NORTH ANDOVER — Before this season began, David Quinn reiterated that this was a new year, and that his team would be looking to build off what it learned last year.
While the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey head coach put most of the 2014-15 season in the rearview mirror, there was one thing he took a lot of pride in — the Terriers never lost two games in a row all year.
Five games into this season and that streak is over.
The Terriers (2-3, 1-2 Hockey East) fell to No. 17 Merrimack College on Friday night at Lawler Arena, just four days after a loss at the University of Connecticut. It was the first time since Feb. 21-22, 2014 that the Terriers have dropped consecutive games.
It’s not an ideal start for BU, but Quinn isn’t exactly hitting the panic button five games into the season.
“We’re finding ways to lose right now,” Quinn said,” and the good news is it’s October and I really like the progress we made from Tuesday night to tonight.”
With the bad there was also good in this one, so we’ll take a look at what happened in this Pluses and Minuses.
Costly early goal
The teams had just hit the ice and were seemingly just feeling each other out. But Merrimack forward Brett Seney set the tone 48 seconds into the contest.
Coming in from the neutral zone, Seney skated down the left wing and put what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot on net. Senior goaltender Sean Maguire, though, wasn’t quick with his glove and the puck beat him high.
It jump-started the Warriors (3-0-2, 1-0-2 Hockey East), who went on to score a little over nine minutes later. From there, Merrimack never trailed.
“I mean the first shot goes in,” Quinn said. “We got deflated, I thought we did a great job recovering from it, they get up 2-0 and then we just, I thought after that, I thought we took over.”
In his first year since coming back from a head injury, Maguire has gone through the ups and downs of a player who hasn’t seen game action in over a year.
Friday night at Merrimack was a tough one for Maguire from the start, with the first shot of the game getting by him. He finished with 10 saves on 14 shots and was pulled about halfway through the game for sophomore netminder Connor LaCouvee.
It is early in the season, but BU’s goaltenders have numbers at the bottom of both Hockey East and the NCAA. You can read more about the goaltending issues in Judy’s sidebar.
Looking at the stat sheet, it’ll tell you that BU went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. So, at first, it might appear as if penalties weren’t a factor in this one.
But in a span of 1:03 in the second period, one penalty ended up being a crucial part in deciding this outcome.
Sophomore defenseman John MacLeod was called for a slashing and went to the box, while Merrimack winger John Gustafsson was also penalized for embellishment. On the ensuing four-on-four, Merrimack struck twice, the second of which ended up being the winning goal.
The second tally during the 4-on-4, at 15:03 of the second period, had a lot to do with the extra space on the ice. Defenseman Ethan Spaxman took the puck from the point, skated into the middle of the slot with plenty of room and then beat Maguire with a powerful wrist shot.
“They get two 4-on-4 goals, which we should be pretty good at 4-on-4,” Quinn said, “but we just, we’re finding ways to lose right now.”
Offense from the defense
A big reason why last year’s BU team was so successful was that its defense could not only play well in its own zone, but it could also move the puck well and chip into the offense when needed.
In spite of the loss, the offensive presence from the defense was on full display. MacLeod got the scoring started with a slap shot four and a half minutes into the second, and sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey finished the night with goal a few minutes into the third period.
The Terrier defense racked up a combined 14 shots, more than a third of BU’s 37 shots on goal. The blue line corps finished with four points for the game, and it now has a combined six goals for the season.
“It’s good, and they played well too defensively.” Quinn said of his defensemen. “I thought Brien Diffley had a really good night, I thought Johnny MacLeod had a really good night, Hickey had a great night. Our D looked like our D corps from a year ago, which was really encouraging, really encouraging and, you know, still gotta clean some things up but who doesn’t at this time of the year?”
A walk down Matt Lane
Senior assistant captain Matt Lane started the year as BU’s third-line center, jumped to the first-line wing and has since moved to the second line, which was where he was Friday night.
Even with all of the shuffling and adjusting, Lane has played with a good level of consistency and has contributed in just about every game.
After a goal against Merrimack, a backhander as he skated to the net with speed, Lane now has three goals and four points through five games.
He’s been quick in the offensive zone and generating chances, adding three more shots to his season total after Friday night was all said and done.