Matt Nieto, Matt O’Connor lift BU past Merrimack, 5-2

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
Tuesday night at Agganis Arena, the No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team made coach Jack Parker look like a hockey psychic.
Don’t get yourself in a negative frame of mind and a negative attitude because you never know how close you are to turning it around,” Parker said Monday of the team’s second-half struggles. “At any moment we can turn it around.”
It’s hard to tell when that exact moment was, but the Terriers (15-14-2, 12-9-2 Hockey East) played what was arguably their best game in more than two months, beating Merrimack College, 5-2.
Junior forward Matt Nieto scored twice and assisted on another while freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor took care of business at the other end, making 32 saves in 34 chances.
BU controlled the pace from the outset and held a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period.
Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues got the Terriers on the board at the 9:47 the , taking the puck up the right wing, cutting across the slot and backhanding it by Merrimack goalie Sam Marotta. Senior defenseman Sean Escobedo was credited with the primary assist on the play after blocking a shot with his head to start the Rodrigues rush.
A minute and a half later, junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan fed senior captain Wade Megan a slick pass from the left circle. Megan deked around a Warrior in the slot and shot low to beat Marotta again.
Sophomore forward Cason Hohmann also found the back of the net on a rather odd play, which started when freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s shot got saved. The rebound kicked out into the slot before being tipped by Nieto and finished by Hohmann for a 3-0 lead at 15:41 in the first.
By the end of the frame, the Terriers had collected 19 shots on net — three more than they collected the entire game vs. UMass-Lowell Saturday.
The second period featured a new goalie for the Warriors (14-12-6, 12-8-3 Hockey East), as sophomore Rasmus Tirronen relieved Marotta when the teams returned to the ice.
Unfortunately for Merrimack it was more of the same, as Nieto found the back of the net twice to extend BU’s lead to 5-0.
First Nieto gave his freshman linemate, Danny O’Regan, a pass on the right side. O’Regan took it up the wing before centering to Nieto, who caught up to the play and got a shot off while falling down for his 10th goal of the season at 5:59.
At 12:38 in the second, Escobedo sent a clean breakaway pass to Nieto, who easily beat Tirronen high stick-side.
Warrior captain Jordan Heywood ruined O’Connor’s shut out bid in the third with a pair of goals, first from the point on the power play at 9:01 and then by netting a rebound at 10:54.

The Terrier defensive corps locked it down — and endured a couple Merrimack power plays — in the final half period to solidify the win.

Live blog: BU hosts Merrimack in mid-week make-up game

Time/location: 7 p.m., Agganis Arena

BU lines: 
Wade Megan – Cason Hohmann – Sahir Gill
Matt Nieto – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Matt Lane – Ben Rosen – Sam Kurker
Mike Moran – Ryan Santana – Jake Moscatel
Sean Escobedo – Ryan Ruikka
Garrett Noonan – Matt Grzelcyk
Ahti Oksanen – Patrick MacGregor
Matt O’Connor
Sean Maguire
Anthony Moccia
Merrimack lines:
Mike Collins – Brian Christie – Quinn Gould
John Gustafsson – Shawn Bates – Josh Myers
Kyle Singleton – Rhett Bly – Ben Bahe
Justin Hussar – Vinny Scotti – Connor Toomey

Tom McCarthy – Jordan Heywood
Brendan Ellis – Dan Kolomatis
Justin Mansfield – Kyle Bigos

Sam Marotta
Rasmus Tirronen
Nick Drew

Referees: Tom Benedetto, Tom Quinn
Linesmen: Bob Bernard, Charles Hanafin
Live blog:

From the FreeP: Men’s hockey expects tough Merrimack team Tuesday

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

The No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team may not have had practice Sunday, but BU coach Jack Parker spent his afternoon the same way a lot of college hockey fans in the area did: Watching No. 4 Boston College beat No. 17 Merrimack College in overtime.

And what Parker saw concerned him to an extent. The Warriors held Hockey East’s top offense — the third best in the country — to a single goal in regulation using a defense extremely similar to the one that stifled the Terriers (14-14-2, 11-9-2 Hockey East) all weekend.

“[Merrimack] played exactly like Lowell,” Parker said, referring to the team that held BU to one goal in two games over the weekend. “One man went down and then backed off. The other four guys waited at center ice because they wanted to bottle BC up and not give them anything through center ice.

“The bottom line is they played BC completely differently than they’ve played all year long.”

It could spell trouble for BU when the Warriors (14-11-6, 12-7-3 Hockey East) visit Agganis Arena at 7 p.m. Tuesday, a game the teams have to squeeze in after winter storm Nemo postponed it from its original Feb. 8 date.

Friday’s BU-Merrimack game postponed until Feb. 26

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

Friday’s game between No. 11/13 Boston University and No. 20 Merrimack College has been postponed due to the pending snowstorm, the team announced Thursday afternoon.

The game will be played on Tues., Feb. 26 at 7 p.m., and all tickets with Friday’s date will be accepted.

It is the first time a BU men’s hockey game has been postponed due to inclement weather since January 2011, also against Merrimack.

BU will play next 4:30 p.m. Monday against Harvard University in the Beanpot consolation game at TD Garden.

No. 8 BU turns it around on defense in win over Merrimack

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
NORTH ANDOVER — As Boston University students ready themselves to return to campus this weekend for second semester, it seems too that the No. 8 BU men’s hockey team decided to end its month-long break after three poor performances.
The Terriers (12-7, 9-4 Hockey East) returned to their first-semester form Friday night when they visited Merrimack College, beating the Warriors (7-9-4, 5-5-1 Hockey East) with a strong defensive effort, the complete opposite of what the team turned in Wednesday when it blew a three-goal, third-period lead against Harvard University.
We gave ourselves a much better chance to win because of the attitude we had about defense-first,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Nobody had a hangover from what we did to ourselves against Harvard. They wanted to come back and couldn’t wait to get back and try to redeem themselves. And they did more than that tonight. It was a huge win for us.”
BU did all of the things it needed to do but could not find the motivation for against Harvard. The penalty kill was perfect, killing off all three Warrior man-advantages, the forwards backchecked when they needed to and defensemen cleared rebounds in front of their own net.
The Terriers did surrender 38 shots, but many of those were from outside high-percentage scoring areas.
No matter where the shots were from, Sean Maguire stopped all but one. The freshman goaltender made 37 saves, allowing just a Kyle Bigos goal late in the third, for his fifth straight win.
The rookie has given up just three goals in his last four games.
Another huge game for Mags,” said sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera. “He is standing on his head lately. Both guys [Maguire and freshman Matt O’Connor] are playing well, but Mags especially has taken a big step forward here. We trust playing — we trust both of them — but he has been huge for us lately. He has been kicking it really well.”
Maguire got help from the skaters in front of him who blocked 25 shots in total — one more than the Terriers took on the night.
Privitera, who is returning from his two-game suspension, led the way with nine and now has a team-high 52 on the season. No other Terrier had more than two against the Warriors
Parker, who made Privitera sit out a second game after the blueliner got an automatic one-game suspension for a game-disqualification penalty, was more than pleased.
“I couldn’t be more happy [Privitera] is back in the lineup. I hope he stays there,” Parker said. “If he doesn’t lead the league [in blocked shots], his partner [senior defenseman Sean Escobedo] does. It’s a tough duo to get a puck to the net on. I thought he played great tonight. It was great having him back.”
Parker was complimentary of all six of his defensemen — Privitera and Escobedo, juniors Garrett Noonan and Patrick MacGregor, and freshmen Matt Grzelcyk and Ahti Oksanen — after what he called “a complete turnaround” from Wednesday’s game.
“As bad as our core of defensemen were the other night, it was just the opposite tonight,” Parker said. “They played real solid, play-the-right-way type of hockey.”
One of the pieces of the defensive core was MacGregor, who has had to battle all season to get in the lineup, often splitting time with senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka.
Against Merrimack, though, MacGregor gave BU a physical presence in the defensive end. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, easily BU’s largest defenseman, MacGregor being a physical presence is often the case.
“When Pat’s in the lineup he’s physical, and we like that about him and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted him out there,” Parker said.
Senior captain Wade Megan, who himself turned in a good effort on both sides of the puck while battling a sore shoulder, said this young BU team wants to avoid the mistakes it has made recently.
The team’s break, it seems, has ended.
Credit our guys, they just played phenomenal defensively,” Megan said. All of the little stuff that we were doing in the first half is coming back now. We need to do a lot more of the same.”

UPDATED: Sean Maguire stops 37 as Terriers top Merrimack 4-1

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

NORTH ANDOVER — After blowing a 5–2 lead against Harvard University Wednesday, the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team had no trouble holding onto its early advantage at Merrimack, topping the Warriors 4–1 Friday night.

The Terriers (12–7, 9–4 Hockey East) earned their first Hockey East win of the second half of the season thanks in part to freshman goalie Sean Maguire, who stopped 37 shots in the win. Maguire has a 1.83 goals-against average and .938 save percentage through seven starts this season, and has allowed only three goals in his last four starts.

“He’s got a great save percentage, he’s got a great goals-against average,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “He’s playing terrific and we really were back on our heels when they came out and started the third as hard as they did.”

Senior captain Wade Megan got the Terriers on the board first by making a great individual effort on the penalty kill. Megan carried the puck from his own blue line, made two dekes around Merrimack (7–9–4, 5–5–1 Hockey East) defensemen and then rifled a wrist shot over Merrimack goalie Rasmus Tirronen’s glove for his 11th goal of the season.

The goal was the only BU’s second shorthanded tally on the season, both of which were scored by Megan.

The Terriers carried that 1–0 lead into the second period in part thanks to a strong defensive effort in front of Maguire. BU led the first period in Grade-A chances 13–1, while Maguire made 14 saves.

Merrimack was better in front of Maguire in the second period, but it was still BU finding the scoreboard.

Less than four minutes into the frame, sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera faked a shot, faked a pass and then danced to his right before finding junior forward Sahir Gill with a pass on the doorstep of Merrimack’s goal. Gill tapped the puck past Tirronen for his fourth goal of the season.

Privitera also had an impressive night in his own zone, particularly in terms of blocking shots. The 5-foot-11 defenseman blocked nine shots, which gives him the team lead with 52 blocked shots on the season.

“That was a fabulous play on the goal, but he made a lot of good plays with the puck, he made a lot of good plays blocking shots, he made a lot of good plays on a defense,” Parker said.

The strong two-way performance for Privitera came in his first game back from a suspension he earned in BU’s 6–0 loss to the University of Denver on Dec. 29. Privitera missed one game while being diqualified by the NCAA for kicking an opponent, and then was suspended another game by Parker for the same incident.

“It is hard to watch your team play, especially when you are not injured,” Privitera said. “I learned my lesson at the right time during the season. It was nice to be back out there and get a win.”

Later in the second period, sophomore forward Cason Hohmann used some good hand-eye coordination to extend the Terriers’ lead to three. Both teams had four skaters on the ice when Megan flew down the left wing and used a saucer pass to find a streaking Hohmann in the slot. Hohmann batted the puck out of the air and between Tirronen’s legs to score his sixth goal of the season.

The Terriers added another to the scoreboard when junior forward Matt Nieto finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play 10:23 into the third period. Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues and freshman forward Danny O’Regan contributed the assists to Nieto’s fifth goal of the season.

Nieto has now scored four points in his last two games after only recording nine points through the first 17 games of the season.

“[Nieto is] playing really well,” Parker said. “As I said, I was surprised we had the record we had without Gill and Nieto. They contributed a lot but they weren’t contributing on the scoresheet as much, and that’s surprising but hopefully now they’ll keep on track. They are on track, hopefully they can stay on it.”

Merrimack defenseman Kyle Bigos broke Maguire’s shutout 13:38 into the third period on a booming slap shot from the point that tipped into the top corner of the net. Bigos, who set the Hockey East career penalty minutes record in the game, scored his third goal of the season on the shot.

The Terriers have now won four of their last five Hockey East games, and have five consecutive Hockey East contests on their schedule before they take on Northeastern University in the first round of the Beanpot. BU will take on Merrimack for its third time this season Feb. 8 at Agganis Arena.

“We played the right way tonight. We played hard, we played competitive and we played a team that’s really hard to beat at home, and we knew that coming in, so we certainly respected our opponent and we were ready to play,” Parker said. “I was really happy.”

Live blog: No. 8 BU returns to Hockey East play with trip to Merrimack

Time/location: 7:30 p.m., J. Thom Lawler Arena (North Andover)

BU lines:
Wade Megan – Cason Hohmann – Sahir Gill
Matt Nieto – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Mike Moran – Wes Myron – Sam Kurker
Matt Lane – Ben Rosen – Ryan Santana

Garrett Noonan – Patrick MacGregor
Sean Escobedo – Alexx Privitera
Matt Grzelcyk – Ahti Oksanen

Sean Maguire
Matt O’Connor

Merrimack lines:
Mike Collins – Brian Christie – Connor Toomey
Clayton Jardine – Shawn Bates – Josh Myers
Justin Hussar – Rhett Bly – Kyle Singleton
John Gustafsson – Vinny Scotti – Quinn Gould

Tom McCarthy – Jordan Heywood
Brendan Ellis – Dan Kolomatis
Justin Mansfield – Kyle Bigos

Rasmus Tirronen
Sam Marotta
Nick Drew

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

Live blog: 

From the FreeP: After players-only meeting, BU refocuses on defense before visit to Merrimack Warriors

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

After one of the worst losses in recent Boston University men’s hockey history Wednesday, the No. 8 Terriers got back to the basics Thursday at practice by refocusing on their defensive effort.

The practice, which BU coach Jack Parker called “fabulous,” came after a players-only meeting called by the seniors.

“[The meeting was to] just make sure stuff like that doesn’t happen again and … don’t let a game slip through our fingers,” said senior defenseman Sean Escobedo, referring to the Terriers’ 6–5 overtime loss to Harvard Wednesday. “It’s just [about] how yesterday we were freshmen and today we’re seniors, and time flies by so you have to take advantage of this opportunity.”

With that in mind, BU (11–7, 8–4 Hockey East) will look to bounce back Friday at 7:30 when it visits Merrimack College at J. Thom Lawler Arena in North Andover. It will be the second of three regular-season meetings between the teams, the first since BU beat the Warriors (7–8–4, 5–4–1 Hockey East) in mid-November.

“We haven’t been who we were most of the first semester, and that’s a team that competes hard and creates offense out of good solid defense,” Parker said. “You play defense with your heart and your legs and your head, and defense is much harder than playing offense.

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