There were more than 40 minutes of sloppy play for the No. 10 Boston University men’s hockey team on Saturday.
Unlike Friday’s comeback win that saw the Terriers (6-4-2, 3-2-2 Hockey East) struggle for two periods before breaking out in the third and defeating the No. 12 University of Michigan, BU couldn’t put together a comparable final frame effort in game two.
Instead, the Terriers labored through almost all 60 minutes and fell by a score of 4-2 to the Wolverines (6-2-1), earning a split on the weekend.
“The good news is we did get a win this weekend, so it’s not like we got swept, but the game doesn’t lie to you, and it just didn’t feel great this weekend, even though we did win a game,” said head coach David Quinn.
There wasn’t a ton to like about this one, but here’s a look at BU’s pluses and minuses from the loss.
Since a lot of the things that went wrong for BU are hard to really talk about completely separate from one another, I’m just going to give this a go in one big chunk.
Slow starts and taking a step back
Quinn stressed on Friday that he was happy with the progress his team has made in the past three weeks and how it’s performed, staying out of the loss column for six straight games. And while the Terriers were able to put their all into the third period during the first game of the weekend and pull out a win, they still looked unlike themselves in five of six total periods.
“They [Michigan] were the better team over the weekend, without question,” he said Saturday. “It’s disappointing because I really feel over the past three weekends, we’ve really done a good job getting better and doing the things we have to do to have success, and we obviously took a big step back this weekend.”
BU was slow, sluggish and playing without energy in two straight games, and Quinn said he takes a lot of responsibility for that. Good players didn’t play well, and when that happens, he said, as a coach you ask yourself what happened.
Michigan was quicker, more physical, playing at a higher pace and winning most one-on-one battles throughout the game, Quinn said.
“You can X and O people all you want, but this game is forever a game of one-on-one,” he continued. “I know people don’t like to talk about that, but you’ve got to win your one-on-one battles in all three zones. And they would get the puck in their own end, and it would be the same guy cruising through our zone uncontested. And you just can’t play hockey like that.”
He also noted that the team wasn’t as physical in open ice as it might have needed to be in order to succeed. Hockey, as a game, gets more physical along the boards and then less so as the puck travels through open ice. When the Terriers are physical, Quinn said, and challenge opponents everywhere on the ice, they’re a lot more effective.
“If you can have a football mentality, and I certainly don’t mean tackling, but I mean, taking pride in not allowing a guy to gain ice, you’re going to have a much better chance to have success,” Quinn said. “And we just didn’t have that. And you need to be moving your legs to do that, and you need to have a willingness to be physical. And we just didn’t have a lot of that this weekend.”
Senior forward Matt Lane, in line with Quinn’s assessment of the team, said BU could have been sharper in certain facets of the game, like passing.
“You see some passes in guys’ feet, or just missed passes, whether they’re soft, or too hard,” he said. “We know we’re a skilled team, and we know that’s a part of our game. We can definitely be sharper.”
While Michigan is strong and gave the Terriers trouble, it’s still on them to take responsibility for failing to generate offense, Lane said. BU was out-attempted 63-55, a margin of eight shot attempts, but only got 21 of those on goal compared to the Wolverines’ 38.
“We missed too many nets, we didn’t get enough traffic in front, and that leads to less zone time,” Lane said. “Just a combination of those things leads to a lack of shots, a lack of scoring chances, things that we’ve done so well over the last few weeks just seemed to disappear tonight. That’s on us.
“We can’t afford to play 20-minute games in this league, especially against a good team like Michigan,” he added. “And just it’s tough to see that back-to-back nights. We’ve got to turn the page.”
Still, Quinn is confident the team will be able to get back to doing what it had been until this weekend.
“I have a lot of faith in this group,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in our seniors, and like I said, it feels worse than it is, because we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we just split with Michigan. And probably didn’t play great. But we’ve got to get back in the saddle and get ready to play a really important game on Tuesday.”
Offense, or lack thereof
For a more detailed look at the specifics of BU’s offensive struggles, check out Sarah’s sider.
Not the same knee, not an ACL
Toward the end of the third period, BU had a scare when senior captain Matt Grzelcyk tried to check a Wolverine into the endboards and fell to his knees. He couldn’t get up without assistance and was helped off the ice and down the tunnel.
The blue liner returned from his offseason knee surgery recovery just two weeks ago on Nov. 6 when the Terriers hosted Northeastern University. It looked like the team might have lost its captain again, but following the game, Quinn said the knee Grzelcyk injured on Saturday, his left, was not the same one that he had the surgery on over the summer and that it wasn’t an ACL injury. In fact, the medical staff told him they thought he might be able to play Tuesday when Bentley University comes to Agganis Arena.
“We’re very optimistic that he actually might be able to play Tuesday,” Quinn said.
The offense as a whole did not have a particularly memorable game, but Lane was able to net one of BU’s two goals on the night. He drove to the cage with the puck with 2:23 to play in the second period and slipped it between netminder Steve Racine’s legs, putting the Terriers on the board.
Luckily for the Terriers, they have a chance to get back to playing the type of hockey they built on in recent weeks. Lane said the next couple of days will be spent thinking about what the team has to do to win. He said BU will have to “come out of the gates flying and play a full 60-minute game.”
“We’re going to take care of ourselves,” he added. “We’re all in good shape. And to be honest, it’s an advantage. We don’t gotta sit with this for long, we get another game in a couple days, hopefully get another win there, and move forward.”