To finish off the second half of the BU roster, here is my player-by-player analysis after the first half, all created through my own opinion and the stats that each Terrier recorded over the semester. Don’t miss my article about the first half of the roster, which was posted separately here.
Harper had something to prove going into his final season at BU, and for the most part, he has delivered in half one. The fourth-year forward was named an assistant captain following a rather disappointing junior campaign, but with the “A”, he has looked more like the guy that Coach O’Connell refers to as one of the most dynamic players in college hockey. Harper leads BU in assists (13) and is second in goals (8) and points (21), missing two games thus far. Perhaps the only knock against the leader of the new “Avon Old Farms” line is his occasional hesitance with the puck, leading to just 33 shots on the semester (Patrick Curry has 60, for comparison). That said, when he’s in possession and playing with confidence as he did for much of the first half, Harper is one of the most dangerous attackers on the team.
It was a strange start to the season for Kotkansalo, who was pulled out of his traditional defensive position to serve as a center on an emergency basis for two games this fall. He was serviceable in his time in the middle, and BU masked his weaknesses well by keeping him off the faceoff dot as much as possible and pairing his defensive capabilities with the bruising play styles of Matt Quercia and Alex Brink to make for about as strong a trio as the Terriers could possibly form. When in his natural defensive position, the Finnish junior was steady in the BU zone with a team-leading 27 blocks and provided some offense with four assists to equal the best opening semester of his career. With just four penalties in 17 games, it was a first half to build off of for Kotkansalo.
There’s not much to report on with Lynch, who has yet to see action in his senior season. His only time between the pipes in an official collegiate contest came last season in an exhibition game, and one would have to imagine that the same will occur this season as well. BU has two non-competitive matches scheduled to kick off their second semester against Concordia and the USA Under-18 Team, so Lynch may get some game time in those contests. However, it has become clear over his four years at BU that Lynch’s greatest impact is not going to come on game day. Lynch will be looking to continue to push his colleagues as a practice goaltender, and in return, the Terriers will hope to send him off with a championship.
Mastrosimone emerged as one of BU’s most consistent young forwards in his first semester of collegiate hockey, earning a point in nine of BU’s 17 games. His four goals and six assists are the most of any freshman not named Trevor Zegras, and he has only taken three penalties (while Zegras has taken eight). Based on these numbers, I think it’s safe to say that Mastrosimone’s call-up to join Zegras on the preliminary USA roster for the World Junior Championships was very much deserved. His hard-nosed, high-energy game has helped him adjust to the college game fairly seamlessly, and the Terriers should feel good about what Mastrosimone can give them going forward.
As could be said for almost all of the freshmen defensemen on BU’s roster, McCarthy showed a mix of potential and growing pains in his first semester on Commonwealth Avenue. The New Yorker escalated the depth chart quickly, evidently earning the trust of his coaches, but it seems to have taken a bit longer for McCarthy to win over Terrier Nation. Perhaps this reluctance to support the fourth-round pick has resulted from his untimely errors in his own zone, conceding the puck in dangerous spots and gifting golden opportunities to the opposition. However, while those mistakes may come to mind first, there was a lot to like about McCarthy’s first half. He finished the semester second on the team with 22 blocks, provided four assists, played in every game, and only took three penalties. In my eyes, when he has played up to his ability, he has been BU’s best two-way freshman defenseman.
Like like his fellow freshman Red Wings draftee Robert Mastrosimone, Phillips impressed in his first half as a college hockey player. His combination of creativity and skill mixed with aggressiveness and motor was effective from day one, as Phillips came up with scoring chances in nearly every game before finally getting on the board against Providence about halfway into the semester. While a goal and five assists won’t catch many eyes, the Nova Scotian has been one of BU’s brightest first-years, finding a consistent spot working alongside Mastrosimone on the BU second line. The only thing that could potentially displace him from that line is Logan Cockerill’s return, as BU will likely be looking for a spot among the top six for the junior assistant captain.
I think this semester was a bit of a reality check for Purpura. The goaltender joined BU halfway through the 2018-19 season and performed reasonably well in his first few appearances in college hockey, giving some indication that he could possibly step into a larger role as a sophomore. However, expectations of the Illinoisian challenging for the starting role may have been a little strong. Purpura only appeared twice and was relatively unimpressive both times, sporting a 4.90 goals-against average and a .860 save percentage over the 73 minutes he played. There’s still time for the sophomore to improve, of course, but for now, his development doesn’t seem to be progressing as BU may have hoped a year into his collegiate career.
I don’t think I’m alone in my belief that Quercia may have made the biggest jump between seasons of any Terrier on the roster. The sophomore was kept fairly quiet in his first season on Comm. Ave. to the tune of a goal and an assist over 36 games, but it was clear that things would be different the second time around when he scored twice in BU’s season opener this past October. Through half of the 2019-20 campaign, Quercia is tied for fourth on the team in goals (5), tied for fifth in points (10), fifth in shots (36) and shooting percentage (.139), and third in blocks (20), recording the most of any BU forward. Along with his offensive contributions, Quercia has been entrusted with leading freshman linemates wherever he lands on the line chart, also logging important minutes on the first penalty kill unit. The BU fan from Andover has grown into one of the most reliable two-way forwards as the Terriers have, and the team has to love what they’ve seen from him to start his second season.
With such a deep group of freshmen joining the Terriers this past offseason, Stevens may have flown under the radar a bit to start his career at BU. He centered the fourth line in BU’s season-opening win at Union, and while the Canadian’s physicality made a noticeable impact for his line throughout that game, he did wind up with an injury that kept him out for much of the first half. Once Stevens returned for the Vermont series towards the end of November, he didn’t seem to have missed a beat as he notched two goals in the series finale, showing enough to keep him in the lineup for the rest of the first half. The two-goal performance was the freshman’s only scoring of the semester, perhaps aided by a move to the first line for the night. Like many Terriers, Stevens showed a work ethic and tenacity that led to brief flashes of production, so if he can make those sparks a bit more frequent, he could be on to something in the bottom half of BU’s forward groups.
Tucker admitted that he started a little slow in the first semester of his graduate year, but through 16 starts, I think both the goaltender and the BU fanbase are feeling pretty good about the level he has reached. Settling down with a .913 save percentage in all competitions, perhaps Tucker’s most significant development has been his performance against Hockey East opponents, where his .925 mark in conference play ranks third among all Hockey East goaltenders. Filling the shoes of three-year Terrier Jake Oettinger, Tucker has two shutouts and has kept opponents to three goals or less in 11 games. He has also shown a flair for the dramatic, coming up with some circus stops that have drawn the affection of the Terrier faithful. Tucker says he feels good about his game entering his final semester of college hockey, and as things stand, the starting goaltender seems to be the least of BU’s problems heading into the second half.
Vlasic was one of BU’s most highly-touted recruits entering this fall, and he played like it in his first semester on campus. Standing at six-foot-six, the second-round d-man showed few growing pains in the defensive end, challenging attackers with his long reach and using his long strides to keep up with the speed of Hockey East competition. Aside from a few lapses on the breakout, Vlasic was smart with the puck, getting involved at the point when the opportunity presented itself. Recording only two penalties all semester, his defense-first approach was effective especially among some of BU’s more offensive defensemen, and he didn’t miss a game while other blueliners were in and out of the lineup with injury. Vlasic quietly had one of the stronger first-half performances of any Terrier defenseman, and if he can continue to develop his two-way game, he could see increased minutes both this season and further down the road.
Wise has taken a bit of time to return to form in his first action since an injury cut his freshman season short just over a year ago. The center spent significant time on the second trio this fall, starting strong with three assists in the home-opening Northern Michigan series and showing enough to keep that spot for much of the first half. However, the Reading, Mass. native was kept off the scoresheet the rest of the way, and BU seemed to have no choice but to demote him to the fourth line to try to get something going there. Wise has had moments of encouraging offense in his young career, but ultimately a lack of points has kept BU fans cautious about backing him. He’s snake-bitten right now, and his struggles have drawn comparisons to what Patrick Harper went through following his own long-term absence at the end of his sophomore year. Wise has something to prove in the second half.
Witkowski cracked the BU lineup for nine games of the team’s 17 in the first half, jockeying for game time with Marcus Boguslavsky on the BU fourth line for much of the semester. Witkowski’s action stalled late in the fall when Sam Stevens and Jack DeBoer returned to the ice, as the junior was only dressed for one game of BU’s final six. When he was out there, Witkowski provided two assists for his first points since his freshman campaign, but couldn’t manage much else in the attacking zone. The Melrose man’s main function appeared to be to set the tone with energy and physicality among BU’s other high-motor guys on the fourth forward line. It will be tough for Witkowski to find consistent ice time through the rest of the season, but as we saw through stretches of poor health for BU in the first half, he can hold his own as a depth piece when necessary.
Zegras was considered the cream of the crop among BU’s freshman class heading into the season, and it didn’t take long for him to draw attention when the games began. The ninth-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft jumped straight into the Terrier top line alongside senior leaders in Patrick Curry and Patrick Harper, and showed no shortage of confidence in his first semester of college hockey. One could always count on moments of dazzling puck-handling and eye-popping passing from Zegras each game, and while it seems as though Albie O’Connell and his staff have tried to encourage the talented first-year to simplify his play at times, they have also expressed a willingness to let his creativity shine. Through 16 games, the New Yorker finished tied for second on the team in assists (12), tied for third in points (17), and tied for fourth in goals (5), and for comparison purposes, last season’s NCAA rookie of the year Joel Farabee finished his first semester at BU with four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 16 games. Zegras is trending well, and with a trip to the World Junior Championships lined up, his game in the second semester could reach another level.