Offensive defenseman Ahti Oksanen continues to hone physical side of game

By Meredith Perri/DFP Staff
In his first goal of his college career, freshman Kevin Duane shot up the right side of the ice and ricocheted a shot off of the goaltender before seeing it bounce into the back of the net. The goal, which served as the Terriers’ only tally of the game, served as more than introductory milestone.
For the third straight game, sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen set up the play.
“I thought Ahti had a great night tonight,” said Boston University men’s hockey coach David Quinn. “He was probably our best player.”
With the Terriers down 2-0 to No. 17 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Oksanen demonstrated his improved play as he intercepted the puck on the Terriers’ blue line. From there the Kirkkonummi, Finland, native sent a bullet up to Duane, setting the freshman up for a breakaway goal.
Becoming a key part of the Terriers’ offensive chances, however, did not start during BU’s bout with RPI. During the team’s 3-1, season-opening win against the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 11, Oksanen registered an assist on all three of the Terriers’ goals. Two of those assists came within 90 seconds of play.
Oksanen continued to display his offensive ability the next night when he also helped out freshman center Nick Roberto on his first goal of the season. In fact, a BU freshman has yet to score a goal this season without having Oksanen’s name alongside his on the score sheet.
“He’s very [offensively] gifted,” said senior captain Patrick MacGregor. he gets the puck and seems like he makes a great play every time. He looks up the ice, and I think his vision is great.
“In our offensive zone, I think he does a great job with the puck, moves the puck well, doesn’t turn the puck over much. And also, this year he’s playing really well on defense, too. He’s a well-rounded defenseman this year. He really elevated his game a lot from last year.”
While it was only the third game, Oksanen is on pace to demolish some of his totals from last year. During the 2012-13 season, the defenseman registered had four goals and 13 assists, placing him third on the team in scoring amongst blueliners. This season, however, he is almost a third of the way into last season’s point totals with more than 91 percent of the season left to play.
According to Quinn, some of Oksanen’s improvements are a result of his improved defense.
“Many a time I envision him getting the puck because he was physical,” Quinn said.
The first-year head coach specifically referenced a part of the game where Oksanen laid into another player, and, although they both fell to the ground, Oksanen managed to get to the puck and start a two-on-one.
Although senior captain Garrett Noonan and sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk were expected to headline the Terriers’ defense, Oksanen has shown that can also contend with the team’s top defenseman. The 6-foot-3 defenseman has also joined Noonan as part of the team’s top defensive pairing in every game this season.
“He is not a dumb guy,” Quinn said. “He is a big guy, and if he can continue to use his size and strength, he is going to be rewarded for it on the score sheet.

“I’m really happy with his progress.”

Pluses and Minuses: Few bright spots in loss to RPI

Note: “Pluses and Minuses” is a new feature replacing what is normally called “Three Up, Three Down.” The idea is the same — to highlight certain areas, good and bad, of the Terriers’ game — but without the number constraints.

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

It had to happen eventually, right?

The No. 15 Boston University men’s hockey team lost its first game of the season at Agganis Arena Saturday night, a 3-1 decision to No. 17 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

RPI (2-1) took it to the Terriers (2-1, 1-0 Hockey East) early, and coach David Quinn’s crew never fully recovered. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for BU:

Minuses

1:32 in the first period 
Well, approximately. The Engineers came out of the gates flying, and the Terriers took longer than they would’ve liked to respond. It resulted in two goals — and an interference penalty on freshman defenseman T.J. Ryan — in a span of just 1:32. The second goal came 12 seconds into the power play.

RPI netted its first goal at the 3:25 mark, the result of digging at the net, and the beginning of a trend that lasted most of the night. BU reacted by being on its heels even more.

The Terriers got sharper in the second half of the first frame, but had nothing to show for it going into the dressing room.

“For some reason, we got off to a slow start and we suffered the consequences,” Quinn said. “The first period, they were walking out of their end, and we didn’t establish any forecheck. I didn’t think there was any anticipation in our game. I thought we were puck watching, which makes it difficult to anticipate plays.”

Ryan Haggerty’s second goal 
Quinn broke it down simply: Early in the third, the Terriers didn’t make the easy, five-foot pass to break out of the zone. Instead, they opted to send it all the way to the other end for an icing. The result was a faceoff in BU’s defensive zone, off of which Haggerty beat sophomore goalie Sean Maguire.

“The guys were anxious to get the third period going because of the way the second period went,” Quinn said. “But I thought that third goal really deflated us.”

That tally, combined with a pair of penalties (Matt Grzelcyk for hooking and Brendan Collier for interference), put BU “behind the eight-ball,” as Quinn termed it, when BU needed to get it going the most.

Sean Maguire 
On a day when he had a chance to put something of a stranglehold on the starting goalie position — Quinn said Thursday Maguire could get both games this weekend if he performed well Friday — the netminder didn’t exactly make the most of his opportunity.

While Maguire wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t his sharpest, either. Quinn mentioned the second goal in particular — a clean shot from the point through Maguire’s five-hole — as one the goalie likely wanted back.

“I could tell he was a little frustrated with that,” Quinn said before deflecting attention away from Maguire.

“Hey, again, we scored one goal tonight. We have got to generate more offense, and that is certainly something that we have to be conscious of.”

Quinn did not say which goalie, Maguire or sophomore Matt O’Connor, will get the nod Saturday vs. Wisconsin.

Pluses 

Kevin Duane 
Last weekend, the freshman wing recorded his first point in his first game. Friday night, he netted his first collegiate goal.

Sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen threaded a pretty pass right up the middle to Duane, who was behind the last Rensselaer defender. He beat RPI netminder Scott Diebold, who made 31 saves, by deflecting it off of his shoulder.

After the goal, Duane started to see more ice time, including some action on the power play late in the third.

“I was happy to see Kevin get rewarded because I thought he had a good night on Saturday against Holy Cross as well,” Quinn said. “The reason I played him as much as I did was because he was playing well.”

At the time, the goal in the last minute of the second period gave BU momentum heading into the final 20 minutes. That leverage evaporated when Rensselaer made it 3-1 just 48 seconds into the last frame.

Coincidentally, Duane and Haggerty grew up about 20 minutes from each other in Connecticut.

The third line

Quinn dropped sophomore wing Sam Kurker from the second line to the third, meaning he played with two of his former high school foes, freshmen Collier and Nick Roberto.

Although the trio didn’t find themselves on the scoresheet at night’s end, it did not take long for them to develop an effective chemistry. Collier, Roberto and Kurker had a particularly effective stretch toward the end of the second period when they generated several chances the shift before Duane found the back of the net.

UPDATED: RPI hands Terriers first loss of David Quinn era

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

No. 15 Boston University men’s hockey coach David Quinn now has his first loss as head of the Terriers, as BU fell to No. 17 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 3-1 Friday night at Agganis Arena.

A sluggish first ten minutes gave the Engineers (2-1) the only lead it needed, and RPI goaltender Scott Diebold did the rest — making 31 saves in the RPI win.

“We played for 50 minutes instead of 60,” Quinn said. “If we came for 60, it might’ve been a different story. …I didn’t think there was any anticipation in our game. I thought we were puck watching, which makes it difficult to anticipate plays.”

The Engineers got things started quickly, as forward Matt Tinordi shoveled a bouncing puck in front of the net between sophomore goaltender Sean Maguire’s pads to give RPI the 1-0 lead. Senior Brock Higgs had attempted a wraparound before the puck bounced out to Tinordi, so Maguire was already down before Tinordi cleaned up the rebound.

It did not stop there though, as RPI capitalized on a power play less than two minutes later. Soon after freshman defenseman T.J. Ryan was called for an interference penalty, forward Ryan Haggerty received a feed from linemate Jacob Laliberte at the point and fired it past Maguire for his third goal in as many games. Suddenly, BU (2-1, 1-0 Hockey East) was rushing to recover.

“When you go down 2-0 that early, it puts you on your heels a little bit,” Quinn said. “The thing that I did like was I thought after about the 10- or 11-minute mark of the first period, I thought we found our legs and the tide started to turn a little bit.”

One thing the Terriers struggled with on the night was keeping Engineers’ forwards away from high-percentage scoring areas. Tinordi’s goal came from a short distance outside of Maguire’s crease, while RPI had several other chances in front of the goal.

“I just thought they were bigger and older and stronger,” Quinn said. “I thought it really showed the net-front. They went to the net, they were hungry, a little bit more physical than we were at the net-front.”

The flow of the game began to even out at around the halfway point in the first period. By the end of the first, BU only trailed RPI in shots 10-9.

Things shifted even more into BU’s favor at the midway point in the second period though, and the Terriers finally cracked RPI’s Diebold with less than a minute remaining in the second frame. Freshman wing Kevin Duane took a long breakaway pass from sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen through the neutral zone, and flipped a wrist shot off Diebold’s shoulder and into the back of the net. It was Duane’s first collegiate goal, and Oksanen’s fifth assist in the first three games.

The Duane goal appeared to be a momentum-shifter, as the Terriers headed into the locker room at the intermission only down by one. However, the Engineers shut down that momentum quickly in the third, when Haggerty ripped another wrist shot past Maguire off of a faceoff win by Laliberte.

“Maybe I saw a little bit of heads go down on the bench, but I thought we picked it up,” MacGregor said. “When a goal is scored like that, it takes a lot of courage for a team to pick it back up and try to do whatever they can. I thought we did an OK job doing that tonight.”

There were several chances for the Terriers — who only had two power plays on the night — to come within one goal during the final two minutes with Maguire pulled. However, Diebold stood tall and handed BU its first loss of the season.

The Terriers have another tough test ahead, as it will face No. 2 University of Wisconsin Saturday night. The Badgers lost to No. 6/7 Boston College, 9-2, Friday night, which was an even bigger goal differential than RPI had in its 7-2 loss to BC last Sunday.

Live blog: No. 15 BU set to take on No. 17 RPI

Time/location: 7:30 p.m., Agganis Arena

BU lines:
Tommy Kelley – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Matt Lane – Cason Hohmann – Robbie Baillargeon
Brendan Collier – Nick Roberto – Sam Kurker
Mike Moran – Dillon Lawrence – Kevin Duane

Ahti Oksanen – Garrett Noonan
Matt Grzelcyk – Patrick MacGregor
Doyle Somerby – T.J. Ryan

Sean Maguire
Matt O’Connor
Anthony Moccia


Rensselaer lines:
Matt Tinordi – Brock Higgs – Johnny Rogic
Jacob Laliberte – Mark McGowan – Ryan Haggerty
Mike Zalewski – Matt Neal – Milos Bubela
Jake Wood – Mark Miller – Jimmy DeVito

Curtis Leonard – Chris Bradley
Guy Leboeuf – Bo Dolan
Luke Curadi – Parker Reno

Scott Diebold
Jake Soffer

Referees: Scott Hansen, Tim Low
Assistant referees: Brendan Kelleher, Chris Millea

Live blog:
 

From the FreeP: BU to play host to nationally ranked Rensselaer, Wisconsin

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff

And now, the true tests begin.

The No. 15 Boston University hockey team got off to a fine start last weekend, taking games from the University of Massachusetts and College of the Holy Cross, thanks in large part to solid goaltending and single tallies from six different players.

But this weekend’s slate is an animal of another sort.

The Terriers (2-0, 1-0 Hockey East) will host No. 17 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Friday night at 7:30 p.m., then No. 2 University of Wisconsin-Madison Saturday at 7 p.m. Both contests will be at Agganis Arena

“It’s like taking a test,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday — we got better every day this week. I’m anxious to see how we play Friday night.”

BU had no shortage of offense last week — it averaged one goal and 8.5 shots per period — but given that the season is still young, and the pieces to the Terrier puzzle are still coming together, Quinn is made changes offensively. The top three lines will look like this:

Tommy Kelley – Danny O’Regan – Evan Rodrigues
Matt Lane – Cason Hohmann – Robbie Baillargeon
Brendan Collier – Nick Roberto – Sam Kurker

The fourth line was still up in the air as of Thursday afternoon.

For more, visit dailyfreepress.com.

Ryan Santana steps up in BU’s 3-2 overtime win against Rensselaer

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
Thursday afternoon after the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team’s last practice of the week, senior defenseman Sean Escobedo said the team had a challenge. Who, in the absence of senior captain and leading goal scorer Wade Megan, would step up?
As the Terriers hosted the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Agganis Arena Friday night, Escobedo got his answer: Ryan Santana.
The senior forward, who switched from fourth-line right wing to center for much of the game as a result of Megan being out, scored a crucial game-tying goal in the first period and had arguably his strongest game of the year.
He played real well. Real well,” BU head coach Jack Parker reiterated. “He played on two different lines, too, so he got a lot of ice time.”
Indeed, after a less-than-impressive first 40 minutes for the Terriers (11-6, 8-4 Hockey East), Parker tinkered with the lines for the final frame. That resulted in Santana moving off the fourth line — during which he had freshman Mike Moran and senior Jake Moscatel on his wings — to third-line right wing with center Ben Rosen and left wing Matt Lane.
The changes led to big improvements for BU, as the Terriers came back to tie it in the third and then win it on sophomore forward Cason Hohmann’s overtime game-winner. But most of Santana’s damage came in the first two periods while he was playing his natural position of center.
The 24-year-old, Yorba Linda, Calif., native found the back of the net with about five minutes left in the first. Moran drove to the net and took the initial shot, then Santana got the rebound by RPI (6-8-4) goalie Bryce Merriam to knot the score at one.
The bottom two lines’ performance on the whole and Santana’s goal in particular drew praise from Parker, who said they played better than the top two offensive units for much of the game. Four of the top six forwards — freshmen Wes Myron and Danny O’Regan, sophomore Evan Rodrigues and junior Matt Nieto — stayed off the score sheet completely.
The third and fourth lines, our job is just to go out there and get it deep and try and bang bodies and put pressure on [RPI],” Santana said. “As the third and fourth line for tonight, those first two periods I think we did a good job of that. We didn’t try to do anything too fancy. That’s not really our job or our style.”
Santana would know.
In his three and a half seasons donning the scarlet and white, he’s never been a highly touted or flashy player. He’s never scored more than three goals in a season and has only 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in exactly 100 collegiate games.
But, once in a while, he comes through, just like Escobedo said someone would need to against the Engineers.
Santana’s energy also played a crucial role in helping the Terriers wake up from their apparent lackadaisical state over much of the last two games. After falling to the University of Denver 6-0 last Saturday, the Terriers were slow out of the gate again Friday.
Denver, we were still sort of Christmas mode. The work effort was there, but the awareness wasn’t there,” Santana said. “[Friday] from the first period we were still kind of in that Denver mode. Second period was a little better, and third period it was kind of like we were back to that first semester sort of awareness and playing, and that is a good — we have to carry that over to the next game now.
“Hopefully we can do that because we can’t make too many mistakes this second semester.”