Men’s Hockey drops first game of series to Northern Michigan

All opinions are my own.

The Boston University men’s hockey team (3-6-0, 2-4-0 Hockey East) dropped their third game in a row, falling to the Northern Michigan Wildcats (3-5-0) by a score of 5-3 tonight in Marquette. The loss marks the Terriers’ worst start through nine games since the 2009-2010 season, and leaves the BU faithful running out of excuses for their team’s poor play. 

At the end of the first period, the Wildcats were up 4-1. The Terriers haven’t held a lead in a game since the 8-6 win over Merrimack––they’ve been playing from behind for 180 minutes. From puck drop, the group didn’t give themselves a chance to win, digging a hole they couldn’t fill by the buzzer in the third. 

“We got to be able to do it for 60 minutes,” Head Coach Albie O’Connell said in the post game press conference. “When we play the right way, I like our chances versus anyone. If we flirt with the way we play, we try to play cutesy––it’s just not going to be winning hockey.” 

Northern Michigan opened up the night’s scoring with a goal from junior defenseman Tanner Vescio. The cross zone pass from senior forward Joseph Nardi set up Vescio for his first of the season and as a Wildcat. Seven minutes later, at 10:40, Nardi got a tally of his own, giving his squad a 2-0 advantage. 

Sophomore forward Nick Zabaneh took the first penalty of the competition, getting two minutes for tripping at 11:56. The home team capitalized on the man-advantage, garnering their third goal on three shots. Junior forward AJ Vanderbeck got his first of an eventual two goals in the night, a strong leader for the Wildcats throughout the 60 minutes. 

O’Connell called for a goaltender switch after going down 3-0. Sophomore netminder Vinny Duplessis took over for Drew Commesso, making his second appearance of the season. Despite the loss, Duplessis posted a solid performance with 17 stops. 

BU got on the board at 16:39 with a beautiful play between junior forwards Wilmer Skoog and Robert Mastrosimone. Skoog mustered a spin around pass from behind the net, connecting with Mastrosimone who was down low gloveside and lasered it past sophomore goaltender Rico DiMatteo. 

The now two goal deficit didn’t last for long though as senior forward Hampus Eriksson received a netfront dish from sophomore forward Mikey Colella, roofing it top shelf on the powerplay. With 1:24 left in the opening frame, the Wildcats would go into the second up by three. 

Dynamic duo Skoog and Mastrosimone were at it again in the second, making it a 4-2 game at 7:10 with the help of freshman defenseman Braden Doyle who earned his first collegiate point with the apple. Off the transition, the three charged into the offensive zone, and got Mastrosimone his second of the evening. 

“Braden Doyle actually made a great play to headman that puck,” O’Connell said. “That was the best he’s played yet. He was a bright spot.” 

Vescio got called for hooking with 5:47 on the clock in the middle frame, giving BU a big opportunity to get within one going into the third period. The group had no puck luck, but definitely played a stronger and more competitive style of hockey in the second, ending 40 minutes up 19-8 in SOG. 

Through a scuffle of penalties on both sides, a frustrated BU team continued to look to crawl back into the matchup and got the closest they’d been all night at 13:11 in the third. Assisted by sophomore forward Dylan Peterson and Zabaneh––both of which O’Connell said had great games––junior forward Case McCarthy secured his second of the season to make it 4-3. 

However, in what has become an unfortunate pattern for the Terriers this season, the effort appeared far too late in the competition to have a real effect. An empty net goal from Vanderbeck cemented the Northern Michigan win––a shot to both the morale and winning belief of BU. 

“I think they’re frustrated,” O’Connell said. Then he countered with, “I don’t think anyone on our staff doesn’t have full belief in this group and I don’t think anyone in our locker room doesn’t believe in what we can do because through two periods they [Northern Michigan] had eight shots––and they’re a good offensive hockey team.” 

Perhaps harsh, but I personally think holding a team to eight shots should not be the sole thing a team is basing their confidence off of. This is BU hockey––we should feel good about wins, not an opponent’s shot count while still letting them get five past the goal line. 

It feels like these losses are being sugar coated. I understand it’s early in the season, they’re kids, and all teams go through rough patches, but it’s the consistent lack of showing up for the moment that’s concerning. 

Some stretches of the Terriers’ recent performances are unacceptable––and granted, there’s glimpses of inspired play––but it seems the squad has subconsciously lowered their standards for themselves and the program in these past weeks. It’s hard to believe you’ve got the capability to win when your group hasn’t played a coherent 60 minute game this season.  

I can imagine the disappointment in the BU locker room is overwhelming which will hopefully fuel a better showing tomorrow. The Terriers have got to gain some confidence before this slump snowballs into an exhausting mental game for those on and behind the bench.

We say it every week after every game: BU has the talent, but can they work hard enough as a full unit to live up to their potential? They’ll have a chance to answer this question Saturday at 6:30p.m. as they close their series against Northern Michigan. We’ll have live updates on Twitter @BOShockeyblog, and a recap following the competition. 

17 thoughts on “Men’s Hockey drops first game of series to Northern Michigan”

  1. Not much to say about Friday’s game. Same issues as we’re used to. Can’t put in a 60-minute effort. D-zone coverage a big issue. Top line gives up as many or more goals than they score. Junior defensemen making rookie mistakes. What can you do? I think (hope) that we find a way to win tomorrow but we’re 3-6 against a .500 schedule. Not good enough. And not enough getting fixed. The frustration continues.

    Anyway, a conversation from a prior thread got me wondering about our rivals. Are we really still behind BC or are we pretty much in the same boat? So I compared the two programs over the past three decades in the categories that actual mean something.

    I think most people’s memories are right. BU owned the 1990s (though it’s still borderline criminal that we only one 1 national title in 7 trips to the Frozen Four) and aside from the Beanpot, BC really dominated the 2000s (especially on the national stage), so the 2010s are where things get interesting.

    I think some of us figured that both programs dipped a bit overall with a few big positive blips for both teams but the reality is that while the last few seasons have been similar, BC really dominated the 2010s.

    And I think that’s where most of our frustration comes from. With the exception of a few seasons here and there, BC has been the far better program for the better part of two decades. I know I long for the 90s (I was at BU in the 1st half of that decade) but the reality is that we’re a middling program, stuck in a .500 rut since Albie took over, and we don’t even play “fun and exciting” hockey anymore.

    Say what you want about Jerry York but he drills in a great and consistent style of hockey. We, on the other hand, don’t really know who/what we are from season to season.

    On top of that, Northeastern passed us in recent seasons and even the Harvard program currently appears to have a brighter future.

    What can we do? Well those of us on this board can’t do much. We’ll all keep attending and following since we’re “lifers” and the Blog Staff (credit to you for the continued excellent coverage and growing podcast success) can continue to cover and critique the program. But the real improvement needs to come from the administration, athletic department, and most importantly, the coaching staff.

    I don’t doubt that the kids care and that they’re as frustrated as anyone. But EVERY program has kids who are “trying and caring.” That’s table stakes. It’s not enough for a program that considers itself historically elite. We, unfortunately, continue to drift toward national irrelevance. The AD and coaches have the most power to right the ship. They simply need to do a better job.

    1990-1999
    BC
    Win %: .529
    Beanpots: 1
    HE Reg Season Title: 2
    HE Title: 3
    NCAAs: 4
    Frozen Four: 3
    NCAA Titles: 0

    BU
    Win %: .708
    Beanpots: 8
    HE Reg Season Title: 5
    HE Title: 4
    NCAAs: 9
    Frozen Four: 7
    NCAA Titles: 1

    2000-2009
    BC
    Win %: .670
    Beanpots: 3
    HE Reg Season Title: 4
    HE Title: 4
    NCAAs: 8
    Frozen Four: 6
    NCAA Titles: 2

    BU
    Win %: .614
    Beanpots: 7
    HE Reg Season Title: 3
    HE Title: 2
    NCAAs: 7
    Frozen Four: 1
    NCAA Titles: 1

    2010-2019
    BC
    Win %: .654
    Beanpots: 6
    HE Reg Season Title: 6
    HE Title: 3
    NCAAs: 7
    Frozen Four: 4
    NCAA Titles: 2

    BU
    Win %: .574
    Beanpots: 1
    HE Reg Season Title: 2
    HE Title: 2
    NCAAs: 5
    Frozen Four: 1
    NCAA Titles: 0

    Mike

    • Great post again, Mike.
      I hope Colin reads the BC comparison.
      My take is that BU from the administrative level does not like athletics at all. Too “woke” like the rest of the extreme left school. Not like that when I was
      there at all. I was on live tv when the host made fun of the fact I went to BU.when I read the Alum mag I think I am in another country. Belive me this affects the athletic program . believe me.

  2. And certainly don’t take anything I posted above as personal. It’s not (although Albie once flipped me off from the handshake line during his playing days after I yelled over the Walter Brown glass that we, “need 60 minutes” after a particularly lackluster effort – ironic, right? 🙂

    By all accounts, Albie and the staff are good guys. I fully supported his hiring. But he’s a .500 coach over 3+ seasons and there is no longer any semblance of a winning culture in the program.

    Watch the better teams in the country if you can catch them on TV or online. Of course, even the best teams have off nights but we seem to play a totally different sport from them most of the time. And WE are the ones with state-of-the-art facilities, training, and a great city to live in with passionate hockey fans.

    BU hockey doesn’t currently do anything particularly well, and when we do have glimpses of positive play, it’s not consistent.

    If you’re a kids team in a town rec league, it’s one thing. Effort is enough. Being a good person is enough. But in D1 sports, winning matters. A winning culture matters.

    Something isn’t translating. Maybe we recruit too many drafted USNDT players. Maybe the practice drills don’t improve the players enough. Maybe the coaches don’t know how to get the best out of our players. But we don’t often play with a chip on our shoulder. We have zero swagger. We don’t have a recognizable system. And there doesn’t appear to be anyone on the ice who says, “jump on my back, fellas – we’re getting this done” and follows-up by performing at an elite level night in and night out. We’re just kind of… there.

    Other teams have figured it out. Other teams perform at a high level consistently. The powers that be need to get things sorted, find a new approach, or turn the reigns over to someone who can.

    We can and should be better than mediocre.

    Mike

    • Also,did you notice how we are almost never on regular TV? Poor exposure hurts recruitment. Again, the “woke” culture of the school.

  3. Mike your entitled to go after the coaching staff they are adults and you can critique the play on the ice. It’s frustrating last nights game while entertaining was frustrating. The injuries are frustrating the D zone coverage on the there first goal was terrible guy wide open it’s happened every game and it always lands in the back of the net . I too do not want to personally call out a player but since I have been singing his praises and love watching him play and can’t comment on the play without mentioning him Dom’s give away on the 2 goal just can’t happen. He knows it and I don’t think folks on this blog appreciate just how special a player he is. He plays hard nosed hockey no doubt about it. If I was forming a college hockey team I would take Dom Fensore every day and twice on Sunday it just wasn’t his night and it was highlighted by the turnover. Drew Comesso has been good all season giving us a chance to win last night he gave up 3 goals on 3 shots guess what folks it happens. The officiating last night was horrendous one ref called everything but he called it consistently so it did not impact the game except the timing of there fourth goal was a back breaker.
    Mike were we are as a team now it’s critical for us to be successful we need to clean up our game what I’m saying is not new I have mentioned it in every thread I think we have got to play better down low and this does not fall totally on the D our centers need to pick up guys in slot our wings need to be moving there feet they are now almost like a bubble hockey guy only able to move when they get the puck. I don’t know how many times we got a pass on the half wall stationary facing the wrong way turned looked for a guy also not moving and then turnover I agree it’s frustrating I’m sick to my stomach over it. But I’m not blaming the coaching staff for it that’s where we differ. I think we have the best coaches in the country who see things the way I do credit to me I guess😂 A good coach can see issues and work on them in practice I’m sure we do work on these things and who better to teach these things then this staff they are a terrific hockey staff and our woes have nothing to do with our AD in my opinion he’s doing a great job with bu athletics and we should be happy to have him. Enough negative talk we are in a slump we need to get out of it what to do and what do I expect to see tonight. 1. First we had success in the second period with more north south play spread the ice out use our speed that initial pass to wing on breakout needs to be on the fly out wings cannot be stationary I will say it for the 10th time use our speed on this big sheet.
    2. Control the puck it was bouncing on booth teams so I’m not sure what was going on there.
    3. Get a lead but understand if you get down a goal don’t get away from what you need to be doing.
    4. Figure out a way to be a difference maker. Every kid needs to keep the game simple know what you need to do but find that little extra that will help you win that shift.
    5. Our coaching staff has a tough challenge to keep this team loose we are in a slump everyone knows it . I’m sure they will have a plan in place to do that I think and hope we will get a win tonight.
    I think it will be a tough decision to see who starts tonight Drew has been great up until last night vinnie played welll but sometimes getting a kid back out there after a bad game is the answer I just don’t know.
    Mike a kid I enjoy watching play is Gallagher he’s strong on the puck and good defensively although his plus minus numbers were not good last night he was good defensively and none of the goals were his missed coverage I saw him jump up in the play offensively later in the game the kid is very good at finding seems and can is strong on puck I would not mind at least for the short term giving him the green light to take those moves not just late in the game but all game. If that is the plan his partner and wing need to know it . I also like him on power play for same reason.
    Mike we agree on a few things disagree on many I think a few wins will help close that gap go bu 🐾

      • No kidding! The two of us are going to need PT after our recent posts 🙂 Enjoy Michigan today. Hope the weather is decent and you get to explore the area. I do think we’ll find a way to split tonight. Hoping you and the others that traveled have more to cheer for this evening.

        Mike

        • Thanks mike other then last nights results a great trip . It’s beautiful up here and the folks are so nice. I will say the student body at the games are a bit over the top I’m surprised the university lets them get away with some of the behaviors.

          • Sounds like you’re dealing with a Northeastern-like student fan base 😉 Have fun tonight. I genuinely think we’re going to win.

            Side note: Dom’s biggest issue is his focus in key spots. There’s no doubt we’d be a much worse team without him and we absolutely rely on his puck-moving ability. But from his mental blip handing BC the last second OT win last year at Conte to his poor showing this year vs UConn at Agganis, to getting caught out of position at Lowell, and struggling on the 2nd goal last night, it’s a pattern he needs to clean up to take the next step. I know he’ll do everything he can to work through it and I’m rooting that he’ll be able to figure it out. We really need him and the other upperclassmen to lead the way

            Mike

      • Son of cesar he made a big mistake and not his best game but he is one of the most underrated players in hockey East as I said before if I could pick a team I pick him every day and twice on Sunday. I know Dom and I know he’s fuming about last night he’s the type of kid who will go out and excel tonight if you think he can’t play D then your not watching. The games . He’s our one man break out. Son of cesar I think you post your responses to get a rise out of me but all you will get is facts and the facts state Dom is a elite college defenseman. If you want to post how bu is struggling that’s fine but if you come on here trashing a kid I’m going to put you in your place. Most kids would not benefit from the crap mentioned on this post but if Dom saw your gibberish it would fuel him that’s just his nature and his character he has the heart of a lion and can play this game . Go bu thanks son of chiareli you got me ready for some hockey

        • He is a below average D man. Good on PP. but should be seventh D man to use on PP. CAN NOT CLEAR HIS MAN IN DEFENSE ZONE.he is not a kid . if he Get’s P’OD from my comments too bad. If it gets him to get better , good.
          And how the hell do you know these players so well ?

          • SoN Of cesar your other team lost today as well so booth your teams are struggling maybe you can pick a third team your a joke no loyalty just bashing kids too bad you don’t know the difference between a clothes line and a blue line. I forgot more hockey then you ever knew. Go bu 🐾

  4. Mike, as usual, your insightful analysis is statistically driven, and based on empirical observations that can be corroborated by game tape rewinds. However, in addition to BC, NE, and Harvard, I would also include UMass Amherst (notwithstanding this season’s drop), and perhaps even Providence, in the list of local programs that have surpassed ours in overall year-to-year improvement.

    I, too, have argued that the impetus for correction falls more on administration, and the athletic department. Moreover, your concern that we are drifting toward national irrelevance has already manifested itself in both attendance and TV exposure, as SOCC noted here, and in the past.

    Again, I appreciate that you, SOCC, Mark, and others, have posted logical arguments; whereas my recent postings have been driven by emotional hysteria, and therefore rightfully critiqued by Big Roy and Colin. I tried to temper those posts with some self-deprecating humor but, regretfully, my visceral emotional hysteria is still being fed. PSD

  5. Indeed. Lehman at Providence, Carvel at UMass, Pecknold at Quinnipiac, and yes, still York at BC have East programs in far better shape than ours. In fact, if you made all of those teams wear nondescript uniforms and asked a college hockey fan to identify the team, their system and patterns would make each program’s identity clear as day.

    Being a head coach and running a program is MUCH different from being an associate or assistant. Some can make the leap with greater ease. Some, like Albie, have to learn on the job and go through a lot of growing pains. I believe he’s a better coach then he was when he took over. I believe he’d do a number of things differently if he could start over again. But I also think that four years is enough to see that his ceiling isn’t as high as we need it to be.

    He’s obviously not alone. This isn’t limited to college hockey. Same things happen in football, basketball, etc. Some folks are built to be CEOs. Some excel as Directors or VPs.

    And I don’t begrudge Colin for his endless optimism. It’s actually refreshing in this day and age. And when you’re close to the program and have relationships with individuals, it’s harder to look at things as objectively. The same way if a friend or family member was running a team or was a player, you’d likely support them, defend them, and always try to give them the benefit of the doubt no matter the circumstance.

    As far as we all know, Albie is running out the last year of his contract. Lame duck coaches are in make or break seasons. And thus far, whether it’s injuries, underperformance, lack of focus, trying too hard, practice not translating to the bright lights of real games, or myriad other reasons, the coaching staff and the players aren’t doing him any favors.

    We’re not an elite program with elite college coaching. There’s no objective analysis that proves otherwise. And we’re behind the coaches and programs I listed at the top of this post and many others out West.

    It’s a bummer. But it’s our current reality. And we on the board don’t have much control over it.

    So, let’s hope we can put in a 60-minute effort tonight, have our upperclassmen play with poise and lead by example, control the things we can control, get a little puck luck, and start a positive streak.

    Mike

  6. yes Mike but they are all good kids who come from wonderful families, and coached by the best staff in college hockey. what more can you ask?

    you want wins? you want trophies? you want to compete like we used to against the elite teams? i think you are asking too much and your priorities are all wrong. if you don’t believe me, ask Colin. he will vouch for their integrity. personally, i don’t see how helping old ladies cross the street will result in wins, but again, that is irrelevant to making sure they make it safely and soundly.

    3-6 against mediocre teams. we are just waiting to play against the good teams like umass and pc. then we will turn it on. again, if you do not believe me, you know who to ask

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