By Mitch Fink
The Boston University men’s hockey team has filleted opposing defenses with speed and shiftiness all season long. On Monday night, Northeastern unearthed an antidote: unrelenting physicality.
The Huskies unleashed what can be best described as an all-out blitz on the Terriers during their 3-1 win in the Beanpot semifinal at TD Garden. BU’s speedy defensemen — Lane Hutson, Domenick Fensore and others — were crunched time and time again when trying to make plays with the puck.
Northeastern’s physical edge played a key role in its offensive success, too. BU had some chances early on, but the scales of this game felt tipped in the Huskies’ favor before the first goal was scored.
That momentum shift culminated in Aidan McDonough’s first period tally to put Northeastern on the board. Once the Huskies gripped onto a lead and kept the hits coming on Hutson, Fensore and any other Terrier in their sights, things started to snowball. Northeastern’s second goal early in the second period only added fuel to the fire.
This wasn’t the first time physical pressure has challenged BU. The Terriers’ most difficult opponent in the six-game winning streak leading up to the Beanpot was, I think it’s fair to say, Cornell.
The Big Red were successful, up until the end of that game in early January, because they were big, strong and willing to outmuscle BU in the trenches. Northeastern executed that same gameplan to perfection on Monday.
Consider a typical Lane Hutson shift. He’ll receive the puck at the blue line, deke his defender to create space and dump the puck off to a teammate with a shooting lane. Northeastern did an impressive job of taking away Hutson’s space — especially in the middle of the ice — and forcing the star defenseman to drive hard to the net from the boards. Then, the Huskies collapsed on Hutson, hit him and earned the puck back.
Hutson did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him, and he still may have been BU’s best player last night — which says a lot about the sheer skill with which he plays. That being said, he simply didn’t have the ability to make his teammates better the way he usually does.
The physicality extended beyond hits, too. Northeastern’s coverage and rotations in the defensive zone were on point. Every. Single. Time.
Shooting lanes were constantly clogged. Devon Levi was excellent, but his defense made most of the saves for him in the first two periods. Northeastern out-blocked BU by a 21-10 margin.
BU — the highest-scoring offense in the country coming into the game — looked afraid to shoot the puck at times. Against a goalie like Levi, that’s a death knell.
That finally changed in the third period, which is when Levi turned into a brick wall. The most remarkable aspect of Levi’s game is his ability to limit rebounds. The Buffalo Sabres prospect snared shot after shot into his glove, calmly neutralizing several BU scoring opportunities.
Northeastern wanted it more last night.
This one stings, and it’s going to sting for the foreseeable future. It’s frustrating to watch for a team we all know can be so much better.
Good teams take losses, great teams take losses and championship teams take losses. At risk of sounding like a cliche-happy coach in a press conference: It’s all about how BU responds. We learned something about this team last night, but we’ll learn more next Monday in the consolation game against Boston College.
BU has played well enough up to this point that it has earned security in the Pairwise. A loss to Northeastern isn’t going to harm this team’s chances at an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, BU could still scrape together a No. 1 seed with a good stretch run. But the Terriers cannot let this deflating loss bleed into their performance the rest of the way.
The response to this game will define BU’s season.
- If it weren’t for Drew Commesso, the final score could’ve been a lot worse than 3-1. Devon Levi will rightfully get the attention and praise, but Commesso turned in a solid performance. His teammates just didn’t pick up the slack.
- Angles, angles, angles. Just like Northeastern limited Lane Hutson’s space on the blue line, the Huskies also forced the Terriers attempts on goal to come from difficult angles. Levi hardly faced any shots from the slot — it was almost all limited to the outside. The Northeastern defense allowed Levi to square up to most looks.
- What was up with the jersey matchup? At the Beanpot media luncheon last week, Northeastern was slated to wear its black sweaters. But then, magically, the Huskies came out onto the ice in their Frozen Fenway red uniforms — which had white paneling on the sleeves (BU wore white throwbacks). Especially during netfront scrums, it could be difficult to tell which team was which.
agree with all your points. its not a coincidence that the huskies have beaten BU 3 of the last 4 meetings in the beanpot. they have our number & play the physical hard checking game the terriers struggle against. BU is very fast & skilled but are small both in defense & up front & can be pushed around unless they hit back which they didn’t do last night. it was a lost chance & now still 0 hardware yet with only the HE tourney & the frozen four to go & the latter seems remote given the way they have played in tourneys in recent years. the good news is that they are atop HE a shoe in for home ice & an ncaa birth. they must now show more determination to win if they truely have unfinished business
OK, we lost this game, so now it is a question about how we respond going forward. we do not have another game until next week’s beanpot consolation game which we all know BC will be up for as they look for a measure of revenge after we swept them.
it would be so easy to say this is a meaningless game at 430 on a monday so we were not ready at the drop of the puck. that would be a hollow excuse and i do not want to hear that garbage
another loss might not affect us that much in the overall picture, but the team’s identity, which i suspect might be fragile after last night’s loss, will be further compromised. I worry about a post beanpot 4th place finish swoon.
this ,we need to bounce back with a strong effort, even if it means 3rd place in the Pot. how they respond will be quite telling regarding the character of this team