Terrier offense explodes in season-opening victory

Patrick Curry celebrates one of his two goals against Union. Photo by Emily Hunter.

Behind five second-period goals, the Boston University men’s hockey team powered past Union College at the Achilles Center in the 2019-20 season opener on Saturday, 7-3.

“We feel good about it,” said BU head coach Albie O’Connell regarding the victory, which saw his team notch their most goals in an opener since 2014-15.

The Terriers took the upper hand early with ten shots before Union’s first, and after a Union goal was waved off by the officials, BU found the game’s true icebreaker 14:27 in. Working his way up close, sophomore forward Matt Quercia snapped in a shot off passes from junior defenseman Cam Crotty and freshman forward Robert Mastrosimone to get BU up and running.

The visitors would double their lead 46 seconds later when senior forward Patrick Curry received a pass from his classmate and linemate Patrick Harper and spun out from behind the net to launch a shot goal-bound. The captain’s effort would find a hole at the near post, and the Terrier lead would become two.

“We wanted to stress having a good start,” said Curry, who led by example in lighting the lamp himself less than a period into his fourth season with BU.

Trailing by a pair, the Dutchmen got on the board with 3:24 left in the period through freshman forward Chaz Smedsrud, dancing his way inside and firing one past graduate goaltender Sam Tucker, cutting BU’s lead to 2-1.

A minute later, the Dutchmen added a second to knot the game up at 2. It was junior forward Sean Harrison who shoved the puck in from the right post, bringing the game all square as the teams headed to the break tied, 2-2.

“We felt like we kind of gave them some life,” said O’Connell in regards to surrendering the two-goal advantage. The second-year coach was happy with his team’s response though, saying, “the captains did a good job of keeping the group calm.”

BU came flying out of the gates again to begin the second period, and it didn’t take long for them to find success. Mastrosimone opened his college account two minutes in with a seeing-eye snipe that found the keeper’s five-hole. The assists went to his fellow first-year forward Ethan Phillips and junior defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo, and BU’s lead was restored at 3-2.

“A couple [freshmen] got some points, so they’re probably feel pretty good about themselves,” the coach said about Mastrosimone and others.

Continuing the onslaught to open the second period, senior forward Gabriel Chabot benefitted from some puck luck at the 6:24 mark, sneaking one in from a tricky angle to the keeper’s right to finish off a move involving freshman forward Sam Stevens and junior defenseman David Farrance.

“Our last line was probably our best,” O’Connell said in reference to the attacking trio of Chabot, Stevens and freshman Jamie Armstrong. “They played pretty simple, but they wore the other team down quite a bit.”

The physicality demonstrated by BU’s fourth line was present across the Terrier roster, with both veterans and newcomers welcoming contact and conflict.

“You can’t win college hockey games if you don’t have some physicality to you,” said O’Connell.

Riding the momentum, Curry got his second of the game after several good looks on the power play, eventually finding the back of the net with 8:36 to play in the frame, converting off of a slick feed from Harper who had gained the puck from Farrance.

To explain BU’s flurry of goals in quick succession, Curry pointed to the “long change” between the benches and their respective defensive zones during the second period, tiring the Dutchmen.

The hosts would get one back on a power play with 5:38 left when senior forward Anthony Rinaldi potted the loose change from just outside the BU crease.

Not to be outdone, BU would respond just 46 seconds later. It was Quercia again who was in the right place at the right time, corralling a free puck after Phillips moved it along and swinging it by the helpless netminder to match Curry with a game-high two goals.

“I got a couple lucky bounces there,” said the humble Quercia, whose two goals on the night beat his total of one from last season.

With a 6-3 lead, BU was not done just yet, adding a seventh with just under a minute and a half left in the period. On the power play, Curry and freshman forward Trevor Zegras provided the assists for Farrance, who found a seam in the Dutchmen defense and exploited it for the score.

With so many different players chipping in with goals and assists, Quercia said that with the personnel BU has, “the talent comes out eventually.”

With the visitors exploding for 21 second period shots to Union’s two, BU’s 7-3 lead after 40 minutes would prove to be all the Terriers needed.

With BU protecting the four-goal advantage, the game’s pace would slow in the third. The Terriers gained the benefit of four Union penalties in the final frame, but could not capitalize to expand the lead. On the other end, the defense did plenty to kill off the game, holding Union to just 13 shots in the contest and five in the final two periods combined.

“They made a lot of hard plays look easy,” O’Connell said of his defensive ranks.

With a scoreless third, the game would end 7-3 in favor of the visitors in scarlet and white.

“I think we were just playing the systems we drew up the right way,” said Quercia.

While he was pleased with his team’s first performance of the season, Coach O’Connell knows there is still plenty of opportunity for his team to grow.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “It’s a long season.”

It will be hard to satisfy the coach and his hungry team, but the impressive win was exactly what the Terriers had in mind to start their season.

As Patrick Curry said, “we did what we needed to do.”

20 thoughts on “Terrier offense explodes in season-opening victory

  1. We won every puck battle. We passed well we shot well. We went to the net. We out hit them. We simply put out played them in every aspect of the game. I’m not sure of how good Union will be this year but they are a D 1 team and we crushed them. I like our make up on this team they just keep coming. I really enjoyed watching some of our freshman Phillips and Fensore looked really good. Phillips is fearless for a little guy he’s involved in everything. As most people know I’m usually very optimistic this off season I was hopeful but not saying much I had to see this team before commenting now I will say I’m excited

    • I’m with you Colin, this team has me feeling really good through one game… Seems like it might be a rough year for Union, but you can’t take anything away from the way BU played – so much confidence and a great compete level, especially from the young guys like you mentioned. Great to see!

  2. Real strong on skates up front. Hard to gauge against a not so strong team but they look like they have guys that can score. Not much from second line and I thought Cockerill could have a break out year. A lot of talent there and and he might yet be a surprise. I complain all the time about BU goal tending so just let me say it is what it is. All I can say is that we have to score a lot this year to go to playoffs it would appear.

    • SOCC back with the goaltending complaints, love it. I would agree that Tucker wasn’t totally on his game on Saturday, but he didn’t have to be. Last year we saw the team really needed flawless goaltending to stay competitive, but if the offense controls the game like they did against Union, the goalie doesn’t have to be perfect (and that’s really important).

  3. A strong opener, and a far cry from last year’s opening loss to Merrimack. This team was very well prepared! PP is impressive with fast, complex, and spontaneously created movement patterns – much less predictable when compared to last year’s deliberate and methodical movements; ergo we appear to have a PP that will be much more difficult to defend against. Team has obvious talent (distributed throughout the entire roster), work ethic, and determination; as manifested by winning the one-on-one battles (especially in the corners), as Colin noted. Defense has ability to carry the puck, and our much-improved outlet and center ice passing contributed to numerous slick “O” zone entries – not just dump and runs. Cycling was notably improved, giving us many extended “O” zone times of possession. There is no substitute for speed, and we have some. This viewer is of the opinion that our best defense will be a dominating offense, that keeps the play in the opponent’s end, and that we have a real contender in the making. PSD

    • I think there are a lot of ways that this team differs from last year’s Paul, and that’s a good thing. The defense was so quick to stop any Union flow in the attacking zone, and were huge towards tilting the ice and allowing BU to pile on the shots. Defense wins, and it looks like BU has a good one!

  4. I was especially happy to see Curry and Quercia provide such potent offense. It’s been a while since we had a four-year guy who saved his best for senior season and really crushed it on the scoring sheet. We might have that with Curry this year. I was at the game and am very proud of the BU turnout. Our presence was quite audible.

    • The BU contingent was loud and proud Glenn! I was actually happier to see Quercia get his pair than Curry – we know Curry can put up goals, but to see Quercia get in those positions and find the back of the net was really encouraging. Depth scoring is huge!

  5. An impressive performance for sure. Goal tending at 77% save pct will hopefully improve. Some Union forwards allowed too much space around net by BU defensemen. Certainly a much better start than last year. I am expecting some exciting hockey this year, when no lead will be safe against this potent offense.

    • Yes Leo, it wasn’t perfect in the defensive zone, and based on the postgame comments, Coach O’Connell didn’t seem satisfied on how things looked on that end of the ice. There’s always room to improve, but if this is the baseline, they’re going to be really good really quick.

  6. As for Tucker, I was not happy at all with his save percentage on Saturday. However, at this early point, there’s no way I’m going to give that much importance … given his solid 2.53 GAA last season and that he did it in front of a poor Yale defense.

    • Yeah Glenn, I think he’d like a couple of those back – have to think there were some jitters in his first game in scarlet and white though. Give it time, especially while your skaters are as good as they were – he’ll either settle in, or Vinnie can step in as a very solid backup.

  7. Well Vinnie definitely needs to prove that. He certainly might be a “very solid” D-1 goalie but I haven’t seen that yet … based on his four appearances last season. I just hope that one of them shows that he is the clear #1 guy … within the next six weeks.

    • Haha, you got me there Glenn. From what I’ve seen at a couple practices though, it feels like Vinnie has taken a step up since last season. Hey, as long as the goaltender isn’t the part of the team responsible for winning games like we saw against Union, I’m ok with whoever they put back there (for now).

  8. Welcome to BU Hockey very good game by our boys they came out hungry,fast and determined unlike last year and we can already see the difference.. We have alot of speed amd lots of talent with these freshman I know its 1 game but I play like u did last night u will win games for sure ..it looks like we will have depth scoring and deep team … Our outlets coming out of our zone is so much improved unlike last year we would stand still and fensore gives u another d guy who can rushbthe puck out along with farrance … Some turnovers in our own end but that is fixable.. I loved the BU crowd as I was part of it.!!! Im excited for this season going forward… Go bu..

    • A very well-rounded summary of a very well-rounded performance, Rui. They have to sustain it of course, but everything you mentioned certainly makes this team feel much more dangerous! It’s a good time to be a BU fan.

  9. Hi Brady! As far as Saturday’s game, were there any Terriers injured? I was concerned about a few guys as they left the ice … like Crotty with his head and Wise who was holding his arm.

    • Yeah Glenn, I was concerned too – I’ll ask Coach when we meet on Thursday, but from what I could tell at the game, the guys looked good enough to go back in, but their minutes may have been restricted in the 3rd simply because the game was already over by that point.

  10. Crotty looked and sounded fine last night. While the offensive explosion was nice, we cannot realistically count on it to happen every night. That’s where D and Goaltending come in. I’m not too worried about the D-corps but the goalie situation still leaves a lot of room for improvement. TK out!!!!

    • TK with eyes on the inside! Thanks for that info – I wasn’t at the event unfortunately. It’s a 3-part game, offensive, defense and goaltending. If two are clicking, I like your chances. They had the offense and defense on Saturday, but other days it will be the defense and goaltender. I’m confident they’ll figure it out back there.

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