No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey head coach David Quinn praised his team last weekend for giving full, 60-minute efforts in two wins over the University of Maine.
Those are the kind of games, he said, that are needed down the stretch drive as points become even more valuable. Even against a team like Merrimack College, one that had lost nine in a row coming into Friday, the Terriers would need another complete performance.
In another wire-to-wire effort, the Terriers (14-7-4, 8-4-3 Hockey East) shut out Merrimack, 4-0, with the combined efforts of two netminders, senior Sean Maguire and sophomore Connor LaCouvee.
Four different Terriers scored en route to BU’s third consecutive win and fourth game in a row which the team has earned at least a point.
“I thought we played smart hockey, we possessed it, we didnt turn the puck over,” Quinn said, “a lot of good things and a tough game to play, tough game to play.”
We’ll take a look at the good, the bad and the straight up weird in this Pluses and Minuses.
Lane at the top
We’re going to go out on a limb and assume not many people had Matt Lane as their preseason pick to be the team leader in goals.
But as of the end of this game, that’s where Lane finds himself, though he is technically tied with his classmate, winger Ahti Oksanen.
A week after Maine head coach Red Gendron said his team had “no answer” for Lane and his linemates, Lane scored his 14th goal of the season about halfway through the third period of this one, getting his own rebound and tapping the puck past Merrimack (7-14-5, 2-8-5 Hockey East) goaltender Collin Delia.
The goal was one portion of his three-point night, the second straight game that Lane has recorded three points. In his last four outings, Lane is averaging two points per game.
A lot of what Lane has done to get better in the goal department, according to Quinn, is the fact that he is adding more practice time to his shooting.
“Well, number one, he skates so well,” Quinn said. “Two, he’s really worked on his shot, he’s scored some goal-scorer’s goals. He can really snap it, he gets it off quick, he understands you gotta get inside the hash marks to create some offense and it’s great to see him get rewarded.
“I mean, 14 goals for him is a heck of a senior year.”
Speaking of the other skater with 14 goals, Oksanen added his latest tally at the 18:42 mark of the third period, BU’s fourth and final goal.
But the goal, in the grand scheme of the game, was irrelevant. However, for Oksanen, it was more than just stat-padder.
The empty-netter was Oksanen’s 50th-career goal in the BU uniform, a pretty impressive feat considering the fact that he was a full-time defenseman at this time two years ago. He also joins senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan as the second Terrier to reach the half-century mark in career goals this season.
For as much as he shoots the puck — both during games and practice — Oksanen makes it work and continues to be a force any time he touches the puck in the offensive zone.
Seniors stand out
If it hasn’t been apparent already, the big takeaway from this game was the fact that the seniors played well.
Four elder statesmen (Lane, Oksanen, O’Regan and captain Matt Grzelcyk) combined for six points in the win. O’Regan’s lone point of the night came on a shorthanded attempt in the second period where he took the puck from center ice and broke all alone on goal, beating Delia up high.
“Danny played great tonight, had a lot of energy in the third period,” Quinn said, “him and Matt Lane I thought had really good third periods and, again, your seniors, your seniors have to deliver and three of them get goals tonight so good night for them.”
In the crease, Maguire made all the stops he needed to (27 total), including 10 on Merrimack power-play chances. But that’s only a smidgen of what happened with Maguire tonight. More on that in the minuses…
Bad break for Maguire
Early in the first period during a Merrimack rush, Maguire didn’t quite look himself. It wasn’t the fact that he wasn’t stopping the puck, but he couldn’t move from post-to-post with the quickness that he normally has.
But it was no fault of his own. In an unfortunate incident, his skate blade somehow popped off, and he was forced to come out of the game for a 5:49 stretch to get it fixed.
In that brief span, Maguire not only lost his bid for a shutout (he would have had to have played the full game), but he also lost his chance for a win. Junior forward Robbie Baillargeon scored what turned out to be the decisive goal, which gave LaCouvee the victory.
Sarah has more about this “peculiar” situation in her sidebar.
Penalties add up, power play fails to convert
It wasn’t as if the BU penalty kill wasn’t good, as it went a perfect 6-for-6 for the evening.
But the fact that the Terriers took six penalties in one game is definitely on the negative side. The second period could have gotten out of hand, with the Warriors garnering seven shots on net.
BU’s power play had ample opportunity to get an extra-man goal, but went 0-for-4. Going back to the Terriers’ 1-1 tie with No. 5 Boston College, BU is 1-for-18 on the power play.
Quinn held no secrets about his feelings toward the power-play unit on Friday.
“Didn’t like it,” Quinn said. “Not surprised we didn’t have success. Just, we’re too slow. We’re too methodical, we’re too slow, there’s no pace to our power play right now, which is kind of funny because it was clicking at a great pace when we came back from Christmas but we’re just, we don’t have a shooter’s mentality, we don’t pass it quick enough.
“Other than that, it’s unbelievable.”
BU head coach David Quinn
Senior assistant captain Matt Lane
Senior winger Ahti Oksanen
Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon
Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos
BU head coach David Quinn
Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and junior forward Ahti Oksanen
The 2013-14 Boston University men’s hockey team must be wondering where all of this scoring was last year.
For a team that finished ninth in Hockey East in offense a season ago, scoring has not been a thing the Terriers have been all that accustomed to in recent months. But after this year’s BU team skated off the ice with a 12-1 win against St. Thomas University on Saturday afternoon, it was clear the Terriers offense has changed for the better.
In a blowout win against the Canadian school, most things went right for the Terriers during this game. Here’s a closer look of what went right and wrong for BU against the Tommies.
Ahti, Ahti, Ahti…and more Ahti
Junior Ahti Oksanen has been part of the defensive unit since he stepped on to Commonwealth Avenue in 2012 as a freshman. But before this season, the Finland native had another position listed next to his name for the first time since he was a young kid: forward.
And in his first game action of the 2014-15 season, Oksanen was able to play on BU’s top line. To say he made the most of the opportunity is an understatement. The 6-foot-3 forward tallied four goals and earned the game’s No. 1 star. After depositing a second-chance goal a little over three minutes into the game, Oksanen added three more goals between the first and second periods.
Playing with freshman forward Jack Eichel and senior winger Evan Rodrigues, Oksanen took advantage of the open ice talent level around him.
“It’s almost a dream come true,” Oksanen said of playing on the top line. “Eichel and Rodrigues, too. I just feel like I just need to find myself open and [Eichel] would get me the puck. It’s really easy playing with both of those guys.”
Special Deliveries from Eichel
The freshman center gave BU of a taste of just what he can bring to the table. Eichel used his speed and quick hands to weave around the Tommies defensive unit all game long. From his first shift, Eichel appeared composed and in control of the game.
He did not score, but Eichel was the primary assist man on five of BU’s goals. On the Terriers’ fourth and fifth goals, the STU defense tried to contain Eichel’s explosiveness by putting multiple defenders on him. But the freshman found a wide open Oksanen both times to extend the Terriers’ lead.
Whether it was a toe drag or a quick deke to elude defensemen, Eichel got the job done against STU in the offensive end.
Young Defensemen Step Up
Before Saturday’s game, BU coach David Quinn said he hoped his corps of rookie defensemen would get used to the college level quickly. If the weekend’s contest is any indication of the unit’s ability, the group has a bright future ahead of itself.
Four of the five starting defenseman against STU had never played a game for the Terriers. The blue-liners’ inexperience mattered little, however. The defensemen excelled in both defensive zone coverage and in their ability to start breakout plays going toward the offensive end.
Defenseman Brandon Fortunato stood out among the pack with his plus-6, three-assist game. He also tied for a game-high in blocked shots with three. On BU’s final goal, Fortunato blocked a St. Thomas chance at the point, fed a pass through the neutral zone to freshman forward A.J. Greer, who finished the play with BU’s final goal of the game.
Freshmen Brandon Hickey also added two assists and John MacLeod scored a goal.
“I thought all of the defensemen did a great job moving the puck, Quinn said. “I thought we came out of our zone clean on numerous occasions, they showed great poise.
“To me, it wasn’t our D-zone coverage that was the issue last year, it was the fact that we had trouble breaking it out of the zone, which forced us to defend an awful lot. That certainly allowed us to generate offense on the initial rush and establish the offensive zone and create offense.”
One Unlucky Goal
It’s really nit-picking to say anything went wrong for the Terriers on Saturday, but the one goal prevented BU from a three-goalie shutout. With freshman netminder Connor LaCouvee in goal for the first time, St. Thomas went on the power play and scored with the help of the BU defense.
The Tommies took a shot from the blue line that was blocked and flew high and over an unsuspecting LaCouvee. In an attempt to help their goaltender, the BU defense swatted the puck out of the air to try to get it out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, the puck hit LaCouvee and into the net for a goal.
“And the goal was a flukey one, unfortunately for LaCouvee,” Quinn said. “You’re a freshman and you get in there and we bat it in the air and it goes off him and into the net.”
By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff
By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
Despite being one of the Boston University men’s hockey team’s biggest defensemen in the 2012-13 season, Ahti Oksanen was also one of its mildest-mannered, with just 12 penalty minutes over 36 games.
However, the 6-foot-3 freshman said when he was growing up in Kirkkonummi, Finland, he looked up to an NHL defenseman known and feared for his mean streak.
“I always liked Chris Pronger,” Oksanen said, grinning. “I know everybody hates him, but I liked him.”
As BU senior defenseman Sean Escobedo pointed out, Oksanen may not be throwing any open-ice hits worthy of Pronger any time soon. But he has worked over the last year to adapt to the more physical style of North American hockey, trying to blend the offensive gifts he developed on a bigger ice surface in Finland with a stronger approach to playing defense.
Oksanen said he was disappointed with his first year at BU, in which he put up four goals and 13 assists. While he improved throughout the year, he acknowledged that his defense needed work early on.
In fact, Oksanen was a forward until four years ago, when a coach back in Finland suddenly decided otherwise. He said it took him a while to feel comfortable on the blue line, although he put up 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points in the 2011-12 season with the Espoo Blues in Finland.
“[The coach] just said, ‘OK, Ahti, you’re on D today,’” Oksanen said. “And that was it. I never played forward again.”
By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
The No. 18/19 Boston University men’s hockey team received a crushing blow to its defense when junior defenseman Garrett Noonan separated his shoulder, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. With sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera already missing the rest of the campaign due to a team suspension, the Terriers were whittled down to playing their final player on the roster, junior forward/defenseman Matt Ronan.
Down to its last resort, BU’s defense excelled Saturday night at Agganis Arena and held Northeastern University scoreless in a 5-0 BU win.
The defensive dominance started early for the Terriers, as they held Northeastern without a shot for a little over the first 18 minutes of the game. The Huskies barely controlled the puck in BU’s zone in the frame, as they only attempted eight shots — two of which were blocked.
Part of the success was due to the strong defensive-zone play of freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen. Oksanen, who is recognized as an offensive-minded blueliner and has struggled in his own zone at times this season, had one of his best games of the season in terms of positioning.
Oksanen, who is 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, struggled to handle some of the bigger forwards by BU’s goaltenders earlier in the season when BU lost to Northeastern twice, and even in Friday night’s BU win. However, Oksanen was more successful against Northeastern’s bigger forwards Saturday night.
“I thought Ahti played real well tonight,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I thought he struggled a little bit last night, but he came back and played physical, played better with the puck.”
While Oksanen did not produce any offense on the night, three of his fellow defenders did. Senior defenseman Sean Escobedo, who celebrated senior night after the game, led defensemen with two assists in the game.
Escobedo, who is usually considered a defensive-minded defenseman, recorded his third multi-assist game of the season Saturday night. He was also a plus-2 on the night and blocked two shots, which leaves him tied for national lead with 91 blocks.
“I think [Escobedo is] the best defenseman in the league, defensive defenseman for sure,” Parker said. “He really gave us a lot of minutes and played well too.”
While Escobedo is not known for his offense, perhaps the most surprising point of the night came when Ronan earned his first career assist. Ronan rifled a wrist shot toward Huskies goaltender Chris Rawlings that junior forward Sahir Gill tipped into the back of the net. At first glance, it looked as if Ronan scored his first career goal in his fifth career game.
“I’d give [the goal] to him gladly if I could,” Gill said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have tipped it. But I was real happy for him.”
With Noonan watching the game from the stands, Ronan will be a part of the team’s lineup the rest of the season. Parker played five defensemen for most of the night, but appeared to give Ronan more ice time as his team’s lead expanded.
“[Ronan] played well in the defensive zone,” Parker said. “That’s what he’s got to do most, but he didn’t look nervous out there at all and he played well. Good for him.”
BU playing well against Northeastern’s offense bodes well for the Terriers entering the Hockey East quarterfinals next week. Merrimack’s offense was only slightly better than Northeastern’s during the regular season, averaging only .06 more goals per game.
“This is where it counts,” Gill said. “Win you’re in, you lose you’re out. Good finish to the season, but that’s all it is. It’s time to kick it up a notch and make it count.”
ORONO, Maine — Early this season, it was almost impossible to talk about a strong Boston University men’s hockey performance without mentioning multiple freshmen. That was true again on Saturday, as rookie goalie Sean Maguire held his team in the game long enough for his classmates – Danny O’Regan and Matt Grzelcyk chief among them – to secure the 5-4 BU win at the University of Maine.
Through two periods, Maine (8-16-6, 4-11-6) had 24 shots and just one goal. That goal was the one Maguire said he’d like to have back, a second-chance shot for Maine’s Ryan Lomberg after the initial attempt was blocked.
By the end of the night, Maguire had allowed four pucks past him but stopped 40 more, a season high for BU (14-2-2, 11-7-2 Hockey East) goalies.
“I thought he was terrific in the first period,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “I don’t think he had a chance on the last two [goals].”
While Maguire was turning away shot after shot, O’Regan scored twice on the power play, his 11th and 12th goals of the year. He got the Terriers on the board with a power-play goal in the second, and his next tally, which gave BU a 4-1 lead, was set up by his classmate Ahti Oksanen. Oksanen controlled a rebound on a third-period power play and found O’Regan wide open at the side of the net.
Oksanen also took the initial shot that led to O’Regan’s first goal, picking up two assists the night after scoring the game-tying goal and an assist on Friday. After not recording a point since Jan. 19, he had four this weekend.
Despite cooling down offensively somewhat this semester, Grzelcyk still ranks second in Hockey East in points by defensemen (and ties for third in freshman scoring, behind O’Regan and Northeastern’s Kevin Roy).
He got back on the scoresheet in a big way Saturday, driving into Maine’s zone alone and snapping a wrist shot over Ouellette to make it 3-1 with less than a minute remaining in the second period. Grzelcyk also blocked two shots and played a more physical game than usual in the defensive zone.
“We have our defensemen scoring goals, and that’s huge,” Maguire said. “Secondary scoring. Our freshmen are a big part of our group here.”
Of course, the nine players who recorded at least one point for BU Saturday make clear that the freshmen didn’t win the game alone. But the Terriers’ first-semester success was largely defined by its rookies: strong performances from both Maguire and classmate Matt O’Connor, consistent offensive production from O’Regan, scoring threats from Grzelcyk and Oksanen on the blue line.
Since New Year’s, those contributions have been less consistent. Saturday’s win was far from perfect, but it was one small return to early-season form for a team that’s a long way from where it was in December.
“We’ve got to have O’Regan scoring goals,” Parker said. “We’ve got to have Grzelcyk chipping in.”
BU’s two sophomores were crucial to Saturday’s win as well. Second-year center Cason Hohmann had a goal and an assist, and right wing Evan Rodrigues, after being denied by Ouellette on multiple Grade-A chances throughout the night, finally set up the winning goal with 3.8 seconds left in overtime.
“In general, it wasn’t just the freshmen, but … a pretty good effort from everybody,” Parker said.