BU defense struggles again in loss to Huskies

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker hoped that his team’s defensive struggles had come to an end after a strong performance in the Terriers’ 4–1 win over Merrimack last week. However, the No. 9 Terriers are back to the drawing board after allowing six goals in a 6–5 loss to Northeastern University Friday at Agganis Arena.

Defensive zone turnovers and poor coverage doomed the Terrier (12–8, 9–5 Hockey East) defense, which allowed six goals for the third time in five games since returning from winter break.

“Our team defense has been something that has been sorely lacking since we’ve come back from break, and this was another example of it tonight,” Parker said. “We looked like we’ve lost our confidence on the defensive side, playing without the puck.”

Frequently, the Huskies (7–10–2, 4–8–2 Hockey East) turned rushes out of their own zone into odd-man rushes against the Terriers’ defense, which struggled to cover Northeastern on the backcheck.

“This was a ‘trying not to make a mistake’ defense corps we had out there tonight, instead of ‘trying to make good things happen.’ It’s just a frame of mind they’re in,” Parker said. “When you’ve been in this funk we’ve been in the last few games, with the exception of the Merrimack game where I thought we played extremely well defensively, it just seems to be growing on us.”

Parker emphasized that the lack of confidence from his core of defensemen is the main thing that is preventing the group from being successful again, saying his defensemen are “like an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.”

While freshman goaltender Sean Maguire could have stopped the first Northeastern goal, multiple Northeastern scores were a result of mistakes by BU defensemen.

The first of these incidents was on Northeastern forward Adam Reid’s goal in the first period, when Reid won a battle for a rebound and put the puck past Maguire. The rebound sat in the slot for two seconds with both senior defenseman Sean Escobedo and sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera unable to clear the puck away or cover Reid.

Northeastern’s forecheck appeared to have frustrated the Terriers at times, especially while trying to break the puck out of the zone. For a team that has an abundance of puck-moving defensemen, it struggled to remain composed with the puck in the face of the Huskies’ pressure.

An example of the forecheck causing issues for the Terriers came when freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen lost control of the puck while trying to escape Northeastern forward Cody Ferriero. The Kirkkonummi, Finland, native put it right on Northeastern freshman Kevin Roy’s stick, where he backhanded it over Maguire.

Another play that stood out among BU’s poor defense was on a goal by Ferriero, when he skated one-on-one with Privitera, undressed him with a slick between-the-legs deke, and fired it past Maguire for the goal. Privitera failed to get in the way of Ferriero, who was relatively unobstructed on the play.

The struggles for BU’s defense are relatively new. Before the break, BU had not allowed more than five goals in a game and had only allowed four or more goals in a game four times.

Before the winter break, the Terriers allowed only 2.33 goals per game. Since then, they have allowed 4.20 goals per game.

“Sometimes in hockey you go through ruts,” said junior defenseman and assistant captain Garrett Noonan. “That’s what we have been going through a little bit. We have got to be better and we know that. All of us.”

One way BU will hope to improve its defense is to bring junior Patrick MacGregor back into the lineup. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound defenseman is the biggest and most physical player that Parker can put in his six-man rotation, and was bumped out of the lineup when senior assistant captain Ryan Ruikka returned to the lineup Friday night.

According to Parker, there is no single defenseman that has played bad enough that he deserves to be a healthy scratch. One of them though, likely Ruikka, will have to sit tomorrow.

“It isn’t any one defenseman and it certainly isn’t any pair,” Parker said. “It’s the overall grand funk that we’re in from a defensive point of view.”

UPDATED: Terriers fall to Huskies, 6-5, despite late comeback

 By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff
Despite a three-goal third-period comeback, the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team fell again at the hands of former Terrier Vinny Saponari, who scored the deciding goal late in Northeastern University’s 6-5 win on Friday.

BU goalie Sean Maguire had a rough game without much support from his defense, allowing those six goals on 38 shots. His opposite, Chris Rawlings, let in five goals on 34 BU shots.

“I was very disappointed in our demeanor out there, our confidence level out there,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “It seems like we’re jumpy now. It seems like we’re afraid it’s going to go wrong, and it does go wrong.”

After a strong shift in the Huskies’ zone in the first period, freshman defenseman Ahti Oksanen got caught too deep in the offensive zone as a pair of Huskies came back the other way against his partner, senior Ryan Ruikka. Northeastern senior Robbie Vrolyk got around Ruikka for a shot that Maguire couldn’t handle cleanly, and the puck flipped over him and into the net.
BU (12-8, 9-5 Hockey East) tied it up quickly, though, when freshman forward Danny O’Regan fed a cross-crease pass to junior Matt Nieto, who one-timed it into an open net with Rawlings out of position. The goal came in the waning seconds of a BU power play with the Huskies’ Braden Pimm in the box. 
Then, with Northeastern defenseman Colton Saucerman in the box, junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan kept it rolling for BU. At the top of the circle, Noonan took a pass from low in the zone and ripped a wrist shot over Rawlings to make it 2-1.
Northeastern (7-10-2, 4-8-2 Hockey East) tied it up again with 2:34 remaining in the second. When BU couldn’t clear away the rebounds after Maguire kicked out on a series of shots, Husky forward Adam Reid eventually flipped one top-shelf.
Less than a minute later, Oksanen lost the puck behind the net and Northeastern freshman Kevin Roy took control of it. He also flipped a shot, this one a backhander, over Maguire before the goalie could get back in position.

“When they got possession of the puck in our zone, they threw it behind the net and we just couldn’t seem to keep them from getting it to the crease,” Parker said. “We wound up on the wrong side of them a lot.”

BU failed to register a shot through the first several minutes of the second period. In that time, Northeastern stretched its lead to 4-2 when junior Cody Ferriero stuffed in a rebound that had been bouncing around in front of Maguire.
The Terriers’ pace picked up somewhat after that, and they finished the second period with 22 shots after beginning it with eight. However, Northeastern had the bulk of the chances from prime real estate in front of the net, and they made Maguire work much harder than the Terriers did Rawlings.
With about four minutes remaining in the second, Ferriero carried the puck in on Privitera, who went down to block the anticipated shot in a manner that’s served him well this season. This time, though, Ferreiro hung onto the puck, maneuvered around him and shot high over Maguire to make it 5-2.

That kind of play was characteristic of the game, as Terrier defensemen found themselves out of position at the wrong time or simply made a series of bad decisions.

“We wound up letting them sift through our 2-on-1 too,” Parker said. “I don’t remember too many 3-on-2s or 4-on-3s, but there were a lot of 2-on-2s that turned into something awful for us, whether it be a goal or just a real good chance, because we just didn’t read it or play it right. And we backed off, backed off, backed off. We had a lot of defensemen get beat on one-on-ones tonight.”

The game was far from over, though, as the Terriers answered less than a minute into the third period. O’Regan found sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues wide open between the circles and hit him with a pass, and Rodrigues had all the time in the world to fire a shot over Rawlings for his fourth goal of the year.
Then BU caught a bit of luck. Off the faceoff, Grzelcyk controlled the puck and passed across to Noonan, who fired the puck into the crossbar. But on its way back out, the puck hit Rawlings in the back and rolled into the crease, where Rodrigues poked it in for his second goal of the night to make it 5-4.
Fittingly, it was Rodrigues and O’Regan who teamed up to tie the game at five, 6:36 into the third. After an initial shot on net, Rodrigues took the puck below the goal line and tried to stuff it in. He failed as Rawlings got over just in time, but the rebound came to O’Regan on the other side of the net, and he tapped it in.
But perhaps even more fittingly, it was Saponari, just as it was on the last day of the regular season last year, who put the Terriers away, sliding the puck past Maguire with just 2:03 left in the game for a 6-5 finish.

Parker said the defense was the team’s biggest problem, as it has frequently been in recent weeks, and that that has to change Saturday night against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

“We’ve got to solve that problem,” Parker said. “We’ve got to solve that quickly, because we’re playing the hottest team in college hockey [Saturday] night.”

Live blog: No. 9 BU hosts Northeastern, captain Vinny Saponari

Time/location (TV): 7 p.m., Agganis Arena (NESN)
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
Sean Escobedo – Alexx Privitera
Garrett Noonan – Matt Grzelcyk
Ahti Oksanen – Ryan Ruikka
Sean Maguire
Matt O’Connor
Anthony Moccia
Northeastern lines:
Kevin Roy – Mike McMurtry – Vinny Saponari
Steve Morra – Braden Pimm – Cody Ferriero
Robbie Vrolyk – Garrett Vermeersch –Adam Reid
Jarrett Fennell – Zak Stone – Ryan Belonger

Drew Ellement – Dan Cornell
Mike Gunn – Josh Manson
Dax Lauwers – Colton Saucerman

Chris Rawlings
Bryan Mountain
Derick Roy

Referees: Scott Hansen, Kevin Shea
Assistant referees: Jeremy Lovett, Joe Ross
Live blog: 

From the FreeP: BU prepares for tough weekend against Northeastern, UMass-Lowell

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

Of the Boston University men’s hockey team’s 16 remaining games, four — 25 percent — are against Northeastern University. They’ll meet the Huskies (6–10–2, 3–8–2 Hockey East) for the first time this season on Friday at Agganis Arena, then host the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for the first time on Saturday.
The last time the Terriers (12–7–0, 9–4–0 Hockey East) saw the Huskies, Northeastern captain and former Terrier Vinny Saponari was launching himself into the glass, celebrating an overtime game-winner in the last game of the regular season on March 3.
The image was a memorable one, though the game was meaningless for both sides, as BU had already clinched a playoff spot and Northeastern had already been eliminated from contention. BU coach Jack Parker said that is not his players’ enduring memory from last spring, though.
“This year’s team remembers last year’s loss to Minnesota [in the NCAA tournament],” he said. “That’s what they remember. They’re not remembering a game that didn’t count and didn’t have any effect on us at all.”
For more, including BU’s lines, go to dailyfreepress.com.