Long list of firsts ends BU’s magical season in championship

Danny O'Regan gets knocked down.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Danny O’Regan gets knocked down.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

For the last game of the year, there sure were a lot of firsts occurring Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Boston University men’s hockey team, none of those firsts went its way.

In 19 games where the Terriers held a lead after two periods, the Terriers were winners of all 19.

In five games at TD Garden, BU was undefeated.

In games where the Terriers took at least 50 shots, they never lost.

In title clinching, playoff-elimination and tournament games, BU boasted an unblemished 8-0 record.

In the National Championship Game, those streaks came to a crashing end.

The season that had been filled with many trophy ceremonies, new hats and smiles ended only in heartbreak and disbelief. BU did not win its first championship in six years. Providence College celebrated its first national title. The smiles, trophy and new hats were on the other side.

For a team that seemed to have endless magic, one last miracle never happened.

But even in tough moments throughout Saturday’s final game, it didn’t initially seem like the luck would run out.

Like when BU fell down early 1-0, the Terriers answered back with a quick, albeit unusual, goal from junior winger Ahti Oksanen that snuck in between the post and goaltender Jon Gillies’ right pad. By the smallest of margins, the game was tied.

BU’s first line then came out for a faceoff, won the draw and skated it down the ice, with junior forward Danny O’Regan scoring a goal. In four seconds, the Terriers had taken the lead and set an NCAA Tournament record for fastest consecutive goals. In the blink of an eye, BU was back in control.

Even when forward Mark Jankowski tied things up 4:29 in the second, there was no panic. BU peppered Gillies with 22 shots in the period, finally breaking the tie when senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann wristed one in halfway through the period. That all but ensured a one-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

It looked as if everything was all coming to fruition, and it would culminate in one last championship. But everything was not as it seemed.

Providence pushed hard, as one would expect, in the opening ticks of the third. Just like they had against University of North Dakota the game before, BU hung on through the initial storm. At the 11:24 mark, though, everything changed.

Defenseman’s Tom Parisi’s simple chip-in from center ice was flubbed by an indecisive junior goaltender Matt O’Connor, and with the unluckiest of plays, the game was tied. The Terriers had overcome weak goals given up by O’Connor before, including one in each of the two previous games. This time that didn’t happen.

Brandon Tanev celebrates his goal.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Tanev celebrates his goal.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Even after a timeout that looked like it might settle the Terriers down, Providence’s Kevin Rooney won a faceoff against freshman center Jack Eichel in the BU zone, winger Brandon Tanev corralled the puck and roofed it high over O’Connor’s left shoulder. With 6:17 left, Providence, not BU, had the lead.

But that’s when BU’s top-six forwards were supposed to step in. That’s when the formidable line of senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues-Eichel-O’Regan was supposed will its way to a tying goal. That’s what happened all season. But it’s not what happened Saturday night.

Rodrigues, who had been so integral to this season’s late run, was held off the score sheet. And although O’Regan and Eichel worked to score BU’s second goal, they were held in check by Rooney’s line. The trio had 11 shots on goal, but none hit twine in the third period.

And in the final push with an extra attacker, Gillies, who had been unshaken throughout the third, left one open opportunity with one minute remaining, one BU had cashed in on time and time again. A diving attempt by both Hohmann and sophomore forward Nick Roberto looked like it would have eyes and head into the gaping net. It looked to be enough to at least force overtime.

Like every other play in the third period, it wasn’t enough. Gillies made a sprawling save, stunning the BU bench. The Terriers wouldn’t get a better chance in the following 60 seconds.

In such a special season, BU came up just short for the first time.

TRANSCRIPT: Yale comments after OT loss to BU in NCAA regional

Opening statement from head coach Keith Allain
Allain: I thought it was a hard-fought game, and I think BU’s a very good team. Well-coached. I wish them luck going forward in the tournament.

After second period, with 1-0 lead, was that the style you wanted to play against BU? What changed?
Senior Trent Ruffolo: I guess the first part of that, our goal was to get the get the first goal of the game, it was definitely our mission. I don’t think anything changed on our end, but I think they may have picked it up a bit, I thought it was a pretty even-matched game, especially toward the end here.

After you kill off penalty in overtime, did you think you had a chance?
Ruffolo: Yeah, we looked to take any momentum off of that kill. Our goal was, going into overtime, to take it out of their control first, and we’ll get it back to our game.

What will you remember about seniors?
Ruffolo: I don’t know if I can explain that. My classmates are some of my best friends at school. It’s definitely hard to go out like this but I think that’s what makes it special, we are such a close class.

Pace of first period — did early effort come back to bite you?
Ruffolo: I disagree with that. I don’t think that we held back at all. I think that’s exactly the style of play that Yale hockey should be associated with. I don’t think that bit us in the butt at all. That’s just how we play.

How much of a battling team did you have this year?
Ruffolo: Yeah, I guess that’s pretty much our character all year long. We fought … I feel like that’s part of our identity as a team, we fight till the very end. And it works out that it had to end the way it ended.

BU getting upper hand in second half of game? What changed?
Allain: I think they had three strong plays. The shot total got run up with the power plays.

After two periods, with lead, did you have them exactly where you wanted?
Allain: Well, exactly where I wanted to be was up 4-0 after two (laughter). But it was the kind of game we thought it would be. We felt it would be to our advantage if they were chasing us rather than us chasing them, but that’s not exactly what it would be.

Impressions of Eichel?
Allain: We went up against a great BU team, first of all. But I think Jack’s a terrific player, he’s probably the best player in college hockey this year, and he’s only a freshman. And I think he’s got a really, really bright future ahead of him.

Consistency of team?
Allain: I think this team has overachieved, and I agree that they have been consistent in in-game performances. And it’s really because of their consistency in their approach. I can’t think of two practices in the past six months where I wasn’t happy with the effort they gave, the energy they brought or the mental preparation they brought to practice. And I think we need to practice like that on a daily basis, and things go back to being consistent on the weekends and that’s what this group was.

How proud are you of the achievement after uncertainty of making tournament in first place?
Allain: I’ve had pride in this group all year long, that Harvard series was a heck of a series and we ended up losing that in overtime, but I was extremely proud of my team after that series. I guess I’m not thinking about pride right now because this is what I expect from this group. This is what they are, this is what they do. So they’re just being themselves.

Scoring opportunities off turnovers?
Allain: I think it’s what we try to do on a game-to-game basis. We consider ourselves a strong forechecking team, we like to apply pressure on the puck all over the ice, and do that effectively. Not just with one guy but with all five guys kind of acting in concern with creating turnovers.

How surprised about penalty with 10 seconds remaining?
Allain: I don’t have any problems with the officiating out there tonight, if that’s your question.

Live blog: No. 2 BU vs. No. 17 Yale (NCAA Northeast Regional)

Time/Location: 2:00 p.m./Verizon Wireless Arena

Game Preview

TV: ESPNU/TSN2

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

Yale Lines
Trent Ruffolo – Stu Wilson – John Hayden
Anthony Day – Charles Orzetti – John Baiocco
Frankie DiChiara – Carson Cooper – Cody Learned
Ryan Hitchcock – Chris Izmirlian – Mike Doherty

Tommy Fallen – Adam Larkin
Ryan Obuchowski – Nate Repensky
Mitch Witek – Rob O’Gara

Alex Lyon
Patrick Spano
Connor Wilson

Live Blog BU vs. Yale (NCAA Northeast Regional, 3-27-2015)
 

NCAA Tournament field set, BU to play Yale in Northeast Regional

The selection show is over and the bracket is set for the 2015 NCAA Tournament. For the third time this season, the Boston University men’s hockey team will play in the state of New Hampshire.

The Terriers were given the No. 3 seed overall and the top spot in the Northeast Regional that will be played in Manchester, New Hampshire. BU will face Yale University on March 27 at 2:00 p.m. in the first game. Although they haven’t played Yale, the Terriers are 3-2-1 against ECAC opponents this season.

Along with BU, Hockey East schools Boston College and Providence College are among the 16-team field. The other No. 1 seeds include Minnesota State University Mankato (the overall top seed), Miami University and the University of North Dakota.

Here is what the full bracket looks like:

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire) 

  • No. 1 Boston University vs. No. 4 Yale University, March 27 at 2:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 University of Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 3 University of Minnesota, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)

  • No. 1 Miami University vs. No. 4 Providence College, March 28 at 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 University of Denver vs. No. 3 Boston College, March 28 at 3:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Midwest Regional (South Bend, Indiana)

  • No. 1 Minnesota State University Mankato vs. Rochester Institute of Technology, March 28 at 4:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 University of Nebraska Omaha vs. No. 3 Harvard University, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

West Regional (Fargo, North Dakota)

  • No. 1 University of North Dakota vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac University, March 27 at 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 Michigan Tech University vs. No. 3 St. Cloud State University, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

Live blog: BU women’s hockey plays undefeated Minnesota for national championship

Time/location: 4 p.m., Ridder Arena (Minneapolis)


BU lines: 
Sarah Lefort — Marie-Philip Poulin — Jenelle Kohanchuk
Louise Warren — Isabel Menard — Kayla Tutino
Rebecca Russo — Jill Cardella — Jordan Juron
Sarah Bayersdorfer — Shannon Mahoney — Dakota Woodworth

Shannon Stoneburgh — Shannon Doyle
Kaleigh Fratkin — Kathryn Miller
Lillian Ribeirinha-Braga — Caroline Campbell

Kerrin Sperry
Alissa Fromkin

Minnesota lines:
Bethany Brausen — Sarah Davis — Meghan Lorence
Maryanne Menefee — Hannah Brandt — Amanda Kessel
Becky Kortum — Kelly Terry — Rachael Bona
Sam Downey — Katie Frischmann — Brook Garzone

Baylee Gillanders — Megan Bozek
Lee Stecklein — Rachel Ramsey
Milica McMillen — Mira Jalosuo

Noora Räty
Amanda Leveille
Shyler Sletta

Live blog:

Early goal propels Terriers to national championship game

By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — When junior co-captain Marie-Philip Poulin heads to the faceoff circle, chances are she will win possession for her team. In fact, out of all the players on the No. 2 Boston University women’s hockey team’s roster with consistent faceoff experience, Poulin leads the team with a success rate of 64.1 percent.

What isn’t likely is BU (28-5-3) taking the opening faceoff win and converting it into a goal within seconds.

Nonetheless, the Terriers did just that Friday night as they defeated Mercyhurst University, 4-1, to advance to the NCAA title game on Sunday.

“It breaks the ice. It gets you relaxed,” said BU coach Brian Durocher of the early goal. “I’ve always said if you get one goal [your opponent needs] three before you’re really in the panic mode. So to get that jump makes a big, big difference in this game.”

That jump came just 13 seconds into the game. After Poulin won the faceoff, the Terriers skated toward the Lakers’ net. Poulin then connected with senior forward Jenelle Kohanchuk, who put the puck by Mercyhurst netminder Stephanie Ciampa for the extremely early lead.

What seemed like a fluke goal, however, turned into a theme as the Terriers came out strong at the start of each period, slowly developing a dependable lead over Mercyhurst (29-7-1).

“I think it was all about our team chemistry,” said junior goaltender Kerrin Sperry, who blocked 26 shots. “First, you know, getting [Kohanchuk] out there scoring the first goal, we all get pumped up. That was a great start.”

After holding the score to 1-0 for the duration of the first period, the Terriers gave themselves an extra cushion exactly one minute into the second, when senior forward Isabel Menard and junior forward Louise Warren teamed up to create a 2-on-1 down the right side of the ice.

Menard then wristed a shot by Ciampa, once again halting any momentum the Lakers might have had entering the period.

Just over halfway through the second frame, Mercyhurst suddenly found itself with an opportunity to inch its way back into the contest when sophomore defenseman Shannon Stoneburgh earned a five-minute major for grabbing the facemask of one of the Lakers’ players during a scrum.

What looked like a Mercyhurst opportunity, however, quickly turned into a demonstration of BU’s ability on the penalty kill, as the Terriers not only killed off the penalty, but also forced the Lakers to take a penalty of their own.

Once again, neither team could find the back of the net after BU’s early scoring. That is, until the third period when Kohanchuk made a pass to senior defenseman Kathryn Miller right in front of the crease three minutes into the frame.

Earlier in the contest, Miller had a goal waved off after officials determined that she hit the puck with a high stick. This time, however, the shot counted and gave BU the three-goal lead that it needed to close out the game.

“Miller doesn’t score tons of goals, 20 goals a season,” Sperry said. “She got down there and scored a goal and that pumps everyone up, and I think that allowed us to close the game out on the scoreboard, obviously. And then also, internally for our team, I think that really got us going.”

Seven minutes later, BU jumped out of its early-period scoring habit when a breakaway by Poulin gave the Terriers a 4-0 advantage.

Mercyhurst finally found the back of the net with fewer than two minutes left in the game, but, at that point, the team’s fate was already decided.

With the win, the Terriers advance to the NCAA championship game for the second time in three seasons. This time around they will face the undefeated University of Minnesota, who made it to the final round after an overtime win over Boston College earlier Friday.

BU, like every other team who has played the Gophers in the past few weeks, knows that Minnesota has yet to lose a game this season. For Durocher, this means that the team just needs to keep its calm as they have tried to do all season.

“Whatever shows up Sunday, we have to react to it. We have to keep our composure,” Durocher said. “The biggest thing is to be excited, but have it be channeled energy.”

Sperry BU’s best penalty killer as Terriers top Clarkson, 5-3

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

The penalty kill took center stage in the Boston University women’s hockey team’s 5-3 win over Clarkson University on Saturday, and true to the old saying, junior goalie Kerrin Sperry was called on to be her team’s best penalty killer.

Sperry made 11 saves on the PK – 34 overall on 37 shots – and may have been the biggest reason the Terriers topped the Knights in the first round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Frozen Four.

“It’s the third game in a row where we’ve had to do a good job killing penalties, and so far we have in those three games,” BU coach Brian Durocher said. “My charge is to see if we can avoid [taking penalties].”

On Saturday, BU gave up five power plays, including two late in the third period as Clarkson was surging offensively. With key players in the box – first junior defenseman Kaleigh Fratkin, then star freshman forward Sarah Lefort – and Clarkson chipping away at BU’s lead, those kills were crucial.

On those Knights power plays, the penalty-killers in front of Sperry stepped up, blocking shots and clearing the puck over and over before Clarkson could set up in the offensive zone. But on the Terriers’ third penalty kill of the game, early in the second period, Sperry essentially kept BU in the game herself.

With Lefort in the box 4:27 into the second, BU struggled to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. Clarkson fired shot after shot on Sperry, most through at least two or three players in front, but Sperry found each one, diving to cover loose pucks in the crease.

Her defensemen helped out – junior Kaleigh Fratkin swatted away a puck headed for the crossbar at one point – but it was Sperry who shut down what could have been a crucial Knights power play, stopping five shots in those two minutes. For the rest of the period, she did the same.

“That’s a time when the game could really change, because it goes to 2-1 for them, and their size and their strength and their composure with their talented goaltender, it may have been a lot harder for us to have the luck,” Durocher said. “But we got the second goal after the penalty kill, and it gave us a little bit of a chance to maybe get a lead and obviously win the game.”

Clarkson had 11 Grade-A chances in the second, not including one that popped up from behind the net and forced Sperry to make an outfielder-style catch. They scored on just one, a rebound that defenseman Erin Ambrose picked up after Sperry had already stopped multiple point-blank chances.

Although BU had possession of the puck in the offensive zone for much of the second, they had seven of their shots blocked in that period (and 20 in the game). Clarkson allows just 24.9 shots on net per game, a testament to a strong defense corps, making strong goaltending even more crucial than usual.

“They’re a team that prides themselves on, I guess you’d call it, New Jersey Devils hockey,” Durocher said. “They don’t take many chances. They don’t use a lot of energy forechecking. They use it on defense and in the neutral zone, and they just take advantage of opportunities.”

BU’s offense broke through eventually, scoring four times in the game’s final 25 minutes, but they may not have been in the same position to take over the lead if Sperry hadn’t kept the game close earlier.

“We just try to help her out, but I think she does a great job by herself,” junior captain Marie-Philip Poulin said of Sperry, laughing. “She really stood on her head a couple times, and we are really happy to have her back there.”

Connolly leaves behind personal legacy of leadership

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Boston University men’s hockey senior captain Chris Connolly is not a big guy. He is only 5-foot-9, and he weighs just 170 pounds. But packed inside one of BU’s smallest players is the leadership, character and attitude that made him one of the Terriers’ most important players over his four-year career.

As the final horn sounded at the Xcel Energy Center after BU’s 7-3 loss to No. 6 University of Minnesota in the NCAA Regional Semifinal, it signaled the end of the career of one of the most respected leaders the BU hockey program has ever had.

“We thought he was going to be a captain of the team as a senior when we recruited him,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “He knows how to do the right thing. He knows how to be a good teammate and a good captain, which is sometimes not being a good teammate. He is one of the best captains we have ever had. . . . We’re very, very proud that he wore our uniform.”

Read more at dailyfreepress.com.