BU hosts Northeastern in Hockey East Tournament quarterfinals

This article originally appeared on The Daily Free Press.

M46A0355Playoff hockey is back.

Beginning Friday night, the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team will host Northeastern University at Agganis Arena for a best-of-three series in the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East Tournament. The second-seeded Terriers and eighth-ranked Huskies will square off again on Saturday evening and, if necessary, on Sunday night.

Both squads are riding high, as BU is fresh off earning a share of the Hockey East regular-season title, while Northeastern is 11-3 in its past 14 games. Perhaps more importantly, though, senior captain and defenseman Doyle Somerby said that postseason play brings about urgency.

“It’s pretty serious now; it’s a big brand of hockey,” Somerby said. “ … When we met on Tuesday, we left it all on the line and said, ‘This is a weekend where we need to play the way we can play and set a tone for what our playoffs are going to be like.’ We trust ourselves, and it’s just something that has to come from within.”

These two sides met back in early November, with the Terriers taking three of a possible four points from the weekend series. However, BU (21-10-3, 13-6-3 Hockey East) head coach David Quinn said those results won’t influence these upcoming games.

The dominant reasons, Quinn said, are head coach Jim Madigan’s team is healthy and “better defensively.” As for Somerby, he said Northeastern (18-13-5, 9-10-3 Hockey East), which won the 2016 Hockey East Tournament, always seems to get hot come playoff hockey.

“They’re a really good team,” Somerby said. “They’re fast, they’re up-tempo, they like to push the pace. They put up so much offense.”

The superlatives from Somerby bear fruit, too.

Northeastern’s power-play unit scores 28.95 percent of the time, good for second in Division I hockey. Meanwhile, it boasts three of the nation’s top-10 scorers in senior Zach Aston-Reese (62 points), junior Dylan Sikura (56 points) and sophomore Adam Gaudette (52 points).

The Huskies’ biggest flaw, arguably, is goaltender Ryan Ruck, whose goals against average (2.94) and save percentage (.896) all rank in the bottom three of Hockey East netminders. Through those highs and lows, Quinn said Northeastern poses a serious challenge.

“We certainly understand our opponent and how talented they are, and we just have to make sure we don’t give them time and space,” Quinn said. “If you do that, you have a much better chance to have success.”

Leading that charge for BU – the youngest team in college hockey – will be a slew of talented youngsters.

M46A0533Freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger, who will start on Friday, ranks in the top-10 nationally in goals against average (2.06), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (four). Meanwhile, forwards Clayton Keller (38 points) and Patrick Harper (34 points) both rank in the top-five nationally in freshman scoring.

Outside of any single player, Somerby said another motivator is how BU fared in the 2015-16 postseason.

In the Hockey East Tournament, the Terriers narrowly squeezed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the opening round, only to be promptly bounced by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Come the NCAA Tournament, BU lost in the opening round, 7-2, to the University of Denver.

In simple terms, Somerby said playoff hockey means there’s no guarantee of another game.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Somerby said. “We know we have a special group and we have a close-knit group, so we put it on the line that we’re playing for each other and extend our season for as long as we can. That starts tomorrow.”

All things considered, Quinn said BU must approach the weekend one tilt at a time. From that, he said, BU could secure its ninth Hockey East Tournament title.

So, what will Quinn be looking for?

“Our puck movement, our urgency,” Quinn said. “When a puck comes to you, are you ready to do something with it? The edge that we have physically and offensively, and then our commitment to playing defense. Those are the things that are going to determine our success throughout the weekend.”

Pluses and Minuses: BU misses opportunities, falls at Lowell in Game 1 of quarterfinals

PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

LOWELL — Both head coaches after Game 1 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals agreed that the contest came down to one thing — special teams.

But as Boston University head coach David Quinn noted, the other team executed and his team didn’t.

In what was a tight game throughout the full 60 minutes, No. 11 University of Massachusetts Lowell pulled ahead to stay with two third-period goals, defeating No. 8 BU, 3-2, at the Tsongas Center on Friday night.

The decisive goal for Lowell (22-8-5) came off the stick of forward Adam Chapie, a power-play strike with 4:38 left in the final period.

Bounces one way or the other could have changed the outcome of this one, as things tend to happen in playoff games. Puck luck remained mostly on the side of Lowell on Friday, but we’ll explore the negatives and positives a little further in this Pluses and Minuses.

Minuses

Special teams fail

It’s noted early in the piece, and for good reason, as the respective power plays were the difference. To briefly summarize, BU (21-11-5) went 0-for-2 with a man up, while the River Hawks did their part on the power play, finishing at a 50 percent clip (2-for-4).

“If you’re going to have a successful power play, you’ve got to be alert, you’ve got to be ready to do a few things,” Quinn said, “and both their goals, we just blew our responsibility.”

We could probably break this down for hours, but, in short, BU’s effort on special teams was just not good enough to win a hockey game, especially one of this magnitude.

But, if you want to read more about the issues on special teams, Sarah has your back in her sidebar.

Lowell’s second goal 

Quinn said after the game that he liked the way his team played 5-on-5, and for the majority of the game, BU did indeed play well at even strength. One mishap in the neutral zone, however, proved costly halfway through the third period.

The Terriers pressed in Lowell’s end for most of the third, but the River Hawks took advantage with space in neutral ice, converting on forward Michael Louria’s goal at 11:35.

Louria got the puck through the neutral zone and into the high slot uninhibited, allowing him to wrist a shot in the low corner of the net, under senior goaltender Sean Maguire‘s blocker. Louria said his shot hit a stick in front of him, which helped him score, but any way you put it, a well-placed shot in open space is a tough matchup for any goaltender.

Chances pile up, results don’t

The shots were there but the goals were not. BU racked up 35 shots, including 18 in the final 20 minutes of play, as compared to Lowell’s game total of 19. BU outshot Lowell by six in the first, but skated to the dressing room in a scoreless tie, which Quinn noted was frustrating.

Yet, even as BU pressured goaltender Kevin Boyle in the final minutes, he continued to make all of the necessary stops to prevail in the series opener. In two of the three games that BU has faced Lowell this season, Boyle has limited the Terriers’ to three or fewer goals.

“Sometimes shots can be deceiving but we held a team to 19 shots and we get 35, you might think you’ve got a better chance to win” Quinn said. “But again, it comes back to special teams. And you can’t go 2-for-4 on the penalty kill.”

It could very well be a product of playing good defenses (and strong goaltenders), but BU has scored more than three goals in a game only twice since February, both against last-place University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Scoring three goals should be enough to win you most hockey games, but for a team that scored at a good pace in the first half, goals have been harder to come by over the last two months.

Pluses 

JFK — the good streak 

In such a fickle game like hockey, scoring can come and go in bunches. Example — freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. 

BU’s first-line center proved early in the year to not only have adept passing skills, but he had some scoring touch, with seven goals through Jan. 22. But good streaks can lead to empty ones, and Forsbacka Karlsson felt that through much of February and into early March. The freshman had no goals and just five points in a 12-game stretch lasting from that Jan. 22 game through March 4.

Finally, in the second game of BU’s first-round series with UMass (8-24-4) he broke through with two goals. He continued that scoring against Lowell, tallying BU’s first of the night early in the second period, walking in from the left circle and beating Boyle five-hole on a quick wrister to open up the scoring at 6:22.

“Obviously when you’ve got your first-line center scoring goals, it’s certainly a great sign,” Quinn said. “He’s had a great year, and as we all know, sometimes scoring can be streaky, and he went through a stretch where he was a little bit snakebitten, but obviously two goals in the last game we played and a goal tonight — hopefully that trend continues.”

The silver lining 

Moral victories mean almost nothing when it comes down to the postseason, but there is something that BU can at least take some solace in after Friday’s loss.

If there’s one thing Quinn’s bunch has done exceptionally well the past two seasons, it’s that it hasn’t lost two games in a row very often. In fact, since last year, the Terriers have only lost back-t0-back games just once, and that came early on in this campaign on Oct. 27 and 30 in games against the University of Connecticut and Merrimack College.

“It’s been a resilient group, we’re going to have to be very resilient tomorrow night, that’s for sure,” Quinn said. “I liked a lot of the things we did tonight, we’re just going to have to clean up obviously the penalty kill and a few other areas to create offense, we’ve got to go to the net more consistently.”

Live blog: No. 3 BU vs. No. 12 UMass Lowell (Hockey East championship game)

Time/Location: 7 p.m/TD Garden
Friday Recap
Friday Sidebar
TV: NESN+/NBCSN

BU lines:
Evan Rodrigues – Jack Eichel – Danny O’Regan
A.J. Greer – Cason Hohmann – Ahti Oksanen
Nikolas Olsson – Matt Lane – Robbie Baillargeon
Chase Phelps – Mike Moran – Nick Roberto

Matt Grzelcyk – John MacLeod
Brandon Hickey – Brandon Fortunato
Doyle Somerby – Brien Diffley

Matt O’Connor
Connor LaCouvee
Anthony Moccia

UMass Lowell lines:
Ryan McGrath – Robert Francis – Adam Chapie
A.J. White – Michael Fallon – Michael Louria
C.J. Smith – Joe Gambardella – John Edwardh
Jake Kamrass – Michael Colantone – Terrence Wallin

Zack Kamrass – Tyler Mueller
Tommy Panico – Jake Suter
Dylan Zink – Michael Kapla

Kevin Boyle
Olli Kalkaja
Jeff Smith

Officials:
Geoffrey Miller
Cameron Voss
Bob Bernard
Marc Sullivan

Live Blog BU vs. UMass Lowell (Hockey East Championship)
 

Terriers end rebuilding year, look forward to what has been built

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

BU celebrates after one of its goals during Saturday’s
game against the University of Notre Dame.
Photo by Michelle Jay.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The meaning of the phrase “rebuilding year” can change depending on one’s outlook.

For the negative Boston University men’s hockey fan, a rebuilding year is one that featured a lot of losses. The Terriers came in fourth place in the Beanpot, went on an 18-game stretch in which it only won a single game and, thanks to Saturday night’s 3-2 loss at No. 11/12 University of Notre Dame, did not make it out of the first round of the Hockey East tournament.

There is a positive way to look at a rebuilding year for BU fans, however. The Terriers (10-21-4, 5-12-3 Hockey East) are only graduating two players who received significant playing time this season in defensemen Garrett Noonan and Patrick MacGregor, and have a whole bunch of underclassmen who used the season to get experience playing against some of the top competition college hockey has to offer.

“I think one of the bright spots about having a tough year is that our young players had to play a ton,” said BU associate head coach Steve Greeley. “And because of that they’re going to be better sophomores and they’re going to help this team going forward.

“Guys were put in situations – important situations in the last minute of the game or on the power play or penalty kill had a little extra time. They’ll all benefit from that, as will the team.”

One of those players was freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon. The center led the Terriers in points this season with 27 – including a power-play goal in the third period of Saturday night’s loss to the Fighting Irish (21-12-2, 9-9-2 Hockey East).

To Greeley, Baillargeon was one of the freshmen who benefitted most from the extra usage this season.

“When he came here he was an offensive kid and all of a sudden against [the University of Vermont] in a win he is playing 30 minutes in a game and he is taking important faceoffs,” Greeley said. “He is killing penalties for probably the first time in his life.

“All of these guys are getting put in situations that they haven’t played in before and Robbie Baillargeon – I think he grew a ton as a player and I think he is going to be a great Hockey East player next year.”

It’s not just the growth of the freshmen that will give BU a boost next season, but the addition of a large and strong recruiting class. The expected nine-man crew is highlighted by phenom Jack Eichel, who sources indicate will be coming to BU next year, contrary to rumors of him going to play Major Juniors in Canada.

Perhaps the most important thing about the class is that it will provide depth. BU played several games without a healthy scratch this season, which led to the nine freshmen getting more significant ice time than they would have gotten, ideally.

“I think you want competition in your lineup so you’re always trying to make sure you’re playing and you’re always trying to stay in the lineup,” Greeley said. “This will put kids in a situation where you’re just getting pushed and you’re trying to get your ice time.”

As BU head coach David Quinn pointed out, the Terriers had a rebuilding year in 1988-89 when it went 14-21-1. The following season, BU was 25-17-2 and back in the Frozen Four.

While that does not necessarily mean the Terriers will be back to glory and raising trophies next season, it does serve as a reminder that season-to-season turnarounds happen in college hockey. With the big recruiting class coming in and the large group of returning players, anything is possible with a little patience.

“Nobody wants to be 10-21,” Quinn said. “I certainly didn’t come here to coach 10-21 hockey teams, but everybody kind of knew the situation we were in this year and I think everybody has a good idea what we’re going to do moving forward.”

Moving forward, the young core of the team is getting older. BU’s top-three scorers will all be returning, and that doesn’t even include the team’s two returning juniors, forwards Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann. With sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk back from his shoulder injury, there is a lot of skill returning for BU.

While that group of returnees does not include Noonan, Quinn’s first captain expects big things coming up for BU hockey.

“They’re going to be a wagon of a team next year,” Noonan said. “They will be loaded in years coming. Sometimes it takes a year like this to get back to the way they want to be.”

Garrett Noonan ‘crushed,’ reflective following end of Terrier career

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Garrett Noonan stood by the door to the Boston University bench, waiting as his teammates filed by one-by-one down the tunnel and into the offseason. It was a slow walk off the ice after a 3-2 loss to the University of Notre Dame with the Terriers in no particular hurry to get to the locker room. Only goodbyes and hindsight awaited.

Garrett Noonan skates down the ice after the Terriers fell
to the University of Notre Dame Saturday evening.
Photo by Michelle Jay.

Some gave Noonan a fist bump, others a hug, most a few simple words of thanks. Associate head coach Steve Greeley offered a pat on the back. All of it served the same purpose: delaying, however slightly, Noonan’s exit from the ice, his last as a Terrier.

Saturday’s loss to the No. 11/12 Fighting Irish in the first round of the Hockey East tournament brought an end to not only a disappointing season for the BU men’s hockey team, but also Noonan’s collegiate career.

“It just really hit me in the locker room that I will never put a BU jersey on again,” said a sullen Noonan in the bowels of Compton Family Ice Arena. “It’s not a good feeling. It’s probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had. I’m crushed. This place gave me so much and I wish I could have gave back more.”

He almost did. Noonan, the captain, assisted freshman center Robbie Baillargeon’s power-play goal at 14:22 in the third to bring BU within one. Despite a desperate spurt of energy from the Terriers — including Noonan, who played most of the remaining 5:36 — the effort ultimately fell short.

Noonan’s assist came minutes after he was hit hard into the boards and went down in the corner. He remained motionless on his stomach for several minutes before getting back to his feet and taking the next shift, a two-man advantage for BU. That sequence was, along with the post-game parade, one of the few occasions Noonan stayed in one place for an extended period of time all night.

BU coach David Quinn half-joked that Noonan, who was shaken up but felt fine after the hit, stayed down to catch his breathe. Playing about 30 minutes per night wears on a guy, after all.

“It’s almost inhumane what we’ve asked him to do,” Quinn said.

Noonan’s senior year was by any measure a difficult one for the Terriers. Last spring, Noonan decided to come back for one more season in the scarlet and white with two main objectives: win trophies and study under the tutelage of Quinn to become a better defenseman.

BU missed on the first one, finishing at 10-21-4 and in ninth place in the conference, its worst since Hockey East’s inception three decades ago.

But that second goal? Ask any of the parties involved and they will give rave reviews.

Noonan’s game has evolved dramatically from his 16-goal, 11-assist campaign in 2011-12, back when he was a sophomore regularly sneaking up the wing and banging home back-door goals. This season’s circumstances forced him into a different role — one with much more defensive responsibility for a young Terrier team that lacked depth as much as it did experience.

Noonan tallied four goals and 15 assists to go with his immeasurable defensive impact.

“His play without the puck has really improved. His backward skating has improved,” Quinn said. “His stick has been great, and defensively he’s been good on the d-side of people.”

Noonan agreed that he achieved what he had wanted to accomplish with Quinn on an individual level.

“I thought that he helped me grow as a person and a leader and really matured me off the ice,” Noonan said. “He just made me a better player and person.”

It might not be too long until Noonan takes to the ice again, but next time it will be as a professional. Noonan will likely sign with the Nashville Predators — who selected him in the fourth round (112th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — sooner rather than later.

When the ink dries on that contract, Noonan will keep with him plenty of lessons from his time on Commonwealth Avenue — time that has meant a lot to the Norfolk native.

“So much,” Noonan said. “Everything — so much history at this program. I consider it the best program in college hockey. It’s a privilege and I’m so honored to say that I had the opportunity to play here. This place means the world to me.”

UPDATED: BU’s season comes to end in South Bend

By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Garrett Noonan lay on the ice nearly motionless. After taking a hit from University of Notre Dame defenseman Stephen Johns, the senior captain of the Boston University men’s hockey team needed a minute to gather himself and catch a breath. The Terriers (10-21-4, 5-12-3 Hockey East) were down 3-1 with fewer than seven minutes left in the game.

Boston University defenseman Garrett Noonan and
Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan battle for the puck.
Photo by Michelle Jay.
Noonan, despite being rattled from the previous play, returned to the ice, epitomizing the resilience of the entire team. In the end, though, ninth-seeded BU’s effort fell just short as the eighth-seeded Fighting Irish (21-12-2, 9-9-2) defeated the Terriers 3-2 at Compton Family Ice Arena in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament Saturday evening.

“None of us accepted it — accepted losing,” Noonan said. “It seems like whenever we were down we got back up. It’s an honor to say I got to play with those guys.”

For the first half of the game, the Fighting Irish started exactly where they left off two weeks ago, scoring two goals and shutting down BU’s offense.

Notre Dame initially got on the board after center T.J. Tynan pickpocketed sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen in BU’s zone. Tynan, who brought the puck over to the left circle, then sent a pass to his linemate, Bryan Rust, on the right side of the goal. After deking around sprawled-out BU goaltender Matt O’Connor, Rust flipped his shot into the left side of the net.

After the goal, the Terriers had two power-play opportunities — including one that carried over into the opening seconds of the middle frame — but the team failed to even record a shot with the man-advantage.

“You can feel it deflate the bench,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I think that’s happened to us over the last month because our power play has not been good. Not only has it not produced from a numbers standpoint, we haven’t looked good on it.

“You can just feel it on the bench, it kind of demoralized us.”

Having failed to convert on the power play, the Terriers needed to fend off the Fighting Irish after BU registered two penalties over the course of a three-minute span. Seconds after the team killed off the second penalty, though, Notre Dame increased its initial lead after left wing and captain Jeff Costello sent a shot from the right circle that went through O’Connor’s five-hole.

The score mirrored the previous meetings between the teams where the Fighting Irish defeated BU 2-0 in back-to-back games. The similarities ended with fewer than four minutes left in the frame, though, when junior wing Evan Rodrigues found the back of the net, snapping the team’s scoreless streak against Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays that had lasted roughly 155 minutes.

After putting multiple shots on Summerhays near the crease, Rodrigues finally broke through when he picked up his own rebound and notched it into the left side of the goal, making it a 2-1 game.

While that goal gave the team confidence, according to Quinn, it did not last for long as Notre Dame once again took a two-goal lead over the Terriers in the opening minutes of the third period.

As the game neared its end, though, the Fighting Irish gave BU an opportunity. With wing Mike Voran already in the penalty box for tripping, Johns hit Noonan, giving BU a 5-on-3 advantage for 51 seconds.

Although Noonan originally came off the ice with the help of a trainer, the defenseman stayed on the bench and eventually made his way back on the ice during the ensuing power play. With the Voran penalty having come off the clock just 11 seconds earlier, Noonan sent a pass over to freshman center Robbie Baillargeon, who bounced his shot off the back of the net, making it a one-goal game once again.

Despite pulling O’Connor for the final 1:19 of the game and a breakaway chance by freshman wing Nick Roberto, though, the Terriers could not complete the comeback.

As the final buzzer sounded, Noonan and several other Terriers glided down toward their goal hunched over with their season — and for some of them, their BU careers — having just come to an end.

“I think we’re all crushed,” Noonan said.

Live Blog: Terriers face Notre Dame in first round of Hockey East Tournament

Time/location: 7 p.m., Compton Family Ice Arena

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

Garrett Noonan – Matt Ronan
Ahti Oksanen – Patrick MacGregor
Doyle Somerby – Dalton MacAfee

Matt O’Connor
Anthony Moccia

Notre Dame lines:
Sam Herr – T.J. Tynan – Bryan Rust
Jeff Costello – Steven Fogarty – Peter Schneider
Mario Lucia – Vince Hinostroza – Austin Wuthrich
Ali Thomas – Thomas DiPauli – Mike Voran

Kevin Lind – Stephen Johns
Shayne Taker – Andy Ryan
Eric Johnson – Jared Beers

Steven Summerhays
Joe Rogers
Chad Katunar

Referees: Mark Wilkins, Jeff Bunyon
Assistant Referees: Marc Sullivan, Jeremy Lewis

Live blog: