BU captain Matt Grzelcyk ‘confident in a turnaround’ in 2014-15

By Conor Ryan/DFP Staff
Seven months removed from season-ending shoulder surgery, Boston University junior captain Matt Grzelcyk was forced to don a red non-contact jersey during Bruins development camp last week.
BU defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will captain a BU team
looking to rebound from a lackluster 2013-14 campaign.
But the 5-foot-9 defenseman will once again be ready to don the Scarlet and White this fall.
The Charlestown native took part in his third development camp with the Bruins, who selected the puck-moving blueliner in the third round (85th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.
While Grzelcyk was held from contact during the five-day camp held at Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington, Mass., he was still able to take part in certain drills and showcase the agility and playmaking potential that made him one of the Terriers’ most dynamic players over the last two seasons.
Grzelcyk, who played alongside fellow Hockey East talent in players such as Boston College sophomore forward Ryan Fitzgerald and Northeastern sophomore defenseman Matt Benning during the camp, said that attending the event has been an important part of his offseason regiment over the past three years.
“I mean, it’s always fun to come in for a week and just learn from all the management and see what they have to say so we know what to work on when the season comes along,” Grzelcyk said after the camp’s final scrimmage Sunday afternoon.
Seeing Grzelcyk back out on the ice should serve as a relief to a BU community that last saw the defenseman play Jan. 8, 2014 in a 4-2 loss to Dartmouth College. Just days before BU’s Frozen Fenway tilt against the University of Maine Jan. 11, Grzelcyk dislocated his left shoulder in practice and was forced to undergo season-ending surgery.
The loss of a playmaker like Grzelcyk – who recorded 28 assists in 57 games with BU over the past two seasons – had a massive impact on the Terriers.
During the 19 games in which Grzelcyk dressed, the Terriers posted a lackluster record of 7-10-2. In the 16 games following Grzelcyk’s injury, BU put up a woeful 3-11-2 line.
The results looked even worse on the BU power play during Grzelcyk’s absence. In 19 games with a healthy Grzelcyk, the Terriers successfully converted on 18 of 76 power-play opportunities, good for a 23.7 percent conversion rate – one of the highest marks in the country at the time.
Without Grzelcyk quarterbacking the team out on the ice during the man advantage, BU managed just eight power-play goals in 73 chances – a shocking 10.1 percentage rate.
Despite the severity of his injury, Grzelcyk stated that his shoulder feels fine and that wearing a non-contact jersey was more of a precaution than anything during the camp.
“[The shoulder] feels 100 percent,” Grzelcyk said. “I just want to make sure I’m ready for October.”
After a disappointing 2013-14 campaign that saw BU slump to a ninth-place finish in Hockey East, the Terriers appear to be primed to make a comeback this season.
Not only does BU feature a strong returning core that includes Grzelcyk, senior forwards Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues, junior forward Danny O’Regan and sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon, but an impressive recruiting class should also provide a shot in the arm for the Terriers.
Notable members of the upcoming class include defensemen John MacLeod and Brandon Hickey, as well as standout forward Jack Eichel, who has the potential to be the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
For Grzelcyk, the addition of these new players should have multiple benefits during the season.
“It definitely creates a little more excitement in the locker room,” Grzelcyk said. “I think it’s good for the returning guys because we’ll have a lot of good competition in practice and stuff, so I think only good can come from it.”
Grzelcyk will take an even larger role with the team going forward, as the USNTDP product was given the title of team captain in April. Despite the honor, Grzelcyk said that he will not change his approach both on and off the ice this season.
“I’m probably just going to stick to what I’m doing, that’s what got me the recognition in the first place but it’s always nice to have that trust and belief from your teammates and coaches and things like that,” Grzelcyk said. “It’s definitely a humbling experience.”
While Grzelcyk was not able to fully participate in all of the drills and scrimmages during the camp, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli acknowledged that he was happy with Grzelcyk’s performance as a whole.
“I thought he was good,” Chiarelli said. “He wasn’t able to participate fully, but Matt’s had a good collegiate career so far and I would anticipate that he picks it up again when he gets back. We’ve got some real good skating defenseman and he’s one of them. I was happy with it.”
The 2014-15 season may be over two months away, but Grzelcyk said that both he and the team are already focused on erasing the memories of a lackluster 2013-14 season and returning the Terriers to the top of the Hockey East standings.
“I think everyone is confident in a turnaround for sure,” Grzelcyk said. “It was a tough year with transitions and new recruits, a new coach and stuff, but I think we can use it to our advantage and kind of motivate us for the season going forward.”

1st line shows improvement against New Hampshire

By Sarah Kirkpatrick/DFP Staff

DURHAM, N.H. — Close, but not close enough. Better, but not good enough.
The Boston University men’s hockey team came close to a win against the University of New Hampshire Friday night and, were it not for several highlight-reel saves from Wildcats goaltender Casey DeSmith against an improved first line, the Terriers very well could have left Whittemore Center with a victory.
Instead, BU (8-17-4, 3-9-3 Hockey East) lost 4-3, its six consecutive game without a win. BU outshot UNH (17-15-1, 9-8 Hockey East) 40-27, including 13 shots in the final frame. It was the first time the team has outshot an opponent since a 4-1 win over Bentley University on Dec. 13, and much of that recent improvement can be attributed to the play of the first line.
That line, consisting of junior Evan Rodrigues, freshman Robbie Baillargeon and sophomore Danny O’Regan was doing nearly everything right on Friday. Those three combined for 15 of BU’s 40 shots, and each scored a goal against UNH. They are responsible for five of the six Terrier goals in the past two games.
“I thought the three of us were really moving tonight and making smart plays and being creative when we could and making plays down low,” O’Regan said after the loss to UNH. “I thought we were really clicking tonight.”
Rodrigues gave the Terriers life near the end of the first period, scoring a power-play goal on a rebound with 7.7 seconds left in the frame. He also assisted on an O’Regan goal at the 8:53 mark of the second period. It was the second consecutive multipoint game for Rodrigues, as he notched a goal and an assist against Harvard University in Monday night’s 6-2 loss.
BU coach David Quinn attributed the improved play of the first line in part to Rodrigues’ health. Rodrigues dealt with a knee injury earlier in the year but has started to recover.
“Well he’s getting healthier,” Quinn said. “I really like that line … Evan still has to shoot the puck more. He has to shoot quicker because he gets a lot of chances, but it’s nice to see him getting on the scoreboard because we need him. We need him to score goals and create offense.”
O’Regan’s goal came midway through the second period on a deke around DeSmith, bringing the Terriers within 3-2.
“We were all going off the adrenaline of the score and the chances on each shift,” he said. “We felt great.”
The Terriers certainly felt that adrenaline late, and were within 4-3 after a Baillargeon goal midway through the third frame. O’Regan could have tied the score up and gotten his 10th goal of the season with just minutes left in the game, but an unbelievable save from DeSmith preserved the score at 4-3. O’Regan lay on the ice in disbelief for several seconds after the save.
“We played the right way in the second and third period,” O’Regan said. “The whole team was really buzzing. We were all over them. A couple mistakes cost us, but I think offensively we were right on point. We ran into a hot goalie, got a little unlucky. A bounce here, a bounce there … I thought we did the right things. It was a tough loss. It seemed like stuff was starting to come together.”
Quinn said that the first line is starting to come together due in part to the players’ increased focus on simplicity.
“The game dictates that you need to just chip it behind somebody and go get it, or just make the simple play and that’s one thing we’ve been talking about,” Quinn said. “This isn’t about special plays, this is about making the simple by over and over again and if you do that, the special plays will just happen. And I thought that line is doing a much better job of it.”
O’Regan also noted that the line has been playing in a much improved, simpler fashion as of late.
“We have been playing a lot better lately,” O’Regan said. “We are starting to work hard. Making the simple plays is starting to work out. We are three guys who have some pretty good chemistry and have been keeping it simple. I think that was the key tonight.”
But Quinn said ultimately, while the Terriers and the first line in particular have shown great improvement over the past few weeks, it is frustrating not to escape with a win.
“We’ve made a lot of strides, we’ve played a lot more purposeful, we’ve been a lot more mature as a hockey team over the last month and we don’t have a lot to show for it,” Quinn said. “… [I’m] happy with the effort, happy with the progress we’ve made, very disappointed in the result.”

2013-14 men’s hockey preview issue

Thursday brought the annual hockey preview edition of The Daily Free Press, and this year all eight pages of the issue were dedicated to men’s and women’s hockey.

Be sure to grab a copy and share it with your friends if you’re on campus, but if you are not, here is a look at all of the content the issue features.

The season preview, which details what to expect from David Quinn’s first year as coach, is the first story of the issue.

Here is more background on Quinn and the path he took to go from BU hockey player to head coach of his alma mater.

Jake Moscatel dreamed of playing for BU his entire life, but getting there was not easy.

Garrett Noonan is back, he is captain, and he has business to take care of.

Sophomore year was a chance for Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann to break out. Now, they have a chance to lead.

Hockey East is only getting tougher with the arrival of Notre Dame and the emergence of UMass-Lowell and Providence. Where does BU fit in? Check out our power rankings.

On the women’s front, take a look at the season preview as Brian Durocher’s squad tries to get back to the national championship, and a profile of Kerrin Sperry, who is a leader both between the pipes and with ROTC.

What is Patrick MacGregor’s favorite pregame music? Find out in our lighthearted “Seven Questions” Q&A.

You can find the digital copy of the issue here.

From the FreeP: Parker’s career ends with inconsistent 2012-13 season

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

Jack Parker’s last season as the Boston University men’s hockey coach will be remembered for that reason alone. It will also be recalled as a hard season to figure: The Terriers, despite their youth, played a strong first half, a nearly perfect month of March wand a six-week stretch between those two that doomed their year.

“If you told me at the beginning of the year we would have gone to the Hockey East championship game, with as young a team as we had, I would have said that’s a pretty good year,” Parker said. “But not the way it unfolded. The bookends were pretty good. The six-week span in January was the ‘blah.’”

BU (21-16-2, 15-10-2 Hockey East) began the season dressing nine freshmen regularly. The team later lost center Wesley Myron to the ECHL, but nearly every other rookie made significant contributions in the end. With the amount of playing time they got, they had no other choice.

Freshman Danny O’Regan proved himself a top-six center and led the team with 38 points. Freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk finished with 23 points, third among all Hockey East defensemen. In net, both freshmen Sean Maguire and Matt O’Connor played well enough to start alternating games all year, until O’Connor suffered a collapsed lung near the end of the season.

“I remember thinking that we had to have either [sophomore center Cason] Hohmann or [Yasin] Cissé make a big jump from the year before, and we had to have either Myron or Danny O’Regan play on the first two line centers,” Parker said. “As it turns out, Hohmann made a big jump and O’Regan played great.”

Between the freshmen jumping in and older players, including Hohmann and senior captain Wade Megan, starting off hot, BU went 10-5 in the first semester against the nation’s toughest schedule. It faced Boston College and the University of New Hampshire three times and the University of North Dakota twice, beating each once.

For more, including a look at why BU may have struggled so much in the middle of the season, go to dailyfreepress.com.

UPDATED: Terriers score five unanswered goals, trump Eagles 6-3 in Hockey East semifinals

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

There was no quit in the No. 17 Boston University men’s hockey team Friday night at TD Garden.

Thanks to five unanswered goals after the midway point in the game, the Terriers topped rival No. 4 Boston College 6-3 in the Hockey East semifinals, postponing BU coach Jack Parker’s retirement at least one more day.

“We came back from the dead, I thought,” Parker said. “The game could’ve been a lot worse after the first half of the game. But we hung in there and hung in there, and we got a little life and took advantage of it.”

With the win, BU (21-15-1) advances to the Hockey East finals Saturday night against Hockey East regular season champion No. 6 University of Massachusetts-Lowell with another win-or-go-home game. BU will not make the NCAA tournament without winning the Hockey East championship.

BC controlled play early, outshooting the Terriers 18-7 and peppering freshman goaltender Sean Maguire with high-quality scoring chances. Hockey East Player of the Year Johnny Gaudreau had Maguire beat on the doorstep with the game scoreless, but Maguire dove backward and got his glove on the shot to keep the game tied.

Maguire could not hold the Eagles scoreless for long, though. With less than a two minutes remaining in the period and the Eagles on the power play, BC forward Bill Arnold flung a shot toward Maguire and it deflected off BU defenseman Garrett Noonan’s stick and into the top corner of the net. It was Arnold’s 17th goal of the season and gave the Eagles a 1-0 advantage entering the first intermission.

BC was not done, though, as it continued to barrage Maguire with shots, taking the advantage to 29-10 at one point in the frame. Eagles captain Pat Mullane set up winger Quinn Smith for their second goal of the game 8:46 into the second, when he snapped a hard pass off Smith’s stick into the top corner on the rush.

“I thought that the game was so out of hand the first half,” Parker said. “I thought my guys were uptight, I thought we were struggling, we were losing pucks. I thought we were getting outskated.”

After Smith’s goal, though, the rest of the second period was all BU. Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues snapped a wrist shot under BC goalie Parker Milner’s arm with 8:43 remaining in the second to bring BU within one. It was Rodrigues’ 10th point in his last nine games.

Less than two minutes later, freshman forward Matt Lane found the puck off a faceoff and chopped it off the boards past BC defenseman Danny Linell to spring himself on a breakaway. Lane calmly brought the puck to his backhand and slid it through Milner’s five-hole for the game-tying goal and his fourth goal of the season.

Lane’s line has been getting more ice time lately, and it has made use of it. The freshman winger now has points in back-to-back games for the first time this season.

“It is definitely nice,” Lane said of the extra ice time. “It gets the legs going and I think we have come a long way offensively. We have gotten better every game since we have been put together.”

Noonan did not let the momentum stop there though, as he scored his sixth goal of the season with less than three minutes remaining in the second. With BC defenseman Mike Matheson in the penalty box, Noonan took a pass from freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and drilled a one-timer to Milner’s right.

Gaudreau found himself in the penalty box early in the third period, when he earned a five-minute major for cross-checking senior defenseman Sean Escobedo from behind. Escobedo left the ice with an apparent injury, but later returned to the game.

Freshman forward Danny O’Regan capitalized on the power-play opportunity, firing a shot over Milner’s shoulder from the slot for his 15th goal of the season. Freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen and junior forward Matt Nieto earned assists on the play. It was BU’s fourth goal in less than 10 minutes.

O’Regan was not done on the power play. With forward Steven Whitney in the penalty box later in the period, O’Regan snapped home a rebound from Nieto’s shot and gave the Terriers a three-goal lead with 11:03 remaining in the third period. BU had a good night on special teams, going 3-for-7 on the power play while holding BC to 1-for-7 on the power play.

Whitney added another goal for BC with 6:17 remaining in the third, when he chipped a puck from a bad angle over Maguire’s shoulder. However, Maguire kept the Eagles out of the net for the rest of the game, finishing with 44 saves.

Rodrigues added an shorthanded empty-net goal with 2:29 left in the third for his second goal of the game and 14th of the season to seal the BU victory.

The Terriers will now face UMass-Lowell for a chance at BU’s first Hockey East Championship since 2009. The Terriers have lost all three of their games they played against the Riverhawks this season.

“Obviously, we have played them three times and we have not been fortunate enough to get a win yet,” Lane said. “But we know them better now and we are going to be studying them tonight and tomorrow, and hopefully it will be a different outcome.”

From the FreeP: Men’s hockey can find no answer to impressive defense

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

LOWELL — There was a truck coming to Commonwealth Avenue this weekend, and the Boston University men’s hockey team knew it. It just couldn’t do anything to get out of the way.

That truck was in the form of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, the 12th-ranked team in the country, which used a stifling trap defense to sweep the regular-season series with the No. 13/15 Terriers by taking both ends of a home-and-home, first 3-0 at Agganis Arena Friday night and then 3-1 Saturday at the Tsongas Center.

BU coach Jack Parker, pleased with his team’s effort in both games, credited much of the Terriers’ (14-14-2, 11-9-2 Hockey East) inability to find the net to the River Hawk (18-9-2, 12-8-2 Hockey East) defense — a defense from which the Terriers knew exactly what to expect.

“[The River Hawks] play a completely different d-zone coverage than anybody else in college hockey,” Parker said Thursday before mentioning it is similar to the system BU used when he suited up as a Terrier in the 1960s. “It’s not new by any stretch of the imagination.

“They do just the opposite of what everybody else does. They have one guy out high covering both points, they have two wings down low, so they’re always doubling and tripling you. They double you up every time the puck goes to the corner … So their d-zone coverage is based on outnumbering you in the corners.

“And they’re real good at it.”

If the Terriers did not believe that before, they certainly believe it after Saturday’s game.

UPDATED: Matt Nieto, BU top Maine, 5-4, in overtime

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

ORONO, Maine — For the No. 13 Boston University men’s hockey team, five games without a victory was more than long enough.

The Terriers (14-12-2, 11-7-2 Hockey East) snapped their three-week winless streak with a 5-4 overtime win against the University of Maine at Alfond Arena Saturday night.

Assisted by sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues, junior forward Matt Nieto one-timed the game-winner into a wide open net with 3.8 seconds left on the clock to end a long back-and-forth battle that proved to be one of the Terriers’ better games in recent weeks.

“[Freshman forward Danny] O’Regan made a nice heads-up play, moved it up to Evan, and I looked up at the clock and there was eight seconds, so I was kind of scared we were gonna run out of time there,” Nieto said with a little laugh. “Evan made a great fake, the goalie went down, slide right over and I just had to tap it in.

“It was middle of the net. Nothing but net. The goalie was no where to be found.”

The win was another step in the right direction in the eyes of BU coach Jack Parker, even though the Terriers held a 4-1 lead after O’Regan’s second goal of the night a minute into the third period.

“Every weekend is so important. But more than anything else for us, we needed to feel good with some good play first,” Parker said. “With the exception of the second period last night, I thought we played very, very well most of the game [Saturday] and most of the game [Friday]. So I’m really pleased with kind of feeling like we have got our team back. And then I think that getting points is huge. We are back in the thick of it.”

Freshman goaltender Sean Maguire made a career-high 40 saves, including 17 in the first period. Parker absolved the netminder of blame for the third-period Black Bear (8-16-6, 4-11-6 Hockey East) comeback, and wasn’t horribly disappointed in the entire team’s play that frame.

After Terrier turnovers and penalties highlighted the first, Maine freshman Ryan Lomberg cleaned up a rebound for a 1-0 Maine lead at 17:10 — the Black Bears’ fourth power-play goal of the weekend.

In the second, though, BU looked like the Terriers of first semester. The team took just one penalty and even scored on a man-advantage of its own to tie things up at the 11:50 mark.

After freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen’s shot from the point, O’Regan picked up a rebound on the left side and one-timed it by Maine goalie Martin Ouellette.

Sophomore forward Cason Hohmann gave BU the lead four minutes later when he took a long pass from senior captain Wade Megan and skated up the left wing before cutting to the middle and beating Ouellette stick-side and high.

To cap the Terriers’ strongest period in recent weeks, freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk scored an unassisted goal in the final minute.

It was the first time BU scored three goals in one period since Jan. 18 vs. Northeastern.

O’Regan and Oksanen connected again at the beginning of the second and again on the power play to make it 4-1. Junior forward Matt Nieto took a shot from the right circle and the rebound kicked out to Oksanen in the slot. Oksanen quickly sent it to the left, where O’Regan one-timed it from between the circle and crease.

Maine captain Joey Diamond found the back of the net at 3:59 in the third, and the Black Bears drew within one with a shorthanded goal at the 8:35 mark. Defenseman Conor Riley swatted at the puck from behind the BU goal and it bounced off Maguire’s leg. Forward Devin Shore swept in to finish it off and make it 4-3.

Officials reviewed the play, but didn’t find enough evidence to reverse the call.

Maguire agreed.

“It was a good goal in my eyes. I didn’t think there was even a need to review it,” Maguire said. “It hit me in the back of the leg, and I didn’t see whoever it was in the backdoor, but he just stuffed it.”

The Black Bears tied it up with 39 seconds left in the third when Maine won a faceoff in its offensive zone and freshman Steven Swavely scored from the point.

That sent the teams to overtime for Rodrigues and Nieto’s heroics.

Having snapped the program’s longest winless streak since November 2007, and despite being 4-7-2 since Christmas, BU is, for now, tied with the University of New Hampshire for third in the Hockey East standings and is just two points behind first-place Merrimack College.

“It was great for our team to pull this off,” Nieto said. “We had to make a state after what happened at the Beanpot. We were pretty disappointed. But there’s still [seven] games left, and we’re going to fight and we’re going to try to go on a run here.”