The only last-second stress the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team had in this one was whether or not the shutout would be intact by the time the 60 minutes was up.
The shutout didn’t happen, but the win sure did, and the Terriers (5-3, 3-2 Hockey East) completed a weekend sweep over rival Northeastern University.
The Terriers controlled the play from the outset and used that early momentum to propel themselves to an end-to-end 4-1 victory over the struggling Huskies (1-7-1, 0-3-1 Hockey East).
There were a lot of things to like and some to dislike, so we’ll discuss them further in this Pluses and Minuses.
Grzelcyk’s back… Back again
How would senior captain Matt Grzelcyk follow up in his second game back on the ice after offseason knee surgery?
A lot like his first game, actually.
Grzelcyk, just like he did on Friday night, opened up the scoring in the first period. Only this time it wasn’t from the left point. He skated up the left wing and in close on net, wristing a shot high over Northeastern goaltender Ryan Ruck’s blocker for the goal. It was an aggressive play, a lot like the rushes he would make during his first three years at BU.
The opening tally would be his only point on this night, though Grzelcyk again looked sharp both on and off the puck. He quarterbacked the top power-play unit and made a lot of smart and strong plays on the puck on the defensive zone.
By the look of it, it’s hard to tell that the captain had missed any time at all.
“He’s obviously a guy that’s an elite player at this level,” said head coach David Quinn. “And anytime you get a guy back like that, your lineup instantaneously becomes better, everybody gets better. You have a little bit more swagger and play with a little bit more confidence.”
First period dominance
As Quinn put it, this opening period might have been the best first frame he’s seen out of BU since he’s been head coach.
The Terriers dictated pace of play before and after Grzelcyk’s goal. By the end of the first 20 minutes, BU held a commanding 18-2 shot advantage. The puck possession was boosted by three power plays (one of which was successful), but BU really did control the game even during 5-on-5 play.
The only downside? They only scored once.
“Obviously our first period is probably the best period we’ve had this year without question,” Quinn said. “And I don’t know, since I’ve been here, if we’ve had a better period from start to finish. That being said, we were only up 1-0.”
Somerby’s defense leads to offense
Sarah talked last night about how sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby‘s tough-minded defensive play came up huge, especially in the second period.
It was déjà vu on Saturday night, except this time, Somerby was rewarded for his effort.
Along the left defensive wall, Somerby closed in on a pass and batted it out of midair. With the Huskies pinching in for a chance, Somerby saw space in the neutral zone to do some damage. So on a two-on-one opportunity, Somerby skated zone-to-zone and finished the play with a goal at the 13:54 mark of the second period.
It was just his third career goal, but for the Terriers, it was the 12th goal of the year for a defenseman. Yet, for Quinn, the scoring says more about Somerby’s effort on the defensive side of things.
“Well, that came off great defense,” Quinn said. “He and [sophomore defenseman] Johnny MacLeod did a great job down in the corner there. And [senior forward] Mike Moran as well. Our defense was really good in that sequence and it allowed us to get a two-on-one. And he buries it.
“We scored some goals this weekend off a good defense, in-zone defense, and if we’re gonna go anywhere or have any success we’ve got to defend.”
LaCouvee steps up
Sophomore netminder Connor LaCouvee admitted Friday night that he may have lost his focus during a second period in which he allowed four goals.
On Saturday night, however, LaCouvee needed all of his focus in both the second and third periods to keep BU in the game. He did just that, falling just short of his first collegiate shutout. You can read more about LaCouvee’s improved play in Judy’s sidebar.
Losing the shutout
LaCouvee was in good position all night and made a number of key saves during the third period to keep BU in the lead.
But after the Terriers seemingly put the game away with an empty-net goal from senior winger Ahti Oksanen, there was a momentary lapse in the defense that led to a quick NU rush, and subsequently a goal. Forward Adam Gaudette pounced on a rebound chance and got the Huskies on the board for the first and only time with 55.4 seconds to go in the game.
“We’re still learning,” Quinn said. “Disappointing we didn’t give Connor the shutout, just really ridiculous that we gave up a shorthanded goal with a minute to go, but it cost him a shutout. That’s really unfortunate.”
Losing puck possession
The first period saw a great showing from BU on both ends of the ice. It made good plays in the offensive zone and largely kept the Huskies to the outside when Northeastern controlled.
It was a bit of a different story in the second and third periods, with Northeastern outshooting BU by a combined 32-16. There were sizable chunks of the game where the Huskies carried play and BU was back on its heels.
After an 18-2 shot advantage to start the game, both teams finished the night with 34 chances on goal.