UPDATED: Terriers fall to Huskies, 6-5, despite late comeback

 By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
Despite a three-goal third-period comeback, the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team fell again at the hands of former Terrier Vinny Saponari, who scored the deciding goal late in Northeastern University’s 6-5 win on Friday.

BU goalie Sean Maguire had a rough game without much support from his defense, allowing those six goals on 38 shots. His opposite, Chris Rawlings, let in five goals on 34 BU shots.

“I was very disappointed in our demeanor out there, our confidence level out there,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “It seems like we’re jumpy now. It seems like we’re afraid it’s going to go wrong, and it does go wrong.”

After a strong shift in the Huskies’ zone in the first period, freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen got caught too deep in the offensive zone as a pair of Huskies came back the other way against his partner, senior Ryan Ruikka. Northeastern senior Robbie Vrolyk got around Ruikka for a shot that Maguire couldn’t handle cleanly, and the puck flipped over him and into the net.
BU (12-8, 9-5 Hockey East) tied it up quickly, though, when freshman forward Danny O’Regan fed a cross-crease pass to junior Matt Nieto, who one-timed it into an open net with Rawlings out of position. The goal came in the waning seconds of a BU power play with the Huskies’ Braden Pimm in the box. 
Then, with Northeastern defenseman Colton Saucerman in the box, junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan kept it rolling for BU. At the top of the circle, Noonan took a pass from low in the zone and ripped a wrist shot over Rawlings to make it 2-1.
Northeastern (7-10-2, 4-8-2 Hockey East) tied it up again with 2:34 remaining in the second. When BU couldn’t clear away the rebounds after Maguire kicked out on a series of shots, Husky forward Adam Reid eventually flipped one top-shelf.
Less than a minute later, Oksanen lost the puck behind the net and Northeastern freshman Kevin Roy took control of it. He also flipped a shot, this one a backhander, over Maguire before the goalie could get back in position.

“When they got possession of the puck in our zone, they threw it behind the net and we just couldn’t seem to keep them from getting it to the crease,” Parker said. “We wound up on the wrong side of them a lot.”

BU failed to register a shot through the first several minutes of the second period. In that time, Northeastern stretched its lead to 4-2 when junior Cody Ferriero stuffed in a rebound that had been bouncing around in front of Maguire.
The Terriers’ pace picked up somewhat after that, and they finished the second period with 22 shots after beginning it with eight. However, Northeastern had the bulk of the chances from prime real estate in front of the net, and they made Maguire work much harder than the Terriers did Rawlings.
With about four minutes remaining in the second, Ferriero carried the puck in on Privitera, who went down to block the anticipated shot in a manner that’s served him well this season. This time, though, Ferreiro hung onto the puck, maneuvered around him and shot high over Maguire to make it 5-2.

That kind of play was characteristic of the game, as Terrier defensemen found themselves out of position at the wrong time or simply made a series of bad decisions.

“We wound up letting them sift through our 2-on-1 too,” Parker said. “I don’t remember too many 3-on-2s or 4-on-3s, but there were a lot of 2-on-2s that turned into something awful for us, whether it be a goal or just a real good chance, because we just didn’t read it or play it right. And we backed off, backed off, backed off. We had a lot of defensemen get beat on one-on-ones tonight.”

The game was far from over, though, as the Terriers answered less than a minute into the third period. O’Regan found sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues wide open between the circles and hit him with a pass, and Rodrigues had all the time in the world to fire a shot over Rawlings for his fourth goal of the year.
Then BU caught a bit of luck. Off the faceoff, Grzelcyk controlled the puck and passed across to Noonan, who fired the puck into the crossbar. But on its way back out, the puck hit Rawlings in the back and rolled into the crease, where Rodrigues poked it in for his second goal of the night to make it 5-4.
Fittingly, it was Rodrigues and O’Regan who teamed up to tie the game at five, 6:36 into the third. After an initial shot on net, Rodrigues took the puck below the goal line and tried to stuff it in. He failed as Rawlings got over just in time, but the rebound came to O’Regan on the other side of the net, and he tapped it in.
But perhaps even more fittingly, it was Saponari, just as it was on the last day of the regular season last year, who put the Terriers away, sliding the puck past Maguire with just 2:03 left in the game for a 6-5 finish.

Parker said the defense was the team’s biggest problem, as it has frequently been in recent weeks, and that that has to change Saturday night against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

“We’ve got to solve that problem,” Parker said. “We’ve got to solve that quickly, because we’re playing the hottest team in college hockey [Saturday] night.”

Terriers lead conference in penalties after Saturday free-for-all

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

DENVER — The Boston University men’s hockey team entered Saturday’s game ranked fourth in Hockey East in penalty minutes per game. By the time their 6-0 loss to the University of Denver ended, they’d roughed, kicked and tripped their way to the league lead.

Despite a relatively disciplined start to the year, the Terriers averaged 17 penalty minutes per game in their three December contests, creeping up from the bottom half of Hockey East into the top five.

Then, against Denver, BU racked up 56 penalty minutes to the Pioneers’ 35 in what became an unruly mess by the final buzzer. They now average 15.9 minutes in the box per game, sixth most in the nation.

“We took some stupid penalties, and we’re going to pay for it,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “When I watch film, people will sit out the next game for sure, anyway.”

Ten of the penalty minutes on Saturday came on a disqualification penalty to sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera, who kicked a Denver player in a scrum after the whistle. Privitera alone accounted for 19 minutes in the box before he was ejected late in the second period. Ten more came from a late game misconduct to junior defenseman Patrick MacGregor.

The Terriers’ defensemen recorded 40 of those 56 minutes in total. They might easily have had more, but junior defenseman Garrett Noonan – recently named an assistant captain – got away scot-free after he hit Denver freshman Quentin Shore from behind and continued to shove him into the boards away from the play late in the third period.

MacGregor took the punishment for that play instead when he jumped in next to Noonan, punching Shore and drawing three penalties: roughing, cross-checking, and a game misconduct. Freshman forward Matt Lane served the ensuing seven-minute penalty in his place.

Parker said he had no idea how Noonan got away with the play, and that frustration, with the game 5-0 at that point, was likely part of the reason he went after Shore.

“Guys were getting frustrated, definitely, because pucks weren’t bouncing our way, but we’ve just got to battle through,” said senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka, one of only two Terrier blueliners who didn’t take a penalty on Saturday. “You can’t lose games like that.”

Privitera entered the game with a team-leading 32 penalty minutes on the year. He’s now up to 51. While his improved defensive play has been key to BU’s success this season, his lack of discipline has hurt the team repeatedly. On Saturday, his first penalty, for roughing, came 14 seconds after BU went on a five-minute power play. Denver scored twice on the ensuing 4-on-4 to take a 3-0 lead.

With freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk already missing because he couldn’t fly back from the World Junior Championships in Russia in time, the Terriers could ill afford to lose another defenseman. But when Privitera was ejected, they had no choice but to rotate five blueliners for the remaining 22 minutes of the game.

“I think we missed [Grzelcyk] a lot, with all the penalties and everything,” Ruikka said. “I was gasping for air, especially up here in the Mile High City.”

Of the other four least disciplined Hockey East teams – the University of Maine, Providence College, Northeastern University and the University of Vermont – only Providence has a winning record (7-6-3).

Meanwhile, BU’s main rivals for the top spot in Hockey East, Boston College and New Hampshire, are the two least penalized teams in the conference. They rank 45th and 46th in the nation, respectively, in minutes spent in the box per game.

BU’s penalty kill has also fallen off recently, succeeding just 81.2 percent of the time. Regularly losing players like Privitera, who’s become a significant part of the PK, only makes it harder on the players left shorthanded on the ice.

“We just need to keep those guys calmed down, because they’re good players for us,” Ruikka said. “They contribute for us on the power play and they create plays. We need them on the ice. We can’t have them in the locker room not playing for us.”

UPDATED: Garrett Noonan named assistant captain at midway point in season

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey junior defenseman Garrett Noonan has been named assistant captain of the team, joining senior forward Wade Megan and senior defenseman Ryan Ruikka as the team’s captains.

Noonan said he found out about his new position following the game against the University of New Hampshire on Dec. 6, but that BU coach Jack Parker did not tell the team until after the 1-0 win over the University of Maine on Dec. 8.

“[Being named assistant captain] felt pretty good,” Noonan said. “I’m pretty excited. It’s really a big honor and for coach to give me that opportunity, I have got to thank him and the staff and all of my teammates. I don’t think I would be anywhere without them.”

The Norfolk native has been a member of the team’s leadership council this season, which also consists of Megan, Ruikka, senior forward Ryan Santana, junior forward Sahir Gill and junior defenseman Patrick MacGregor.

“He’s been great as a member of our team’s leadership council and his leadership role in the dressing room continues to grow,” said BU coach Jack Parker in a team release. “It’s not only deserving, but appropriate, that we put an ‘A’ on his shirt.”

Noonan, who is the only junior among the team captains, has three goals and seven assists this season and scored the team’s only goal in its most recent win over the Black Bears.

Noonan will get his first chance to wear that ‘A’ at No. 10/11 University of Denver on Dec. 29 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.

“I think we have the chance to do something pretty special here,” Noonan said. “We have a chance to get on a little bit of a roll here and it starts with Denver and we will be ready to play, I know that.”

From the FreeP: Noonan’s 1st-period goal leads BU past Maine

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

The victory could not have been narrower, but the No. 7 Boston University men’s hockey team defended a one-goal lead for about 53 minutes on Saturday against the University of Maine, winning 1–0 in its last home game of 2012.

Junior defenseman Garrett Noonan scored the Boston University men’s hockey team’s only goal in its 1–0 victory over the University of Maine. MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Freshman goalie Sean Maguire had 28 saves in the shutout, his second straight at Agganis Arena. The Terriers (10–5, 8–4 Hockey East) had just 21 shots to the 28 taken by the Black Bears (2–10–2, 1–6–2 Hockey East), Hockey East’s last-place team.

BU coach Jack Parker opened his post-game press conference with an understatement: “Well, that wasn’t easy.”

At first, it seemed it might be. BU opened the game with three and a half minutes of puck possession in Maine’s defensive zone. The Black Bears could not clear the puck or even catch up with BU’s quick passes, and their first line had to remain on the ice for about three times the length of a normal shift.

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Grzelcyk, Noonan make statements in nationally televised win

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

The two most important goals of the Boston University men’s hockey team’s 4–2 win over Boston College on Friday came from defensemen: junior Garrett Noonan broke a scoreless tie halfway through the second period, and freshman Matt Grzelcyk put away the eventual game-winner to give the Terriers a crucial boost at the start of the third.

“Obviously Grzelcyk’s, that was the biggest goal of the game,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “They make it 2–1 and come out and start grinding away at us, and we immediately get the lead right back.”

In a game televised nationally on NBC Sports, Grzelcyk made an impression. His only point was that goal, on which senior forward Wade Megan sprung him with a pass through the neutral zone. Grzelcyk carried the puck all the way down below the goal line, then tucked it behind BC goalie Parker Milner on the wraparound.

But Grzelcyk also spent the night setting up plays with spot-on breakout passes, most memorably hitting junior wing Sahir Gill with a no-look pass that sent him off on a breakaway in the first.

Had Gill not tried and failed to go five-hole, Grzelcyk would now have 12 points, which would tie him with University of New Hampshire sophomore Trevor van Riemsdyk as the highest-scoring defenseman in Hockey East. As it is, his nine assists tie him for fourth in the conference among both forwards and defensemen.

Parker said it was no surprise to see Grzelcyk perform in front of 6,150 fans at Agganis Arena against BU’s biggest rival. After all, the freshman did score his first collegiate goal in the Terriers’ 4–2 loss to the Eagles on Nov. 11.

“He’s been pretty poised since he arrived,” Parker said. “He’s a pretty confident kid.”

Meanwhile, after his goal, Noonan spent most of his night mixing it up with BC forwards. If there was a crowd of players shoving and throwing punches, whether in the neutral zone or in the crease, chances are Noonan was there. Eight of the Terriers’ 32 penalty minutes were his — and that 32 is inflated by the 14 belonging to sophomore Alexx Privitera, who received a 10-minute misconduct.

“It’s good, seeing stuff like that,” Noonan said, grinning, of the various scuffles he took part in.

Temperaments aside, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Noonan to look at Grzelcyk and see a younger version of himself in some ways. Not physically, of course: Grzelcyk, at 18, is just 5-foot-9, compared to Noonan’s more imposing 6-foot-1, and accordingly, Noonan is fonder of throwing his weight around.

But both have an offensive sense that’s rare in a defenseman. Both went beyond firing big slap shots from the point on Friday – they wove through opposing defenders, Noonan cutting his trademark path down the backdoor and Grzelcyk using his speed to overpower the Eagles.

Last year, Noonan scored 16 goals, far and away the most of any Hockey East defenseman. Grzelcyk’s points thus far have mostly been assists, but he continued to show on Friday that he has as much of a finishing touch as any BU blueliner.

“He’s been awesome all year,” Noonan said of Grzelcyk. “He’s pretty special. He played great tonight again, and he’s been doing that all year. He’s one of our best players and we expect that out of him every night. He’s just a great kid and everyone’s happy to see him do that.”