Pluses and Minuses: Sluggish start dooms Terriers against UNH

John MacLeod. PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA WIMLEY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
John MacLeod. PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA WIMLEY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“On second thought, let’s not go to New Hampshire. ‘Tis a silly place.”

Horrid Monty Python references aside, the No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey has had a rough go of it in The Granite State during the 2014-15 season.

The Terriers are 0-2 this season in contests up in New Hampshire, dropping a contest against Dartmouth College on Nov. 30 before seeing its seven-game win streak fall Saturday thanks to a 4-3 loss at the hands of the UNH Wildcats.

As with every game, there were plenty of good and bad factors to take away from Saturday’s game. Here’s a look:

Minuses

Penalty kill proves to be a killer — for BU

As good as the Terriers have been this season on the man advantage (25.5 percent success rate), the same can’t be said about the team’s penalty-kill unit as of late.

Six Terriers were ushered into the penalty box Saturday evening, gifting the Wildcats with multiple opportunities to build up a lead against their conference opponent.

By the time the game clock drained to zero, the Wildcats had notched three power-play goals, keying UNH to the upset win against the Terriers. It was the second time in the BU’s last five games that BU’s penalty-kill squad has relinquished three scores in a contest.

The Terriers now place sixth in Hockey East in terms of penalty-kill percentage with a mark of 83.6 percent.

Another poor start

Based on their last few games, it appeared that the Terriers finally moved past the first-period struggles that plagued the team throughout the first few months of the 2014-15.

After all, BU’s last two contests against the University of Massachusetts Lowell (Feb. 6) and the Wildcats (Friday) both featured Terrier goals within the first minute of play.

That wasn’t the case Saturday at the Whittemore Center, as the Terriers only managed to fire pucks past UNH netminder Daniel Tirone in the third period.

Meanwhile, a tally from UNH forward Shane Eiserman just 2:06 into the game served as just the start for the Wildcats — who scored four goals over the first two periods to build a comfortable 4-0 lead going into the third.

“I thought we got off to a decent start,” said BU coach David Quinn. “Great chances early, and then just irresponsible play defensively. A lot of puck watching in our end.”

O’Connor gets the hook

With BU trailing by a score of 3-0 halfway through the second period, Quinn motioned for a timeout — giving his team a chance to regroup and refocus towards its gameplan.

One player who wasn’t in the picture for the Terriers’ second-half strategy ? Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor, who was removed and replaced by freshman Connor LaCouvee for the remainder of the match. O’Connor registered 14 saves on 17 total chances.

After the game, Quinn stated that the mid-game switch was not a byproduct of O’Connor’s play, but rather a result of circumstances.

“Just momentum,” Quinn said. “Had nothing to do with his play. He’s played a lot of hockey and I just thought what the heck. They’re not listening to me up to this point so maybe if I pull the goalie they might actually get a little rattled and pay attention.”

Pluses:

Bounces finally going Grzelcyk’s way

Goal scoring might not be the first thing that comes to mind when analyzing junior captain Matt Grzelcyk’s game , but the Charlestown native has been doing just that as of late.

After not lighting the lamp over BU’s first 23 games of the season, Grzelcyk has found the back of the net four times over BU’s last five games — including twice in Saturday’s game.

Grzelcyk’s strikes came within 14 seconds of each other in the third, helping BU cut into what was a 4-0 UNH lead at the time. It was the first time in his collegiate career that Grzelcyk registered multiple goals in one game.

While Grzelcyk’s sudden stretch of goals might come as a surprise to some, don’t count senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues among that group.

“I think he’s just getting the bounces now,” Rodrigues said. “He’s been great for us all year, he’s been a great captain for us. I just think that at the beginning of the year, some of his shots were getting blocked, they were off the post — this and that — and I think things are just starting to go his way and it’s good to see.”

A valiant comeback

The Terriers have excelled this season in terms of racking up points in the third period, but facing a 4-0 deficit at the start of the final stanza Saturday appeared to be too big of a hole to dig out of.

The large disadvantage didn’t appear to phase the Terriers, who scored three times in just over seven minutes to bring cut UNH’s lead to one with 12:15 eclipsed on the clock in the final stanza.

An empty-net move almost helped the Terriers orchestrate a game-tying score in the closing seconds of the game, but freshman center Jack Eichel’s quick wrister was stoned by Tirone — preserving the win for the Wildcats.

For more on the Terriers’ impressive turnaround in the third period, check out Sarah’s sider.

4 thoughts on “Pluses and Minuses: Sluggish start dooms Terriers against UNH

  1. I totally agree. The result was disappointing but the effort they made in that third period was extremely inspiring (and entertaining).

  2. I was reading a bit about ND and although their record is nothing to write home about, they have some very good players. I hope the terriers don’t take them lightly

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