BU gears up for Beanpot title game vs. Harvard

While the Beanpot Tournament is laced with history, its 65th championship game concerns a bird of a different feather: Two elite teams.

Just ask Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, an assistant captain for the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team, about what it’ll be like to play against No. 4 Harvard University on Monday night at TD Garden.

“These are the kinds of games you come to BU to play,” the Swedish center said.

It’ll be head coach David Quinn’s Terriers (19-8-2, 11-4-2 Hockey East) taking on head coach Ted Donato’s Crimson (17-5-2), and they’re both likely to play for silverware come springtime.

In the here and now, though, is where the young guns from Commonwealth Avenue and the old guard from Cambridge are thriving.

For a full version of this story over on The Daily Free Press, click here

O’Connell looks to guide men’s hockey back to winning ways

FILE PHOTO/DEREK GEE O’Connell captured four Beanpot
championships during his tenure with the Terriers from 1995-99.

By Conor Ryan/DFP Staff

After more than a decade away, Albie O’Connell has finally returned to Commonwealth Avenue.

The former Boston University men’s hockey team captain joined the Terriers in April as an assistant coach for the 2014-15 season, completing a full-circle move for O’Connell, who is once again affiliated with the same program that he played for almost 20 years ago.

“It’s great. I’m excited,” O’Connell said. “I’m excited for the year to start. I think we’ll have a pretty good team. I think how good guys can get throughout the year and how they improve is going to dictate the outcome of how we end up.”

O’Connell joined the Terriers during the 1995-96 season as a heralded recruit. Over a year before his arrival at BU, the Watertown native was selected by the New York Islanders in the fifth round of the 1994 NHL Draft.

Playing a key role on a BU squad filled with NHL talent such as Chris Drury, Shawn Bates and Tom Poti, O’Connell and the Terriers established one of the greatest stretches in program history in the late 1990s, posting a 97-41-14 record from 1995-99.

While there were many positive takeaways to choose from for O’Connell, his fondest memory of playing for the Terriers was the team’s success in the annual Beanpot tournament. O’Connell and other members of the Class of 1999 are one of only four classes in program history to win four Beanpot titles.

Even though O’Connell was never able to capture an NCAA title, he made two Frozen Four appearances with BU in both 1996 and 1997 – including a loss to the University of North Dakota in the 1997 championship game, 4-2. Captaining the team during his final campaign in 1998-99, O’Connell led his squad in scoring with 39 points (nine goals, 30 assists) in 36 games.

By the end of his career with the Terriers, O’Connell acknowledged that learning under longtime BU head coach Jack Parker helped him grow as a hockey player in multiple areas – mostly due to the completive tone that Parker established from the get-go with his teams.

“He was a great coach,” O’Connell said of Parker. “We had good teams, so it was very competitive. It was setting a high standard and then coming to work and practice every day trying to get better on and off the ice. We held a high standard and he made the practices more competitive. It was very intense. He was ready to go for practice, which led to players being ready to go and be ready to compete everyday.”

While O’Connell may have turned in his scarlet and white sweater in 1999, he did not hang up his skates following his departure from Walter Brown Arena. O’Connell later played professional hockey for four teams in both the East Coast Hockey League and the British National League from 1999-02, compiling 132 points (54 goals, 78 assists) in 127 pro tilts.

Once he put a close to his playing career, O’Connell immediately made the transition from the ice to behind the bench, serving as an assistant coach at Berkshire Prep School in Sheffield during the 2002-03 season before making the move up to the collegiate level the following year at Colby College.

After stints at both Niagara University and College of the Holy Cross, O’Connell entered into the Hockey East coaching ranks in 2007-08 as an assistant coach at Merrimack College before serving the same role over the last six seasons with both Northeastern University (2008-11) and Harvard University (2011-14).

Throughout his coaching career, O’Connell has garnered praise for his recruiting skills. During his time at Northeastern, the Huskies received commitments from both standout Providence goaltender Jon Gilles and 2014 Hobey Baker Award recipient and former Boston College forward Johnny Gaudreau. Both players later de-committed from the program.

For O’Connell, the key to his success in terms of identifying talent is to trust his instincts and to collaborate with the rest of his staff.

“Just going out there and working hard,” O’Connell said. “Using your resources, using what you see and not listening to anyone and trusting what you’re looking at and what your staff is looking at and what you’re trying to do as a group – that’s the biggest thing.

“Working with [associate head coach] Steve [Greeley] and [head coach] David Quinn so far, it’s been really positive. They’ve both been very sharp when it comes to what they’re looking at, and they’re very organized and hard-working, so hopefully I’m a good addition to that.”

While he has excelled at building up multiple teams, O’Connell is certainly no slouch when it comes to instructing his players on the ice. During his first season with the Crimson in 2011-12, O’Connell helped establish the country’s most potent power-play unit, which posted a 27.3 percent success rate.

While the duty of serving as both a recruiter and a mentor has its own set of challenges, O’Connell holds both jobs in equally high esteem.

“They’re both fun jobs,” O’Connell said. “Basically, it’s two different jobs. One, you’re trying to help build the team, the other one, you’re trying to help coach the guys that you were trying to recruit, so they’re both equally tough jobs, but at the same time, both fun and rewarding.”

The journey back to his alma mater has been a long and winding road for O’Connell, but the 38-year-old coach doesn’t have much time to reflect.

With an influx of freshmen already training at Agganis Arena and the season opener almost a month away, O’Connell is diverting all of his energy toward helping a talented group of players achieve the same level of success that he attained almost two decades ago.

“Hopefully, we’re a lot better at the end of the year than at the start, because we’ve got nine or ten freshmen,” O’Connell said. “Practice is going to be important, player development is going to be important…Hopefully at the end of it, we’ll make good strides as a group.”

From the FreeP: ‘Human nature’ gets best of BU in 3rd-place match

By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff

When the Boston University men’s hockey team took the ice last Monday for its Beanpot opener with then-No. 2 Boston College, TD Garden filled with noise. Student sections jeered and hurled taunts at each other. The Terriers moved and played at a pace that had slowly come into form over the previous two weeks. And while BU ultimately lost to the Eagles, a point in time existed where it appeared as though the Terriers might make it to the tournament championship.

With a continued increase in effort again during its tie with then-No. 7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, it looked as though Monday afternoon’s Beanpot consolation game might just turn into the Terriers’ (8-16-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) second win since the end of November.

When the teams took the ice, though, there was hardly a noise from the stands and the sound of blades slicing through the ice echoed throughout the cavernous Garden. BU may have taken an early lead against Harvard University, but the team that put pressure on some of the top-ranked squads in the country last week lacked the same mental intensity. By the final buzzer, that lack of intensity put them on the losing side of 6-2 game.

For more, read dailyfreepress.com 

Pluses & Minuses: Evan Rodrigues a bright spot in Beanpot loss

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

For the seventh time in its last eighth tries, the Boston University men’s hockey team lost a Beanpot game at TD Garden. This one was a 6-2 decision at the hands of Harvard University, the third time in four years the Terriers (8-16-4, 3-8-3 Hockey Eat) lost the tourney’s consolation game to the Crimson (8-12-3).

BU jumped out to a 1-0 lead but were outscored 6-1 in the final 40 minutes. Here’s a look at what went right, and what didn’t, for the Terriers.

Minuses:

‘Purpose’ and ‘responsibility’
Two of BU coach David Quinn’s recent buzzwords. He said during the last three weeks or so, the Terriers have been seemed more mature on the ice, playing with purpose and making better decisions. That has led to a better “feel” about the team, as Quinn put it Thursday, with the Terriers picking up momentum even though the wins aren’t coming as quickly.

That wasn’t the case Monday. For more, read Meredith Perri’s article in Tuesday’s Daily Free Press.

Power play
By failing to convert on both of their man-advantage chances — a shot-less one in the first, then a three-shot span in the second — the Terriers have not scored on the power play in their last 24 opportunities. That stretch coincides with sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s season-ending surgery.

Even when BU garnered three shots with Harvard’s Brian Hart in the box in the second period, they power play had trouble maintaining possession, at times looking like they were the ones shorthanded.

“We’re half a second slow on shooting the puck, we’re half a second slow on getting to the net for the rebound, we’re half a second slow screening the goalie,” Quinn said. “We’re not quick enough to do anything. We buzzed and looked like we had some zone time and looked like we might get one, but we just weren’t able to capitalize.”

The Terriers made up for it somewhat by killing all three Crimson power plays.

Sean Maguire
It was the sophomore netminder’s first game action since Jan. 25, as a bout with the flu kept him out of action for about two weeks. Whether it was rustiness, still not feeling 100 percent or just an off night, Maguire (31 saves) gave up four goals by the time Quinn pulled him for an empty net with 2:40 to go.

The decision to start Maguire in the consolation game was an easy one for Quinn. He had been playing well before getting sick, and despite Matt O’Connor’s impressive three games, to get Maguire back between the pipes was only fair.

Quinn didn’t pin any of the goals on Maguire — rarely does he ever blame his goalie. Rather, it was a freak bounce here, a blown backcheck there. Put them together and it’s three goals in seven minutes for the Crimson.

In eight games since the start of January, Maguire has given up four or more goals in four times.

Pluses:

Evan Rodrigues
Rodrigues found the back of the net for the first time since Dec. 7 — a two-month span that isn’t as bad as it seems considering BU had three weeks off, then Rodrigues missed some time with a bum knee.

Still, it was just the third goal of the year for the junior forward, who also assisted on sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen’s goal in the second to give him an even 10 points on the season.

It was a bit of a monkey off his back, Rodrigues agreed. He wouldn’t be surprised if they started to come in bunches.

“I’ve been playing better as of late,” Rodrigues said. “The chances are coming, it’s just not going in. You can’t really get down on yourself, you just have to keep going. Tonight one went in the net, and maybe next time it doesn’t. Maybe another game I get three.”

UPDATED: BU falls flat against Crimson, loses Beanpot consolation game 6-2

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

The Boston University men’s hockey team made Beanpot history in Monday night’s consolation game at TD Garden, but not in the way it had hoped to.

When the Terriers fell to Harvard University 6-2, they finished fourth in the Beanpot in consecutive years for the first time in school history. It was only their seventh-ever fourth place finish, three of which have come in the past four seasons.

With the loss, the Terriers (8-16-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) still only have one win since the end of November and have not beaten Harvard (8-12-3, 4-9-3 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) since the 2011-12 season. BU had kept it close with No. 1 Boston College in the Beanpot semifinal and tied No. 7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell in its past two games, but it did not bring the same intensity it showed in those two game Monday night.

“I wasn’t expecting this today because we’ve been going in the right direction in the last two and a half weeks, three weeks,” said BU coach David Quinn. “This is disappointing.”

Junior forward Evan Rodrigues put the Terriers on the board first a little more than 10 minutes into the game when he one-timed a quick pass from freshman center Robbie Baillargeon past Harvard goaltender Steve Michalek. It was Rodrigues’ third goal of the season – and first since Dec. 7, 2013 at Merrimack College.

“I think I’ve been playing better as of late,” Rodrigues said. “The chances are coming, it’s just not going in. You can’t really get down on yourself, you just have to keep going. Tonight one went in the net, and maybe next time it doesn’t.”

However, things took a big turn in Harvard’s favor after the first period. Sophomore Kyle Criscuolo, who was robbed by sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire at the end of the first, got his revenge a little over a minute into the frame when he ripped a slap shot off the post and in on the rush. It was Criscuolo’s 11th goal of the season and it was the first of a scoring barrage from Harvard in the frame.

Right winger Brian Hart added a tally of his own with Baillargeon skating gingerly to the bench at the other end, by taking a loose puck in the slot and quickly snapping it between Maguire’s pads a little over two minutes later. Baillargeon missed a few shifts with an apparent injury, but would later return to the game.

Before the midway point in the period, center Luke Esposito added a goal of his own and the Crimson took control of the game. Harvard outshot BU 20-11 in that period and had outshot BU 30-16 at the end of two.

Rodrigues was a part of the offense again just before the midway point in the third period, when he found trailing sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen in the slot for Oksanen’s sixth goal of the season. Oksanen added to his lead in points for BU and now has 21 on the season.

The Terriers were not even within one goal for a minute before Esposito found the scoreboard again, this time scoring on a pass that tipped off senior defenseman Patrick MacGregor’s stick and into the top corner. It was Esposito’s second goal of the game and it was a stroke of bad luck for BU’s captain.

“In my lifetime I might have done that maybe three times and I have been playing hockey for 20 years,” MacGregor said. “We were kind of on a roll there and we might have tied the game up and I kind of deflated the bench a little bit because it is kind of a freak play, but it happens I guess.”

Left winger Jimmy Vesey added an empty net goal from behind his own blue line and center Tyler Moy tipped a goal past senior goalie Anthony Moccia came in for the final few minutes of the game, but that would do it for BU’s chances at avoiding a fourth place finish for the second straight Beanpot.

BU’s power play went 0-for-2 on the night, and has now failed to capitalize on its last 23 opportunities with a man advantage.

“We’re half a second slow on shooting the puck, we’re half a second slow on getting to the net for the rebound, we’re half a second slow screening the goalie,” Quinn said. “We’re just, we’re just, especially tonight I think tonight reflected our game in general. I just think we’re not quick enough to do anything.”

BU is now 1-4 against Harvard all time in the Beanpot consolation game, which is the only losing record BU has against any opponent in any round. It has lost its last two Beanpot matchups against Harvard and has not beaten Harvard in any game since the Beanpot semifinal in 2012.

“They just have our number and you can look at different things, different reasons why,” Rodrigues said. “It just comes down to winning and losing, and we have to find a way to get it done.”

Live blog: Terriers, Crimson fight for pride in Beanpot consolation game

Time/location: 4:30 p.m., TD Garden

BU lines:
Evan Rodrigues – Robbie Baillargeon – Danny O’Regan
Matt Lane – Cason Hohmann – Nick Roberto
Brendan Collier – Mike Moran – Kevin Duane
Jake Moscatel – Dillon Lawrence – Matt Ronan

Garrett Noonan – T.J. Ryan
Doyle Somerby – Dalton MacAfee
Ahti Oksanen – Patrick MacGregor

Sean Maguire
Matt O’Connor
Anthony Moccia

Harvard lines:
Jimmy Vesey – Sean Malone – Brian Hart
Greg Gozzo – Luke Esposito – Kyle Criscuolo
Tommy O’Regan – Tyler Moy – David Valek
Devin Tringale – Ryan McGregor – Phil Zielonka

Patrick McNally – Desmond Bergin
Max Everson – Victor Newell
Dan Ford – Danny Fick

Steve Michalek
Raphael Girard

Referees: Bob Ritchie, Mike Baker
Assistant Referees: Marty Hughes, Michael Emanatian
Live blog:

From the FreeP: BU set for rematch with Harvard

By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff

In its first game of 2014, the Boston University men’s hockey team looked as though it had everything it needed. It had a small break during winter intercession. It had a full squad with players coming back from injury and the World Junior Championships.

Then it had far too many penalties and gave up seven goals in a loss to Harvard University at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.

Nearly six weeks later, things have changed. After a two-month long skid, the Terriers (8-15-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) have slowly bounced back mentally and physically with hard-fought games against some of the top teams in the nation. When BU takes on Harvard (7-12-3) in the Beanpot consolation game Monday afternoon at TD Garden, it will look to add another win to that late-season transformation.

“I think we are getting a little bit of stability,” said BU coach David Quinn. “We have changed … and we haven’t done anything earth-shattering.”

For more, read dailyfreepress.com

Penalties hold Terriers back in 7-4 loss to Harvard

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Saturday night at the Bright Landry Hockey Center was just like the beginning of the year for the Boston University men’s hockey team. It had all of its players back, whether they were returning from injury or from the World Junior Championships in Malmö, Sweden, and it was recharged after a three-week holiday break.

Unfortunately for the Terriers, however, Saturday night was like the beginning of the year in another way — they could not stay out of the penalty box. BU took nine penalties in the contest, which helped Harvard University edge the Terriers 7-4.

The nine penalties were the most BU has taken in a single game since the first game of the season against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Saturday night was a reminder of those old habits, which are ones that BU coach David Quinn does not want to see again.

“We’re going to get out of them fast,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating because that hadn’t been us. And to do that in a game that finally we have a fuller lineup, a healthy lineup, it’s disappointing.”

The penalty habits stuck around for six games earlier in the season, when BU took at least four penalties in each of those games while averaging a little more than six per game. However, the Terriers looked as if their penalty issues had subsided, as they were called for four or fewer infractions in each of the six games after that streak.

It was clear that BU was going to break that four-penalty mark — the one Quinn had set as a ceiling for as many penalties as he was ok with his team taking in a game — pretty early on Saturday. The team took five penalties in the first frame, including two that Quinn said could have been called for five-minute majors.

The fourth penalty for BU in that frame was a charging penalty to sophomore forward Sam Kurker, which was his first of two trips to the sin bin on the night. Kurker was the only Terrier to be penalized twice on the night, and it is the second time he has taken two penalties in his 10 games played this season.

For Kurker, the layoff between games was even longer than the rest of the team’s because of a six-game absence from the lineup due to an illness. However, a two-penalty performance is not going to help his case for staying in the lineup Wednesday night against Dartmouth University, because Quinn is known to bench players for penalties.

“Nobody can take two penalties. Nobody,” Quinn said. “Especially those types of penalties. Those are just inexcusable. We had a lot of inexcusable penalties tonight.”

The penalties came back to bite BU in the end too, as Harvard capitalized on two of its eight power-play chances. Harvard entered the night having capitalized on 13.5 percent of its power-play opportunities, a percentage that left it ranked 49th in the nation.

With BU defending in its own zone for much of the first half of the game, it did not have a chance to establish its offense very much. However, when it was the Crimson spending time in the penalty box in the third period instead of the Terriers, BU scored twice on the power play and pulled within one. Had the penalty differential been closer to even, perhaps the Terriers would be back at .500 instead of starting the second half with another loss.

“It was definitely, definitely frustrating,” said BU captain Patrick MacGregor. “When you’re on the penalty kill you don’t get many scoring chances because you’re in your own zone the whole time so it’s definitely frustrating for sure.”