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.