Pluses and Minuses: No. 9 men’s hockey hangs on to defeat UMass, moves on to Hockey East Quarterfinal

PHOTO BY SOFI LAURITO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
PHOTO BY SOFI LAURITO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team outlasted the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Saturday in game two of the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament to advance to the quarterfinals.

The Terriers (21-10-5) defeated the Minutemen (8-24-4) at Agganis Arena by a score of 5-4 and will next take on the No. 11 University of Massachusetts Lowell beginning Friday night at the Tsongas Center.

It was a back-and-forth game Saturday and BU took the lead five times and only held it once, allowing UMass to tie things up again and again. The inability to gain more than a one-goal edge was “a testament to UMass and how hard they played,” according to BU head coach David Quinn, but senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan said the Terriers also have a responsibility to learning how to build on a lead.

“You get up when we score a goal, then it’s really deflating when they’re able to tie it back up right away or shortly after,” he said. “We got to work on being harder to play against and trying to step on their throats a little bit, try to get up by a couple goals and get more comfortable.”

Here’s what we thought the Terriers did well and what they need to work on moving forward:

Pluses

JFK

After being held goalless in each of his games since Jan. 22, freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson netted the game-opener and game-winning goals against UMass. Nick has more about that and JFK’s progress in his sider.

O’Regan and Grzelcyk

In their last games at Agganis Arena, O’Regan and senior captain Matt Grzelcyk combined for a total of six points. O’Regan collected a pair of goals and a couple assists for four points while Grzelcyk tallied a goal and a helper as well as being on the ice for every Terrier goal.

O’Regan now has three multipoint games over his past half-dozen and is the 18th player in program history to register at least 150 points over the course of his BU career.

“It’s incredible,” said Forsbacka Karlsson of his linemate. “[He’s] probably the best player I’ve had on my line ever so it’s a lot of fun playing with him and just the consistency he brings every night, and he makes everything easier for me so it’s a lot of fun.”

Quinn also spoke highly of O’Regan’s season and said his best hockey has come in the past six weeks, but O’Regan himself was pretty quick to credit his teammates for his success.

“You always want to leave on a good note,” he said. “I’ve been able to play with a couple of good guys, and I think they’ve helped me elevate my game. Just trying to help the team get to the playoffs here, I’m not too worried about anything personal, whatever I can do to help the team.”

And as O’Regan’s points pushed him over a plateau, Grzelcyk is approaching a milestone as well. The defenseman’s two points on Saturday gave him 93 for his tenure at BU and he’ll have a chance to inch his way closer to 100 beginning Friday.

Quinn pointed out that both O’Regan and Grzelcyk had chances to leave BU to try and start their pro careers, but decided to come back to complete their senior seasons.

“I think if you talked to both of them, they’re really happy they came back,” he said.

Chuck-a-puck

Freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy had quite a game as well Saturday night with four assists. He was also on the ice with his defensive partner, Grzelcyk, for each BU marker.

Offense is a huge part of McAvoy’s game, and while the main focus for him coming in was learning how to couple that with an improved defensive style of play, he’s definitely worked on bettering his skills up front. He said he’s been trying to contribute “without really being a liability defensively, making sure the defense comes first.”

“He’s a guy that’s become more of a puck-mover than a puck-lugger,” Quinn said. “He still likes to carry it at times, but it’s becoming less and less. He’s making the game easier on himself, he does a good job getting pucks to the net, his shots improving, and you add all that up with his vision and instincts, and you got a guy who’s got the ability to get four points in a game.”

McAvoy said being more of a puck-mover and less of a puck-lugger is something that Quinn has emphasized to him and something he’s been concentrating on.

“Nothing can move faster than the puck, first off, and carrying it versus moving to a guy and then going is something that he [Quinn] stresses a lot, and it really is the right way and the smart way to play, so it’s a lot more effective.”

Women’s team

Right before this game got started, the BU women’s hockey team had just finished its Hockey East Semifinal matchup against No. 6 Northeastern University. The Terriers pulled off a 4-3 upset with goals from sophomore forwards Rebecca Leslie and Victoria Bach as well as senior captain Kayla Tutino and senior defenseman Alexis Crossley, who had the game-winner. At the other end of the ice, sophomore goaltender Erin O’Neil recorded a career-high 54 saves to keep BU on the winning side of things.

The Terriers now move on to play No. 1 BC on Sunday in the Hockey East title game for a chance to capture their fifth straight conference championship.

Minuses

Penalties

At least in the first 40 minutes of the game, penalties proved to be a problem for BU. The Terriers committed seven infractions, conceded 11 power-play shots and allowed the Minutemen to capitalize on one man-advantage for their third goal of the game. Senior forward Ahti Oksanen even picked up a game misconduct, which Quinn noted sort of indicated the team’s mental state during the game and series.

He said winning the contest wasn’t easy, and while a lot of it had to do with how hard and well UMass played, a portion of it was on BU.

“Some of it had to do with the way we played and taking penalties and 10-minute misconducts, which I think was a reflection of our mental commitment to the weekend,” Quinn said. “But I thought when we needed to, we got it together and played hard and played smart and did enough to win.”

Defense

Of all the things BU could improve on heading into next week’s game, defensive coverage is probably the one that stands out most of all.

Each of UMass’s goals came in the low slot or in tight, just about on top of senior netminder Sean Maguire with repeatedly no one covering, and for Quinn, Saturday’s performance was “as poor as [they’ve] defended.”

“Flat-footed, and on 50/50 pucks we assumed offense,” he said. “I think three of their goals were a direct result of that. All of a sudden the pucks going along the halfwall, and we got people vacating the defensive zone, and all of a sudden it’s in the back of our net. The good news is that we haven’t done that, so I’m hoping it just happened this weekend, because if it continues, we’re going to feel the pain in a hurry.”

Forsbacka Karlsson said the team wasn’t sharp enough defensively, in Friday or Saturday’s game, and McAvoy added that “there are a few goals [they] would have liked to have back.” Going forward, the blue liner continued, everyone needs to make sure they have their man in the defensive zone and that they’re boxing guys out on rebounds and are always in front of the net.

“Make sure that we have somebody there to account for their guys and that’s it,” McAvoy said. “I think if we fix that up, we’ll be fine.”

Our last game 🙁

Saturday was the last game of the season at Agganis Arena, but it was also mine and Sarah’s last games here as students, too.

My first was BU’s 4-2 win over Providence on Oct. 13, 2012, and I’ve seen close to 80 games here since then. It’s kind of surreal that I’m never going to be back at this rink in that regard, and I’m certainly going to miss it tremendously. I know Sarah feels the same as well.

Luckily for us, though, our graduation will be in this building in a couple months, and we have more hockey to cover, so we’ll be around!

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