long career.

  8. By the way, having Eichel sit on Saturday was the least we could have done for Union – after they eliminated BC last April. 🙂

  9. Walter,

    I’m on board with Glenn, Fred and Allison here. This has nothing to do with being “soft, pampered, not wanting to win games/tournaments, etc.”. The coaching staff and team practiced, prepared for the Union game for the entire week based on Eichel being unavailable due to where they projected Team USA would still be in the WJCs as of the day of the Union game. Coach Quinn sees the big picture and his actions reflected such vision.

    It would have been very easy for some coaches to say to Eichel “I know you just played 5 demanding games in 1 week, with no more than 2 days’ rest between games and just got back from Montreal, but since you’re our best player we’ll throw you out there and give you 20+ minutes’ ice time tonight”. Coach Quinn knows the physical and mental demands that players who play in the WJCs go through, and I bet he firmly believes that not playing 1 game, getting a little rest and reacclimating Eichel to the rest of the program this week will reap bigger benefits the rest of this season.

    The examples you cite about Parker having Tom Poti picked up from Logan Airport to join the team midway thru a game @ UNH in 1997, or Jerry York deciding to play 3 of his 4 players from Team USA on Saturday, are under different circumstances than what Coach Quinn was dealing with. In both the BU circa 1997 and the BC scenarios, both teams didn’t even have 18 skaters available to dress for the game. Therefore, there was a much more critical need for bodies for the respective teams just to get through and win those games.

    What would you have said if Coach Quinn gave in to Eichel’s wishes, but then he played like a 18 year old who was out of gas b/c he was playing his 6th game in 9 nights? You may think that a kid that age has limitless strength and endurance, but even in the NHL it’s very rare for teams to play as many games in as few nights as the WJC schedule dictates.

    The Union game was far from a “who cares” game. But Quinn had enough trust and confidence in the team minus Eichel to perform and execute against an opponent of Union’s caliber. It may not have been the outcome BU fans were looking for and it’s easy to use Coach Quinn’s decision as a scapegoat, but your opinions on this particular topic come across as living in the past (“Kelley/Parker did/would have done…”).

    While I think BU hockey fans revere and admire everything Coach Cleverly, Coach Kelley and Coach Parker accomplished for the program the past 65+ years, it’s even more important to think about how great the program can/will be once again under Coach Quinn. He may do some things a little differently than Coach Parker, but instead of living in the BU hockey past, support the present and get excited for the future.

    • Very well put it I totally agree with the decision.. This is Quinns team so to even bring up the past is crazy just trust the guy and enjoy what’s been going on this year because I know u remember how this team did last year….. #gobu

  10. I agree with Walter that if Jack was cleared to play, he should have been given that opportunity. Even if he could only participate in a limited role, he is still better than anyone on the team. Please be aware that BC coach Jerry York did not have a problem playing three of the four Eagles that were on the same team. Similarly, Minnesota coach Don Lucia played his participants in a CONSOLATION game.

    As far as the Friends of Hockey comments, there is no more board or meetings. The Friends are only a name that was taken over by the development office. Your opinions and criticisms of Coach Jack Parker and Jack Kelly are not appreciated. They built this program and hopefully Quinn will follow successfully in their footsteps. He certainly struggled his first year, but had an excellent first half of the season. Finally, it is extremely disappointing that the games are not on the radio. Who made that decision?

  11. Friend of Hockey,
    I supported Quinn as being selected coach. He is the best man for the job.
    For many years I coached young men in another sport. They have unlimited energy. And are you saying that if a team is short of players then it is ok to play them but not play your best in an important game? Think about that statement .
    I was in New Hampshire and remember when Poti was coming from a very long distance and Jack put him in the game. He seemed no worse for the wear that afternoon. Remember there were pros in those games from the NHL and AHL who are 18. Eichel could has been in the AHL if he had been a few weeks older.
    And how about the way the other players who are on the team and want to win and see him up in the stands ? What do they think ?
    As far as being soft I proffer the US Canadian game. The US got pushed around from start to finish. We are becoming too weak in this country.
    I would be the last one to want jack to be hurt but he wanted to play and his team mates from the WJC’s all played or would have played if available to their teams.
    I think some of you are too close to the program that has not won many big games of late. I have followed BU Hockey from 1964 and can see the difference the the way we play. Let’s hope we can win the NCAA Championship this year and this is all forgotten. Go BU !!!!

  12. Walter,

    Let’s agree to disagree on this particular subject and move forward. Hopefully a well-rested Eichel will take out his disappointment from the WJCs on Wisconsin, BC, Lowell and Vermont the next 3 weekends, and get BU rolling heading towards the Beanpot.

  13. Disclaimner: when I said a “who cares” game I meant it wasn’t a crucial game at a crucial moment. Quinn has so much experience with this age having coached the Team USA kids I trust in his decision. I’m also happy for the rest of the guys that played bc they did a great job without Jack. It must be so hard for them to constantly hear about him. Thankfully from what I hear, jack is an amazing kid and team mate. I think Quinn looked at the all around scenario and like FRIEND OF BU said, prepared as if Jack weren’t there, (like he will probably be doing next year assuming Jack leaves) and let him rest. I guess we are all entitled to our opinions but I agree we should not expect Quinn to be a clone of Parkers of anyone else for that matter. The guy has amazing hockey knowledge and can spot a future HNLer in a heartbeat. WE’re going to be ok!! GO BU!!

  14. Larry, I dont think “Friend of BU Hockey” is claiming to be a part of FriendS of BU? Good job Glen with the posting of the link to the article. The announcers of the Union game agreed with the move hands down as well. And as far as Jerry york goes, he needs to play everyone to pick his disappointing team up off the floor.
    Travel day tomorrow, game day in 2. Go BU!!

    • Sorry for the error regarding the friends. However, I still disagree with Coach Quinns decision, especially since it could be a a deciding factor in the NCAA seedings. Remember two years ago, BU was the last team out ,primarily due to a defeat by Harvard in the consolation game in the Beanpot. I hope the Coach Quinn decides to play Jack both games this weekend and not rest him the second game.

  15. Larry – By no means were my previous comments denigrating everything Coach Kelley and Coach Parker accomplished. Coach Parker is a big reason behind my BU Hockey support. Sorry it was taken out of context.

    I have no doubt Eichel plays both games this weekend. There’s no reason to rest him since he played every game prior to heading off to the WJCs. I think the timing of the last Team USA game, the number of games played in short duration, and intensity of those games factored into Coach Quinn’s decision.

    Agree wholeheartedly that non-conference games mean everything when it comes to positioning for the NCAAs. Even though Wisconsin is having a historically bad season, winning both games is imperative because tying or losing any of the games would hurt BU A LOT when it comes to the Pairwise Rankings for the NCAAs.

    • Thank you for your response. Until Coach Quinn proves himself, he cannot be mentioned in the same class with Coach Jack Kelly and Coach Jack Parker. I know how both operated in regards to the players well being. They always were concerned about the student first and not the hockey player. I remember many players who forgot to go to class and as result were benched. I am concerned this weekend, as Wisconsin will be primed for an upset at home. It will be tough to sweep. I hope the team comes out strong on Friday.

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