From The FreeP: BU, fresh off No. 1 ranking, visits Merrimack

bumihvsmaine-35-400x266Fresh off its eighth consecutive win, the Boston University men’s hockey team will travel to Merrimack College on Tuesday night for a rare midweek clash.

Ahead of the game, however, a larger bit of news surfaced surrounding the program: the Terriers are college hockey’s newest No. 1 team.

BU (16-5-2, 9-2-2 Hockey East) last earned this distinction on Dec. 15, 2014, but head coach David Quinn scoffed at the recognition, especially with another two conference points at stake against the Warriors (8-13-3, 2-7-3 Hockey East).

“I pay zero attention to it,” Quinn added. “The only thing that matters is the PairWise [Rankings.]”

Doyle Somerby, BU’s captain and a senior defenseman, said the ranking is exciting, but also struck a similar chord with Quinn.

“We’re just chugging ahead,” Somerby said. “We were No. 1 a couple different times throughout my sophomore year, that national championship run, and we always seemed to slip up. A lot of the older guys here are saying, ‘Don’t even worry about it. Look ahead.’”

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From the FreeP: BU manages just 24 shots on goal in tie

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
When Boston University men’s hockey coach David Quinn walked into his team’s dressing room after the second period Saturday night, the Terriers were down 27-8 in shots to Merrimack College and had barely controlled the puck through the majority of the contest. He sensed his team was feeling down on itself after two consecutive games in which its offense did not even muster 20 shots.

So instead of yelling at his players for their poor performance, he lightened the mood by making a joke.

“I just said, ‘Hey, we poured it on that period. We got five,’” Quinn said. “It’s the pink elephant in the room … What are you going to do, not talk about it? Sometimes things are so bad, you have to make light of it.”

The joke seemed to do the trick — at least a little bit — as the Terriers (7-7-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East) doubled their shot total from the first two periods over the next frame and five-minute overtime period, finishing the contest in a 1-1 tie at Agganis Arena Saturday night. Still, the low shot total through the first two periods is representative of a recent trend for BU, which cannot seem to get the puck on goal.

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Pluses and Minuses: Terriers’ offensive woes once again play big role in 1-1 tie with Merrimack

By Conor Ryan/DFP Staff
It certainly wasn’t the weekend that the Boston University men’s hockey team wanted, as the Terriers only earned one out of a possible four points during a home-and-home series with Merrimack College.
The weekend series was capped by a 1-1 tie Saturday night at Agganis Arena, as the Terriers (7-7-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East), in what has been a recurring theme this season, struggled with getting shots on the Warriors’ (4-9-2, 1-5-2 Hockey East) net.
Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong Saturday night.
Pluses
O’Connor comes up big once again
Making his sixth straight start in net Saturday, sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor was great between the pipes for the Terriers. The Toronto native finished the game with 38 saves while only surrendering one goal off of a deflection from Merrimack freshman Chris LeBlanc 5:53 into the second period.
Over his last five games, O’Connor has averaged 38.8 saves per game, including a career-high 55 saves against then-No. 14/15 University of North Dakota on Nov. 23.
“I know I sound like a broken record, but he is obviously poised, he is confident, he doesn’t get rattled, he doesn’t waste movement, he is square to the puck, he is aggressive,” said BU coach David Quinn. “Thank god he is our goalie, because he makes life difficult for the other team.”
Rodrigues finds the back of the net
The Terriers got off to a fast start in Saturday’s contest, as junior forward Evan Rodrigues got BU on the board just 1:47 into the game.
After receiving the puck from freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon, Rodrigues skated into the left circle before firing the puck past Merrimack netminder Rasmus Tirronen’s blocker side for the score.
It was Rodrigues’ first goal since the team’s season opener against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on Oct. 11.
He is becoming a more well-rounded player,” Quinn said. “It was good to see him get rewarded for all of the hard work he has put in over the last month. And again, we are going to need him to be effective.”
Grzelcyk spurs Terrier offense
While he did not record any points in the game, sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was a constant presence offensively for the Terriers, leading all players with eight shots on net.
Grzelcyk had a great opportunity to end the game in overtime, as the Charlestown native nearly beat Tirronen with a wraparound attempt just a little over a minute into the extra stanza.
He just skated,” Quinn said. “He is a world-class skater and he is tough to contain. He is strong and he competes and he just took charge.”
BU finishes strong
While the Terrier offense looked downright anemic over the first two periods, the team showed some signs of life in both the third period and overtime, recording 16 shots during the final 25 minutes of play.
“I like the way we kind of rebounded and found our way after the first two periods,” Quinn said. “For us, we had a little bit of life after we killed the penalty. I don’t know if I’ve seen us that flat and that emotionless as we were in the first 35, 36 minutes of the hockey game, then after we killed the penalty I thought we gained a little bit of life, our power play had a little bit of life.”
Minuses
Terriers struggle with shot totals
Despite capitalizing less than two minutes into the game with a goal from Rodrigues, the Terriers once again struggled with getting the puck on net, as BU only managed eight shots through the first two periods. Going into the third period, the Warriors were outshooting the Terriers by a 27-8 margin.
This is not the first time that the Terriers have struggled with getting good looks at the net. In their previous two games against Merrimack (Dec. 6) and Cornell University (Nov. 30), the Terriers posted just 30 combined shots.
“Sometimes … you have to make the most of how you can play and how you can have success, and we’re still trying to find a way to do it,” Quinn said. “We’re not a big, strong team, and that’s a big, strong, older team, and we’re going to have problems with those teams.
“We’ve got to manage the puck a little bit better, we’ve got to play at a pace, we’ve got to make them uncomfortable — and we certainly didn’t do that for two periods. I thought we did a much better job in the third period and did a much better job in the overtime.”

UPDATED: BU and Merrimack tie, 1-1, at Agganis Arena

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff 

This weekend, David Quinn said, was of the utmost importance.

The four Hockey East points were crucial. Building on recent successes was imperative. And, with a home date with Bentley University next week the last game of the semester, heading into a three-week layoff on a high note would have been significant.

“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Quinn said Thursday. “There are 20 league games, and here comes games six and seven.”

But by the end of seven, the Boston University men’s hockey team came away with just one of those points — and very little momentum. The Terriers tied Merrimack College, 1-1, at Agganis Arena Saturday night, hardly salvaging a weekend home-and-home that featured them dropping Friday’s contest, 3-2.

Sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor — starting in place of classmate Sean Maguire, who missed the game with back issues — made 38 saves, and BU (7-7-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East) was buzzing in Merrimack’s zone for much of the five-minute overtime. None of its six shots found the back of the net.

The Warriors (4-9-2, 1-5-2 Hockey East) finished with a 39-24 shot advantage in a continuation of a season-long trend. BU allows an average of 37 shots on goal per game while garnering fewer than 27.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen us that flat and that emotionless as we were in the first 35, 36 minutes,” Quinn said. “We finally started spending some time in the offensive zone, we started skating, playing with a little bit of passion, little bit of enthusiasm. It’s hard in the middle of a hockey game to become enthusiastic and play with passion. I thought we did that.”

Merrimack mostly controlled in the first period, but fortunately for the Terriers, that trend didn’t start until a couple of minutes in.

BU took advantage of those opening moments when junior winger Evan Rodrigues scored a goal — his first since the season opener Oct. 11 — at the 1:47 mark. He took a pass from freshman center Robbie Baillargeon, skated into the slot and rang one off the pipe for the 1-0 lead.

Freshman wing Brendan Collier was awarded the secondary assist on the play, his first point in the scarlet and white.

“I’m really happy with where he is at,” Quinn said of Rodrigues. “It was good to see him get rewarded for all of the hard work he has put in over the last month. And again, we are going to need him to be effective. We are going to need him to be a point producer if we are going to have success.”

Shots were heavily in favor of the Warriors throughout the first two frames — at one point the scoreboard read 27-4 — and the visitors finally capitalized 5:53 into the second when freshman Chris LeBlanc tipped a soft wrister on goal from the top of the circle. The shot snuck through everyone cleanly before deflecting off LeBlanc’s stick to beat O’Connor stick-side.

The Terriers picked up the pace in the third but to no avail outside of 10 shots, more than they had in the first two periods combined.

Sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk finished with a game-high eight shots.

“He was our best defenseman tonight,” said senior captain Garrett Noonan, himself a defenseman. “He took the game over and he played awesome.”

BU’s penalty kill was effective the four times it was called into action, including thrice in the third period.

That was not particularly surprising for Quinn, who was very high on the kill units after a strong week of practice.

“It was almost like when we got the penalty kill, it was almost like we relaxed a little bit and we started skating,” Quinn said. “I almost didn’t put another guy out there after [the penalized player] came out. I said, ‘Let’s just go with four for now and see how this works.’”

Live Blog: BU looks to avoid weekend sweep at home against Merrimack

Time/location: 7 p.m., Agganis Arena

BU lines:
Matt Lane – Danny O’Regan – Nick Roberto
Tommy Kelley – Robbie Baillargeon – Evan Rodrigues
Brendan Collier – Dillon Lawrence – Kevin Duane
Jake Moscatel – T.J. Ryan – Matt Ronan

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

Matt O’Connor
Sean Maguire
Anthony Moccia

Merrimack lines:
Mike Collins – Vinny Scotti – Connor Toomey
Hampus Gustafsson – Brian Christie – Chris LeBlanc
John Gustafsson – Clayton Jardine – Quinn Gould
Kyle Singleton – Rhett Bly – Ben Bahe

Craig Wyszomirski – Dan Kolomatis
Justin Mansfield – Jonathan Lashyn
Brendan Ellis – Jordan Heywood

Rasmus Tirronen
Sam Marotta
Joe Pantalone

Referees: Scott Hansen, Kevin Shea
Assistant referees: Chris Aughe, Tommy George
Live blog:

Pluses and Minuses: Terriers “out-everythinged” in loss to Merrimack

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

NORTH ANDOVER — Boston University men’s hockey coach David Quinn did not see a lot of things he liked from his team in Friday night’s 3-2 loss at Merrimack, as he said his team was “out-everythinged” in the contest.

Here is a look at some of the pluses and minuses from the Terriers’ loss.

Minuses

Third period woes
The Terriers only lost one period throughout the game, but it was the one that was most important as they allowed two goals in the final 20 minutes to surrender their one-goal lead. BU was within one shot of the Warriors through the first period of the game, but were outshot 13-3 and took two penalties in the final frame.

“A big part of that was they’re 0-7 and they’re down 2-1 going into the third and we just didn’t have the ability to play hard in the third period when it mattered most,” Quinn said on his team’s play in the third period. “We got what we deserved.”

Tough luck for MacAfee
It is every defenseman’s nightmare to put the puck in his own goal, but the way freshman blueliner Dalton MacAfee tipped the puck through sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor’s five-hole was a weird one. When Merrimack defenseman Jonathan Lashyn flipped a shot from the blue line at goal, MacAfee tried to block the puck with his stick and ended up making a great deflection in Merrimack’s favor. It seemed like the play happened in slow motion, as the puck barely trickled past O’Connor.

MacAfee had been thrust into a more prominent role in the game, as senior defenseman Garrett Noonan was out of the lineup with an upper body injury. He did not play poorly defensively after that play, but he earned a minus for the play. The Needham native has not had a game with a positive plus-minus rating since the Terriers’ win over the College of the Holy Cross on Oct. 12.

Sloppy breakout in smaller rink
It is never easy to move the puck out of the defensive zone in college hockey, as just about every team is skilled at forcing turnovers and creating offense on the counter-attack. However, things are even more difficult at Lawler Arena, which has a slightly smaller ice surface than most college rinks and not as much room to pass the puck.

The Terriers had a lot of trouble breaking out of its own zone, especially with Merrimack’s big forwards clogging up passing lanes. Even sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who is typically one of the top puck-moving defensemen on the Terriers, had a bad turnover at his own blue line that set up Merrimack forward Quinn Gould for a scoring chance.

“Our D really struggled breaking pucks out tonight,” Quinn said. “Every time they got to the puck we stood still with it We just we created a lot of our own problems.”

Special Teams takes a step back
Quinn had noted that he thought his team had its best night of the season on the penalty kill in its previous win against Cornell. However, the Terriers allowed a lot of puck possession and quality shot attempts in their four attempts on the penalty kill Friday night, and even allowed a power play goal in the third period that tied the score at two.

BU’s power play was not much better, only totaling five shots on its four power play opportunities and not creating any really high-quality scoring chances. It took a while for the power play to get possession in Merrimack’s zone multiple times, and when it finally got the puck controlled the puck-movement rarely set up any shots without someone there to block it.

“Our power play’s been good for the most part this year, but again that was a microcosm of where we were,” Quinn said. “Flat, casual. No urgency.”

Pluses

Second goal
If there was one good play for the Terriers on the night, it was freshman forward Tommy Kelley’s goal, when freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon took a puck that was turned over at the blue line and slipped it to Kelley, who deked to his right before pushing the puck between Merrimack goaltender Rasmus Tirronen’s five-hole.

There were a lot of things to like for BU on the play, including the perfect pass from Baillargeon and the nifty move from Kelley. However, perhaps the most important part of the play was the turnover, which was forced by senior Matt Ronan. The Woburn native, who spent time at both forward and defense in the game, used his good speed to force a bad decision at the blue line that led to Baillargeon’s interception.

“That was a fantastic play,” said senior captain Patrick MacGregor. “The kid is a great skater. He is probably one of the best skaters on our team and when he uses his skating ability it really makes havoc in the defensive zone or in the offensive zone.”

A stark contrast: Garrett Noonan out hurt while Merrimack’s Mike Collins nets game-winner

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff 

NORTH ANDOVER — Moments before its matchup with Merrimack College on Friday, the Boston University men’s hockey team faced an unfamiliar scenario, an ever-so-slight deviation from the standard operating procedure.

Senior captain Patrick MacGregor huddled the team around the net and did all of the talking in the pregame chat — just as he usually does. But this time, he did it as the lone dressed captain.

Defenseman Garrett Noonan was out of the lineup with what the team called a “minor upper-body injury,” which when coupled with the return of Merrimack star forward Mike Collins after a four-game reprieve helped lead to the Warriors’ 3-2 win at Lawler Arena.

“In college hockey, you’re going to have injuries,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “We just came off not having Mikey and not having [senior defenseman] Brendan Ellis. You manage it. Obviously for our league you want the best players to be healthy. You want to see their best, and hopefully put forth your best against theirs.”

Noonan could return as soon as Saturday — MC will visit Agganis Arena for the 7 p.m. contest — but Friday the impact of his absence was immediate and significant.

Less than three minutes into the first period, Warrior freshman Jonathan Lashyn tossed a shot on net from the blue line. Freshman defenseman Dalton MacAfee, paired with sophomore Matt Grzelcyk with Noonan out, was all alone in the slot when the puck deflected off of his stick and through sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor’s legs.

It was “a freak reaction,” as MacGregor put it, but it was also a Warrior lead.

The teams found themselves deadlocked at two goals apiece in the final 10 minutes when Collins, a Boston native who played with Noonan at Catholic Memorial in high school and with the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL, struck for his 10th point in as many games this season.

Collins held the puck at the point before skating into the circle, then cutting to his left into the slot. He had beaten four of the five Terriers on the ice by the time he whipped a wrister on net, a wrister that beat O’Connor stick-side to put Merrimack on top for good.

It was the most dramatic of several examples of Collins seemingly taking over at will a game in which he finished with seven shots, more than double than any of his teammates.

The tally wasn’t exactly a surprise coming from Collins, who put together a 38-point season in 2012-13, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Quinn to swallow.

“He’s a great player. He’s a great player,” Quinn reiterated. “When you stand around and let somebody skate around like that, they’re going to be an even better player than they normally are, and that’s what happened tonight. We stood around and no urgency and just got exactly what we deserved.”

Dennehy was more complimentary of his senior assistant captain.

“He has been doing that since he was a freshman,” Dennehy said. “He’s a special player. I’ve learned a lot more from him than he’s learned from me. It’s good to have him back. He’s the type of difference-maker that can change a game, and he did so tonight.

“To have a player like Mike back in the lineup, you have somebody to look to. And when things aren’t going well, you’re looking for a difference maker, and he’s ours.”

UPDATED: Merrimack bounces back to defeat Terriers 3-2

By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff

NORTH ANDOVER — Down 1-0 and with just over six minutes left in the first frame, the Boston University men’s hockey team went onto the penalty kill for the first time during its tilt with Merrimack College. While the Terriers ultimately kept the Warriors off the board, though, the man-advantage kick-started a dominant stretch of more than five minutes for Merrimack.

The Warriors sent a flurry of shots toward wing Quinn Gould, who was stationed right in front of sophomore goaltender Matt O’Connor. With seconds remaining on the clock, it looked as though the Terriers would head to the locker room down by one.

In those waning seconds, though, wing Nick Roberto broke away from the pack as he skated down the left side of the rink. The freshman then sent the puck across the ice to sophomore blueliner Matt Grzelcyk, whose quick shot found the back of the net.

Although BU (7-7-1, 2-4-0 Hockey East) picked up the late tally in the first, it did not create the momentum shift the Terriers needed as the Warriors (4-9-1, 1-5-1 Hockey East) eventually came back to defeat BU 3-2 Friday evening at Lawler Arena. The victory marked the Warriors’ first in more than a month and continued BU’s winless streak during true road games.

“We got out-everythinged,” said BU coach David Quinn. “They outworked us, out hit us, out shot us, out passed us, out absolutely everything us tonight.”

The Warriors jumped on the board early after a shot by Jonathan Lashyn tipped off the stick of BU freshman defender Dalton MacAfee, giving Merrimack a 1-0 advantage just 2:34 into the game.

“That is one of those freak plays that happen all the time,” said senior captain Patrick MacGregor. “It happened early in the game, so I kind of told him after it happened, ‘Don’t let it affect you the rest of the way because then we are going to have a problem.'”

Over the course of the next 10 minutes, Merrimack held possession in BU’s defensive zone and stymied a Terrier power-play unit that had only four shots, all of which were from outside the perimeter, during two separate opportunities.

After senior wing Jake Moscatel made his way to the penalty box for boarding, the pace of the game picked up as Merrimack not only put significant pressure on the Terrier defense, but also maintained it after BU killed off the penalty.

“We created a lot of our own problems,” Quinn said. “In the same breath, that was a team that was playing hungry, and they were well coached as they always are. They just made life miserable for [us].”

For a brief period of time, all of that changed when Roberto and Grzelcyk teamed up to put the Terriers on the board with a mere 15 seconds left in the frame.

With a blank slate heading into the middle period, the pace of the game evened out until wing Tommy Kelley made a few quick moves to give the Terriers a 2-1 lead. The freshman earned his second goal of the season after he picked up a pass from classmate center Robbie Baillargeon, deked Merrimack goalie Rasmus Tirronen, then backhanded the puck into the back of the net.

Merrimack was not done, however, as it took control of the game in the third, eventually outshooting the Terriers 13-3 and tying the game 4:27 into the third period while on the power play. After a centering pass from the left faceoff dot went by one Warrior, center Brian Christie picked up the puck and snapped it into an open net.

“Sure a big part of that was they’re 0-7 and they’re down 2-1 going into the third,” Quinn said of Merrimack’s performance. “We just didn’t have the ability to play hard in the third period when it mattered most.”

Left wing Mike Collins, who returned to the Warriors lineup after missing four games due to injury, gave Merrimack the lead after he wristed a low shot from the slot that found its way by O’Connor’s blocker with 9:40 remaining in the frame.

“He’s a great player,” Quinn said. “When you stand around and let somebody skate around like that, can be an even better player than they normally are and that’s what happened tonight.

“We stood around and [had] no urgency and just got exactly what we deserved. Exactly what we deserved. It should have been worse probably.”