Pluses and Minuses: Faulty penalty kill stymies Terriers against Notre Dame

PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Matt Grzelcyk. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Hockey East regular-season title will have to go unclaimed for at least another week.

The No. 2/3 BU men’s hockey needed either a win or a tie Saturday night against the University of Notre Dame to earn outright possession of the conference regular-season title, but ultimately came up short — dropping a 3-2 game to the Fighting Irish at Agganis Arena.

BU (19-6-5, 13-4-3 Hockey East) bounced back after Notre Dame j(14-15-5, 9-6-5 Hockey East) jumped out to a 2-0 lead almost midway through the second period, but the Terriers were unable to push the tying score past Irish netminder Cal Petersen over the final minutes of play, sealing the three-point weekend for BU’s opponents from South Bend.

As it’s been throughout the season, there were plenty of good and bad points to take away from Saturday’s contest. Here’s a look:

Minuses:

Terriers continue to slump on the penalty kill

For the fourth time in five games, a team managed to orchestrate a power-play goal against the Terriers, highlighting a disheartening trend in BU’s penalty-kill unit over the past month.

Notre Dame left Agganis Arena Saturday night with a 50 percent showing on the power play, scoring twice with an extra-skater to build up a lead that the Terriers ultimately could not catch up to.

After the Terriers managed to hold the University of Wisconsin’s power-play unit off the scoreboard seven times on Jan. 10, BU’s penalty kill has operated at a success rate of just 72.3 percent in the following 11 games. During that stretch, BU’s penalty-kill percentage has dropped to seventh in Hockey East at 82.8 percent.

“It’s correctable, it’s not like we’re scratching our heads wondering, ‘Geez, how are they scoring?’ We got a way that we prefer to kill penalties and the two goals they score, we don’t kill them the way we should,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “And that’s coaching. Obviously, I’ve got to do a better job coaching, because it they’re not doing it, then that’s on the coach. It’s February.”

Fighting Irish pounce on last-second opportunities

Costly mistakes at the end of both the first and second periods proved to be the difference maker Saturday night at Agganis Arena, with Notre Dame taking advantage in both cases.

A goal from forward Mario Lucia with .1 seconds left on the clock broke a scoreless stalemate going into the first intermission, while a roughing call on freshman center Jack Eichel at the end of the second period handed Notre Dame a power-play chance at the start of the final frame.

Notre Dame would make good on Eichel’s blunder, with sophomore Vince Hinostroza scoring the eventual game-winning goal with just 15 seconds left on the man advantage.

For more on BU’s costly last-second mistakes, check out Sarah’s sider.

LaCouvee handed another loss

Freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee saw his record drop to 3-3-1 once the game clock expired Saturday night, marking the second straight appearance in which the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL) product has been handed a loss.

LaCouvee ultimately finished with 19 saves on the night, while Quinn maintained confidence in his backup goaltender after the game.

“I thought LaCouvee was good,” Quinn said. “I thought he was strong, made some big saves. He’s strong in that crease. You can’t fault him on any of the goals.”

Pluses

Grzelcyk jumpstarts BU man advantage

The Terriers have been hard pressed in terms of finding success on the power play as of late.

Entering the third period of Saturday’s game, BU had failed to convert on its last 13 extra-man opportunities, with their last special-teams strike coming on Feb. 13 against the University of New Hampshire.

Ultimately, BU junior captain Matt Grzelcyk would put an end to BU’s listless power-play streak, scoring his fifth goal of the season at 7:50 in the third period.

The Bruins prospect corralled the puck off a pass from Eichel and promptly blasted a shot from the right circle that sailed into the Irish’s net, making it a 3-2 game with a little over 12 minutes to play.

Grzelcyk — not especially known for his goal-scoring prowess — has now found the back of the net four times in BU’s last four games.

Moran lights the lamp

For the first time in 22 games, junior forward Mike Moran found the back of the net, scoring his third goal of the season at 15:39 in the second stanza.

After freshman forward Nikolas Olsson gathered the puck behind the Irish net, he sent the disc to a waiting Moran near the slot. Moran did not hesitate, firing the puck past Petersen to put the Terriers on the board.

“It’s good to see him get on the scoresheet,” Quinn said. “He’s played much better lately. He’s done a good job. I’m not surprised. He plays a hard game, he’s heavy, strong on his skates, gets to the net.”

Hickey dodges a bullet

Well, not literally, of course.

But after the freshman defenseman collided with Fighting Irish defenseman Luke Ripley early on the third, many feared the worst.

The Leduc, Alberta, native immediately fell to the Agganis Arena ice and spun around at a dizzying rate before coming to a stop near the right circle. Hickey was eventually helped off the ice by junior forward Ahti Oksanen and a trainer, and was quickly brought off the bench.

No more than five minutes after exiting the game, however, Hickey was back on the bench, loosened up during a break in action and was back in the game for the final stretches of play.

The Calgary flames draft pick has been an invaluable addition to the Terriers on both offense and defense, placing second amongst Terrier defenseman with 14 points, while also logging a plus-17 rating in 30 games.

“He’s fine, he’s fine,” Quinn said. “Obviously that’s a scary situation when a guy gets hit like that, but obviously was just something that he was able to shake off.”

Live blog: No. 2/3 BU vs. Notre Dame

Time/Location: 7 p.m./Agganis Arena
Friday Recap
Friday Sidebar
Weekend Preview

BU lines:
Evan Rodrigues – Jack Eichel – Danny O’Regan
Ahti Oksanen – Cason Hohmann – J.J. Piccinich
Nikolas Olsson – Matt Lane – Nick Roberto
A.J. Greer – Mike Moran – Chase Phelps

Matt Grzelcyk – John MacLeod
Brandon Hickey – Brandon Fortunato
Doyle Somerby – Brien Diffley

Connor LaCouvee
Matt O’Connor
Anthony Moccia

Notre Dame lines:
Sam Herr – Thomas DiPauli – Peter Schneider
Mario Lucia – Vince Hinostroza – Anders Bjork
Dawson Cook – Connor Hurley – Jake Evans
Ali Thomas – Steven Fogarty – Austin Wuthrich

Luke Ripley – Andy Ryan
Robbie Russo – Jordan Gross
Eric Johnson – Justin Wade

Cal Petersen
Chad Katunar
Nick Stasack

Officials:
John Gravallese
Cameron Voss
Bob Bernard
Brendan Kelleher

Live Blog BU vs. Notre Dame (02-21-15)
 

Pluses and Minuses: BU settles for tie after late Notre Dame goal

Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

It wasn’t a win, but it got the job done.

Well, sort of.

The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team tied, 2-2, with the University of Notre Dame on Friday night at Agganis Arena. With the point in hand, the Terriers (19-5-5, 13-3-3 Hockey East) clinched a share of the Hockey East title and gained a first-round bye in the conference playoffs.

Sophomore forward Nick Roberto scored halfway through the second to tie the score at one, and senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues netted his 14th goal of the year early in the third to give BU its first lead of the evening. However, on the strength of a late goal, the Fighting Irish (13-15-5, 8-6-5 Hockey East) forced overtime and eventually a draw.

A bounce here or a rebound there and this game could’ve swung in a different direction. As always, there were positives and negatives, so here’s a closer look at the pluses and minuses:

Pluses

Defensive corps stands out

When you have five underclassmen manning the blue line, there might the be expectation that there will be a lapse at some point in the game. But for the most part of the season, this young group has risen to the occasion. That didn’t change Friday night.

Just looking at the numbers, it’s fair to say the defense kept BU in the game from start to finish. The blue liners kept the Fighting Irish outside of prime real estate and forced outside shots. By the time the game ended, Notre Dame finished with 19 shots on goal, the second-fewest BU has allowed in a single game this season.

What stood out most for BU head coach David Quinn was the play of freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey. The first-year defenseman again showed his prowess with the stick and body.

“He can really close on people,” Quinn said. “He’s got a great stick, he’s strong. He plays through people not to people, which is important at this level. For a kid 18 years old he certainly has a great grasp of that. But again, I thought in general, I thought we did a good job defending. I thought we did a nice job keeping them on the perimeter.”

Everyone deserves a second chance

We’ve seen some highlight-reel goals this season, mainly from BU’s top line, but when it came down to it tonight, it was plays in the gritty areas that got the Terriers on the board.

Down a goal in the second, freshman center Jack Eichel pushed through near the crease, jamming at a few chances in front of netminder Cal Peterson. Not before long, Roberto came down through the left side of the crease and gave a whack at a loose puck. On a second attempt on the backhand, Roberto drove home just his third goal of the year.

Thirty-one seconds into the third, Rodrigues got his own chance at a second opportunity. Junior winger Danny O’Regan failed to put his shot past Peterson, but a trailing Rodrigues deposited the puck into the the twine.

Fourth line quietly produces chances

Roberto had his name appear on the scoresheet, although his linemates didn’t play all that bad either. Centered by junior Mike Moran and flanked by freshman wing Chase Phelps, the unit hemmed the puck in deep and created some turnovers with a good forecheck.

The line had six shots combined for the night — double the total BU’s first line had. Moran and Phelps had a few good chances in the first period, but Peterson stood tall.

Kudos to this trio. The three of them don’t get the most ice time by a long shot, but they played well when given the chance.

Minuses 

Late goal re-writes ending

With four minutes and 43 seconds to go, the Terriers held a 2-1 lead that appeared pretty safe. The defense had held its own and didn’t give Notre Dame many chances.

It wouldn’t have been much longer until the Fighting Irish would most likely look to pull Peterson for an extra attacker. Sole possession of Hockey East appeared imminent.

But what looked as a benign rush ended up as a game-changer. Freshman Anders Bjork skated the puck through the slot, wristing the puck toward junior goaltender Matt O’Connor. The shot beat him clean, and instead of celebrating with a trophy, the Terriers settled for a tie and share, at least for the night, of the Hockey East Crown.

The ceremony will have to wait another night.

“[Notre Dame gets] a big goal towards the end of the third period there to tie it,” Quinn said. “Give them a lot of credit, I thought they made life difficult for us as coach Jeff’s [Jackson] teams usually do — they got good skill.”

Missed Opportunities 

It wasn’t like the Terriers didn’t have chances two points Friday night. BU garnered 36 shots on goal, yet also had chances that either missed the net entirely or were blocked.

The clock dwindled in the third period and BU looked to break the tie. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk fired a shot from the point that careened perfectly for O’Regan to tap in. Instead, he couldn’t get a clean handle of the puck and shot it a mile high of net.

BU’s power play, which has been a strength of this team, also failed to come through, going 0-for-3. Playing a man up in the third, the Terriers recorded only one shot on the advantage and had trouble entering the zone.

“Space was hard to come by, I thought both teams well defensively,” Quinn said. “Both power plays unable to capitalize on their opportunities.”

Live blog: No. 2/3 BU vs. Notre Dame

Time/Location: 7:30 p.m/Agganis Arena
Game Preview

BU lines:
Evan Rodrigues – Jack Eichel – Danny O’Regan
Ahti Oksanen – Robbie Baillargeon – Cason Hohmann
A.J. Greer – Matt Lane – Nikolas Olsson
Chase Phelps – Mike Moran – Nick Roberto

Matt Grzelcyk – John MacLeod
Brandon Hickey – Brandon Fortunato
Doyle Somerby – Brien Diffley

Matt O’Connor
Connor LaCouvee
Anthony Moccia

Notre Dame lines:
Sam Herr – Thomas DiPauli – Peter Schneider
Mario Lucia – Vince Hinostroza – Anders Bjork
Dawson Cook – Connor Hurley – Jake Evans
Ali Thomas – Steven Fogarty – Austin Wuthrich

Luke Ripley – Andy Ryan
Robbie Russo – Jordan Gross
Eric Johnson – Justin Wade

Chad Katunar
Nick Stasack
Cal Petersen

Officials:
Tim Benedetto
John Gravallese
Chris Aughe
Pat Turcotte

Live Blog BU vs. Notre Dame (2-20-15)
 

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.

Transcript: Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues after loss to UNH

Did you guys think that you had a chance to come back entering the third? 

“Yeah, definitely. We’ve never given up all year long. I think the goalie was making a few good saves and we knew that If we got one, that more would come. I think that’s what happened, we just knew that we had to stick to the game plan and things would turn our way. Just too little, too late.”

How good was it to get back on the score sheet?

“Obviously, it’s nice. I mean, I’d rather take a win than points, but I’m not going to complain.”

Matt Grzelcyk has been on a pretty good streak the last couple games. What do you think has been different about his play, at least offensively?

“I think he’s just getting the bounces now. 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.”

How much do you think last night’s game contributed to the slow start today?

“I think we were ready, we just didn’t execute. We had a good first couple shifts, they got the first one and then we kind of got away from our gameplan and didn’t work as hard as we wanted to and the results obviously showed. We took way too many penalties and I think they had two or three power play goals. It’s been a trend as of late and it’s something that we need to stop doing.”

Down 3-0, [Quinn] called a timeout and pulled [junior goaltender Matt O’Connor.] What was the message in that timeout?

“I think just to get back. We knew we were not playing the way we wanted to. It wasn’t O’Connor’s fault at all. I think it was one of those things where we needed to figure it out, get back to our gameplan and we just needed a fresh start. We obviously weren’t playing the way that we’re capable of and we just tried to shake things up.”

Transcript: Coach Quinn after loss to UNH

General comments
First of all, a great effort by our guys in the third period, but I’d like to congratulate UNH. I thought they played real well early, I thought they played real well for the weekend. Like I said last night, their record’s real deceiving. We just obviously came up here, and I thought we got off to a decent start. Great chances early, and then just irresponsible play defensively. A lot of puck watching in our end. But they can do that to you. As a coach you’re always trying to wrestle with, are you the cause of not playing well or are they playing well and it’s causing you to be on your heels a bit? I thought it was a little bit of both. But you can’t get down 4-0 to anybody in this league, and give yourself a chance. But we did. I thought when we made it 4-3, I really felt we had the momentum, and they did a good job holding the fort. Just a tough way to start the game, being down 4-0 at the beginning of the third period is just something that — the chances of coming back are minimal. And we almost did it, but didn’t get done.

Final icing call?
One guy thought that the guy gained the line, the other guy thought they tipped it. So I didn’t like either answer.

After post shot at the end of the 2nd, did you think you’d come back out with energy?
Well, based on what we’ve done all year, I did think that. One of the things we talked about was hey, I don’t know if we can come back, let’s just play better. Let’s play better. Let’s feel good getting on the bus. At least we put forth a consistent effort for 20 minutes. And then we get the two quick ones, and all of a sudden the complexion of the game changes in the third. Although I thought we gave up some unnecessary chances after we made it 4-3. We only needed one, and we were playing like it was 4-0. We gave up some great chances to make it 5-3. Our goalie played well, and gave us a chance to tie it. But based on what we’ve done all year, I was anticipating a lot of pushback. I thought we started doing it a lot toward the end of the second, too. But we just couldn’t buy a goal.

Decision to pull O’Connor?
Just momentum. 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. They scored a goal a minute later, so that didn’t really work.

Grzelcyk
It’s nice because we’re gonna need him to be productive offensively. I really couldn’t believe he only had one goal going into the weekend, so it’s nice to see him score some goals and get rewarded. He’s had a heck of a year.

How did UNH stop top 2 BU lines?
I haven’t criticized our top line too much, but they didn’t have to do too much to defend our line. They were doing a good job defending themselves with their soft play.

What goes into third-period comebacks?
I can’t tell you that. There is a secret formula that we continue to use that we’ve bottled it and we can’t reveal it. (laughter) I have no idea. I wish I could tell you. I have no idea.

Live blog: No. 2/3 BU vs. UNH

Time/Location: 4 p.m./Whittemore Center

Friday Recap

Series Preview

TV: WBIN/FCS-Atlantic

BU Lines: 
Evan-Rodrigues-Jack Eichel-Danny O’Regan
Ahti Oksanen-Robbie Baillargeon-Cason Hohmann
A.J. Greer-Matt Lane-Nikolas Olsson
Chase Phelps-Mike Moran-Nick Roberto

Matt Grzelcyk-John MacLeod
Brandon Hickey-Brandon Fortunato
Doyle Somerby-Brien Diffley

Matt O’Connor
Connor LaCouvee
Anthony Moccia

UNH Lines: 
Casey Thrush-Maxim Gaudreault-Matt Willows
Dan Correale-Andrew Poturalski-Tyler Kelleher
Warren Foegele-Jay Camper-Shane Eiserman
Jason Salvaggio-Michael McNicholas-Jamie Hill

Matias Cleland-Brett Pesce
Harry Quast-Cameron Marks
Richard Boyd-John Furgele

Danny Tirone
Adam Clark
Jamie Regan

Officials: 
Tom Fyrer
Jack Millea
Chris Millea
Wayne Silva

Live Blog No. 2/3 BU vs. UNH (2-14-15)