Frequent defensive mistakes cost BU chance at Hockey East Title

By: Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Within the first minute of the second period of the Hockey East semifinal on Friday night, the Boston University men’s hockey team gave up its 1-0 lead when forward Joey Diamond netted his 10th power-play goal of the season. However, the final push of the puck into the back of the net did not come off Diamond’s stick.

After BU goalie Kieran Millan stopped Diamond’s shot, BU junior forward Ross Gaudet barreled into his own goalie, knocking the puck into his own net in the process. That was the way the night went for the Terriers, whose frequent mistakes ultimately led to the puck sitting in the back of their own net.

“We looked like we were trying not to lose,” said BU coach Jack Parker, “and when you try not to lose you usually do.”

Millan, who had already stopped 150 shots in BU’s quarterfinal series against the University of New Hampshire, set the record for most saves in the Hockey East Tournament with 189 saves after recording 39 Friday night. However, not even he could stop all of the shots he faced Friday night, especially with his own teammates knocking pucks into his net.

“We ran our own goalie and knocked the puck in the net,” Parker said, “so it wasn’t a real good night for us.”

Things didn’t get much better for BU after the Diamond goal, when defenseman Will O’Neill capitalized on a defensive-zone turnover by Sean Escobedo to net his second goal of the season. Escobedo had the puck behind his own net, but forward Mark Anthoine stole the puck and fed it back to O’Neill, who moved in to the slot before ringing one in off the post.

O’Neill and Anthoine both capitalized on BU penalties later in the game, as they, along with Diamond, scored four power-play goals in the game. One of the biggest problems for the Terriers all night was the penalty kill, where BU surrendered double the amount of goals than the amount of penalties it successfully killed.

On his power-play goal, O’Neill received a pass from Hockey East Player of the Year Spencer Abbott on a 4-on-2 rush and rifled it over Millan’s shoulder for his third goal of the season. The process that led to the goal began long before that shot was taken.

The penalty that O’Neill scored on occurred while BU was on a power play of its own. Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera mishandled a pass at the point, where Abbott pounced on the puck and skated in for a breakaway. Privitera, who had fallen while chasing Abbott, slashed him on his route to the net which drew a penalty while Millan made a sprawling glove save.

Then, while BU was killing that penalty, junior forward Wade Megan turned the puck over in Maine’s zone. The turnover led to the 4-on-2 rush, and with Privitera in the box and Megan behind the play there was nobody to pick up O’Neill as he had an open shot at goal.

Anthoine’s power-play goal came on another defensive-zone turnover, as sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening flung a puck through the zone that found the tape on Anthoine’s stick. The turnover gave Maine another chance at the goal, and he quickly released a wrist shot from the slot and found the top-right corner of the goal.

“The opportunities we gave up, especially on the power play — they have a great power play, there is no question about it – but they got power play goals where it was like ‘how did that happen?’” Parker said. “I’ll tell you how it happened. We passed it to them. Or we turned it over and gave them a 4-on-2.”

The mistakes that BU made both with penalties and turnovers cost BU a chance at a Hockey East title matchup with Boston College Saturday night, but these mistakes almost cost BU a shot at even facing Maine Friday night.

Poor defensive play and unfocused handling of the puck cost BU its first game of the quarterfinals against UNH, and almost cost BU the series in the Sunday night double-overtime win before it came back from a 4-1 deficit.

In fact, BU has been consistently making mistakes in every game since its 5-0 win over the University of Vermont on Feb. 24. In its past seven games in regulation time, BU is averaging over 36 shots on goal per game. Six of those seven games came against teams that were in the bottom-half of Hockey East, and three of them were against the only two teams that didn’t make the Hockey East tournament. That kind of defensive effort will not get the Terriers far in the NCAA tournament.

If it is going to succeed in the NCAA tournament, BU will have to improve its focus on defense and stay out of the penalty box. One way for the Terriers to do that is by not playing like they played Friday night.

“We were in and out with our effort. We were in and out with our thoroughness. We were in and out with doing the little things,” Parker said, “and there were an awful lot of guys who were out [Friday night].”

BU bows out of Hockey East Tournament with loss to Maine

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

A recurring theme that has haunted the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team for the past few weeks proved costly Friday night when the Terriers lost the Hockey East Semifinal, 5-3, to the No. 10/11 University of Maine in a game in which BU could not give a thorough effort for a full 60 minutes.

By virtue of the loss, BU (23-14-1) was eliminated from the Hockey East Tournament. Its season will continue for at least one more game, however, as BU already earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament, which will begin next weekend.

Maine (23-12-3) toppled the Terriers on the strength of four power play goals and out-shot BU 44-31.

“I can’t describe how disappointed I was in my team’s effort tonight, or lack of such,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “We had a lot of key guys just disappear I thought. I thought that we left Kieran out to dry a number of times. We gave up four power-play goals, one of which was an empty-netter, and they didn’t have to work for anything. We just turned it over and gave it to them.”

The Terriers were especially absent in their own zone. For the third time in the last four games, BU allowed its opponent to take more than 40 shots on senior netminder Kieran Millan, who could not come up with the heroics necessary to propel BU into the Hockey East Final. Millan made 39 saves on the night and is now the all-time leader for saves in a single Hockey East tournament with 189 saves in four games.

Millan stopped all 13 shots he saw in the first period, however, and BU took an early lead when junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson charged into the offensive zone, split the defensemen and lost control of the puck on his way to the net, giving the puck the momentum to slip through Maine netminder Dan Sullivan’s legs.

The Black Bears tied the game early in the second period on the power play. Millan made a save on Maine forward Joey Diamond, but BU junior forward Ross Gaudet barreled into Millan after he made the save, knocking both Millan and the puck into the net.

BU fought back to take a 2-1 lead 6:16 into the second period when sophomore forward Matt Nieto scored on a power play off a pass from sophomore forward Sahir Gill that found its way through the crease and traffic to Nieto.

That goal was the only bright spot of the period for BU. A few minutes after the BU goal, Maine nearly scored when Maine forward Adam Shemansky rang a shot off the right post. The puck bounced on the goal line before slipping away from the net. The officials ruled it a no goal on the ice, but had to go to review to confirm the call.

Maine tied the game at 2-2 just a few plays later, as Will O’Neill used linemate Mark Anthoine to screen Millan on a shot from the top of the slot that beat Millan high glove-side.

The Black Bears took their first lead of the night with 1:35 left in the second period. BU forward Wade Megan started the play with a turnover in the Maine zone. Hockey East Player of the Year Spencer Abbott recovered the puck, carried it into the BU zone, then passed to O’Neill, who roofed a shot past Millan to give the Black Bears the 3-2 lead.

BU looked to be in trouble early in the third period when Chiasson hobbled off the ice after being hit into the boards. BU’s leading scorer missed a few shifts, but the Terriers still tied the game at 4:03 in the third period when Nieto completed a tic-tac-toe play for his second goal of the evening.

Maine received a tough blow right before the goal, as Terrier defenseman Sean Escobedo elbowed Abbott in the head immediately ahead of the BU rush that resulted in the goal. The nation’s leading point scorer was down on the ice for several minutes before he was finally helped off, and he did not return. Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Abbott “did not look good” in terms of a return for the Hockey East Final Saturday night.

Despite losing Abbott, Maine took control of the game shortly after Nieto’s goal. BU turned the puck over in its own zone on a Maine power play, and Mark Anthoine, who was filling in for the injured Abbott, made BU pay. He picked the top corner of the net to help Maine to a 4-3 lead.

“The opportunities we gave up, especially on the power play where they have a great power play, there’s no question about it, but they got power play goals like, ‘How did that happen. I’ll tell you how it happened: we passed it to them or we turned it over and gave them a 4-on-2,” Parker said.

Despite a desperate BU attack in the waning minutes of the game, Maine held onto the lead and potted an empty-net goal with 28.7 seconds left to punch its ticket to the Hockey East Final against No. 1 Boston College Saturday night.

“We need to reflect on this,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “Guys need to come to the rink and every time you step foot in that building you need to be focused and realize what’s at stake. We still have an opportunity to win something big. Unfortunately we didn’t win the Hockey East Tournament this year but the big tournament is still ahead of us.”

Terriers prepare for battle against Black Bears in Hockey East Semifinals

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

On Thursday night, the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team attended the annual Hockey East Awards banquet to watch seven Terriers earn trophies and recognition for their play during the regular season. If the Terriers want to take home the ultimate team prize in Hockey East however, they still have work to do.

That work begins Friday night when BU will face off against the No. 10/11 University of Maine in the Hockey East Semifinals at the TD Garden. The draw is a tough one for the Terriers, who are 0-5 against Maine in semifinal play and dropped the season series to Maine this year.

“There’s definitely a lot on the line,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “Maine is going to give us everything that we can handle so we have to start focusing on that They’re definitely a much improved team from the first time we saw them up in Maine. They played us hard down here twice, so we’re going to know that going in and they’re going to be prepared for us so we expect a battle on Friday.”

The Black Bears enter semifinal play after topping Merrimack College in three games in a very physical quarterfinal series. Maine boasts one of the most potent offenses in the country, ranking seventh in the nation in scoring offense with 3.38 goals per game. The top line of Abbott, Flynn and Diamond lead the attack, as the trio have combined for 149 points (42 percent of Maine’s total offense) this season.

Maine’s offense, however, has quieted down some of late, as it scored just two goals in each of its games against Merrimack last weekend. The Black Bears have registered two or less goals in six of its last seven games.

When the firepower is lacking up front, however, the Black Bears can rely on sophomore netminder Dan Sullivan, who owns a .910 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average.

“We know they have a very good team and they have that top line in the country with [Spencer] Abbott, [Brian] Flynn and [Joey] Diamond, so we have a lot to handle there,” Connolly said. “We definitely respect this team a lot and we’re going to do everything in our power to be as well prepared as we can.”

For the Terriers, preparing for Maine started with some extra time off from practice. After playing two double overtime games in a three-game, three-day span in the quarterfinals against the University of New Hampshire, coach Jack Parker gave the Terriers their usual day off and then held a shorter-than-normal practice on its first day back.

The rest seemed to help, as according to Parker, the Terriers spent the rest of the week practicing harder than they have in a few weeks. The team also seems to have finally gotten rid of a flu bug that plagued the Terriers for more than two weeks. As of Wednesday, there had been no signs of the bug in the locker room for at least a few days.
The improved practices and newfound health is essential for a Terrier team that has not played a thorough game since topping the University of Vermont, 5-0, on Feb. 24. Although Parker said he was happy with his team’s resilience in its quarterfinal series against UNH, he noted that the Terriers must clean up their game if they hope to beat Maine.

“They certainly competed at the right times, but they didn’t compete for 60 minutes and we can’t have lapses like that against Maine,” Parker said. “We were resilient because we were down 4-1 and we were able to come back. But we would like not to be in those positions.”

BU will continue to lean heavily on senior goaltender Kieran Millan, who made a tournament- and personal-record 68 saves in the final quarterfinal game against UNH. Millan recorded 150 saves through the quarterfinal series and enters the semifinal game just seven saves shy of tying a tournament record for saves in a single tournament.

Millan and the rest of the Terriers are also looking to capture their second championship since a seven-championship 2008-09 season. The only championship that a class other than the seniors has won during their time at BU is the 2010 Ice Breaker Tournament championship.

“It’s been a little disappointing the last two seasons to miss out on the national tournament and last year not even make it to the Hockey East Tournament,” Connolly said. “So it’s good to be back and be back at the banquet and know we’re going to have a chance to win another championship here in the next weekend, and then taking a stab at the national tournament as well, which I think if we play our best hockey we have a good chance at going far in that as well.”

“We’re really eager and keen to get something under our belts here,” said junior assistant captain Justin Courtnall. “We just have to play one game at a time.”

Double the fun: Chiasson game-winner in double overtime sends BU to Hockey East Semifinals

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Throughout his Boston University career, senior goaltender Kieran Millan has broken most of the team’s goaltending records and set quite a few impressive personal records as well. On Sunday night, Millan shattered a less-than-72-hour-old personal record for saves in a game (47) by stopping 68 shots in the No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team’s 5-4 double-overtime victory over the University of New Hampshire in the final game of the Hockey East Quarterfinals at Agganis Arena. Millan, who has saved 151 shots in the past three games, is only seven saves away from tying the most saves in a Hockey East tournament.

He has a chance to set that record next weekend, since by virtue of the win, the Terriers (23-13-1) will return to the TD Garden to face the University of Maine in the Hockey East semifinals on Friday.

BU required 86:42 of hockey Sunday to complete a comeback from a 4-1 UNH (15-19-3) lead in the second period of Sunday night’s game. Junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson netted the game-winner for BU at 6:42 into the second overtime when he knocked a rebound in the slot past UNH goaltender Casey DeSmith.

“I thought that coming back in this game, we worked too hard to just let that go,” Chiasson said. It didn’t matter if that was me or someone else. It was just a great team effort. I’m so happy for all the guys.”

Read more at dailyfreepress.com.

BU player transcripts: Game 3 of Hockey East Quarterfinals

Following are the postgame transcripts from senior goaltender Kieran Millan, junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson and sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan.

Kieran Millan

On seeing so many shots
I don’t know I guess it kept me in the game. They threw a lot of pucks on net and were really shooting for rebounds I think a lot. Obviously you don’t want to give up that many shots, but we were able to gut out a win tonight and we played really well the second half of the game and throughout overtime so that’s a good step in the right direction. Hopefully it can carry into next weekend.

On how he dealt with the turnaround in BU’s play
Obviously getting a lot of shots gets you into the game pretty early. I let in a couple of goals I’d like back. Going into the third period when we were down a goal, I just really re-focused and was just doing what I could not to let another goal in and give our team an opportunity to come back. They were able to do that and then when it gets to overtime, you just don’t want to be the scapegoat so for the most part, you just try to stop everything that comes to you. Give your team time to get their opportunities and score.

They obviously had a few good opportunities and I was able to make big saves, but at the same time, our defensemen were doing a good job and making me have the ability to challenge and come out and make those saves because I wasn’t worried about a backdoor pass or anything so it’s a team effort, keeping the puck out of the net for that long is nice, but for Alex [Chiasson] to score is nice. I think there are a lot of guys on our team that played really well in the second half of the game. If they continue to play like that, we’ll have a good chance of going far next weekend.

On his final game at Agganis Arena
Yeah it was almost a little emotional when we did the salute I guess. You don’t really think about it that much when you’re playing, but or even this entire year, I haven’t really thought about it, even at seniors night, but it really is coming to an end a little bit and it’s weird to think that I’ve spent four years here, well me and all the other seniors have spent four years here and all the things we’ve been through. Just being over, it’s kind of sad, but at the same time, we have a great opportunity ahead of us to win something big and then go out with a bang, so we’re focused on that, but it has been a pleasure to play here.

On where this game ranks in his BU career
It’s tough to out-do any of those games, when we won the Hockey East and national championship my freshman year. Aside from that season I think this was probably the biggest game for us as a team, us seniors and juniors have gone a few years here without winning anything, so I think we’re all committed to giving our best and doing what we can to making a final push and win something as a group because it’s our last opportunity and for a lot of us, it’s our last chance to play here.

On how many shots he thought he saw
I would have thought maybe a little less. They threw a lot of pucks on net from the blue line or whatnot trying to get rebounds, so when you make those saves, you don’t really think about them, they just kind of go by without really noticing because they’re not very difficult, but it’s hard to gauge how many shots you have in a game unless its up on the scoreboard because you don’t really keep track . You’re just trying to keep the puck out of the net, give your team an opportunity to win.

Alex Chiasson

On the game-winning goal
I don’t how really. I think Conno [senior captain Chris Connolly] passed it to [junior forward] Wade Megan there and then Wade kind of moved it a little in the middle and then came back on the outside and I think that D just kind of froze and then he just shot it and I think in the chest or in his pads. He bounced it in front. I thought he played great all weekend. That’s what we were trying to do, just get pucks on him and trying to get a rebound and you know I happened to be there. I think it went five-hole. It was probably the biggest goal of my career for sure.

On scoring a goal in overtime
I mean obviously I think when you look at overtime, goals are always early in the period or late, most of the time, so I thought that first one, I had pretty good wood on it too but kind of missed that and he made a great save. Obviously I thought that coming back in this game, we worked too hard to just let that go so, it didn’t matter if that was me or someone else. It was just a great team effort. I’m so happy for all the guys. I thought Kieran just kept us in the game the whole weekend, and without him, we wouldn’t be here for sure.

On what sparked the team’s comeback
I think it all started with [junior assistant captain Justin] Courtnall, the way he was playing. I thought he had a pretty big hit there in the second at one point. For some reason, the game just changed right there. We just happened to have more momentum. It feels like everyone got their legs back and everyone’s making better decisions. It’s funny how that happens, but that’s part of hockey and that’s why we play 60 minutes. Sometimes it doesn’t work your way for the first 20 or 40, but you just have to keep working. I just thought that Courts kept us in the game for sure.

On the strength of the sophomore class
Definitely, I mean, if you look at our defensemen, Garrett [Noonan] and Adam [Clendening], definitely you know the two are the best defensemen in Hockey East or college hockey. Their talent just speaks for itself. I think they’ve challenged themselves throughout this year of becoming better players but better leaders too. That’s what we needed I thought. These guys have done a great job, and then you look up front and you look at Matty [Nieto] or [Sahir Gill] Giller those guys are just, it’s funny. They’re so young but they act like they’ve been through a lot, so as a captain and for a lot of the older guys, it’s not like we have to worry about these guys to make sure they’re really playing. They know every game is huge and we can rely on them to be great players for us.

On the team’s resilience
I think with everything we’ve been through, I think it started after Christmas how we were so resilient. I think it starts with everyone believing in ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we’re down four goals or we’re down one, I just think there’s that fire in the whole team that we know we’re capable of coming back in every game and that’s something you can’t really explain as to how does that happen. I think it has to do with our team chemistry and how guys just believe in the whole team concept. I mean we were down 4-1 and I was on the bench and I honestly thought that we were going to come back for some reason. I think this team has just been through so much and so much adversity that we believe in ourselves and we take pride of doing the right thing on the ice, and it’s great that we get the outcome of tonight and we keep playing for the Hockey East championship.

On how the team needs to improve
Right definitely. It’s kind of hard playing three in three. I think that has something to do with it, but I guess going down the stretch now, we’re going to have to win games back to back on Friday and Saturday so we can’t afford going down 2-0 or 3-0. It’s going to have to start with the first period, the first 10 minutes. Stick to our system. It’s something we’re going to have to work on. I think it started last week against Northeastern and kind of creeped[sic] in a little this week but I think like I said before, we got a little work to do, but we got the best goaltender in the country probably so he makes[sic] a good job to take care of a little mistake here and there.

Garrett Noonan

On what it means to him to be tied for national lead in goals by a defenseman
It doesn’t mean that much. I don’t know. I’ve just been fortunate. I’m playing on the power play with such skilled people, with Adam [Clendening] up top and then Alex [Chiasson], Conno [Chris Connolly], Megs [Wade Megan] and Niets [Matt Nieto], they kind of do all the work and I just camp out and tap goals in, so I don’t know. I’ve been really lucky and really fortunate, so it’s been a good year but hopefully we keep going. That’s all that really matters.

On if he has a history of offensive success
Yeah, I think coming into BU, I wasn’t offensive at all. I never played power play or anything. I think Adam [Clendening] was that guy and he’s really been that guy still. He makes everything work. I just try to play good defense. That’s what I pride myself on. Obviously the goals are nice, but I don’t know, I just want to play good defense. I think that’s how our team is going to be successful, is if our D core plays well and hopefully I can do that.

On how he gets down to the goal unnoticed so frequently
I really don’t know. They probably look at me and say, ‘Why should I cover him,’ but, uh, I really don’t know. I think about that all the time. I don’t know why.

On if it’s a timing thing
No it’s not a timing thing. I just kind of just go down and … just go down. I really just, I don’t know, it’s just when I feel comfortable going down and the guys in my group play together with the puck and I just had some tap-ins.

Season-long resilience leads Terriers to Hockey East Semifinals

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

The No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team earned a trip to the Hockey East Semifinals with a double-overtime victory over the University of New Hampshire Sunday night, but the game was not always a close one.

Just 4:34 into the second period, BU looked as though it was finished as far as the Hockey East tournament was concerned. The Terriers were trailing, 4-1, thanks to four unanswered goals that were capped off by a short-handed Mike Borisenok tally. The goal marked just the second time the Terriers allowed a short-handed score all season.

At that point in the game, BU could not do anything right, including getting a shot on net. BU was being out-shot by a more than 3-to-1 ratio. The Terriers were not winning puck battles, and could not keep pucks on their sticks or out of their zone. The team was playing so poorly that some fans headed to the exits despite the more than 30 minutes remaining in the game.

And so, with BU struggling mightily at the time, BU coach Jack Parker called a timeout.

“We called a timeout and I’m thinking, ‘Boys, we could have went out to eat instead of showing up here. We could have had a dinner somewhere,’” Parker said. “I said, ‘You look like you were Friday night. You’ve got to sooner or later stop and start this game all over again because you look exactly like you played Friday night. You look like you’re lost. You look like you’re inept and you don’t know where you’re going. Let’s get going here boys.’”

Read more at dailyfreepress.com.

Reunited second line sparks Terriers to Game 2 win

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

Through the previous eight games of the No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team’s schedule, one constant for BU has been the personnel on the top two lines. BU was led in those games by a top unit of sophomore wing Matt Nieto, senior captain Chris Connolly and junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson, while the second line showcased junior winger Wade Megan, junior center Ben Rosen and sophomore wing Sahir Gill.

But following a 3-2 double-overtime loss to the University of New Hampshire on Friday night, BU coach Jack Parker said he was shuffling lines because he wanted to find some way to spark his offense. As one of his changes, Parker reinstated a second line in which Gill centered Nieto and freshman Evan Rodrigues.

When they were reunited on Saturday afternoon, the trio turned in immediate results. The line combined for five points (two goals, three assists) in the Terriers’ 4-2 win over the UNH in Game 2 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals.

“They’re guys that are the straw that stirs the drink for us, so to speak,” Parker said. “They have to get things done for us. And that second line tonight got a lot of things done for us.”

Read more at dailyfreepress.com.