Three Thoughts: BU’s split with Vermont

Charlie McAvoy has a team-best 11 assists, but was held off the scoreboard this past weekend against Vermont. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Charlie McAvoy has a team-best 11 assists, but was held off the scoreboard this past weekend against Vermont. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team traveled to Gutterson Fieldhouse for a pair of games against No. 12 Vermont last weekend, falling 4-2 in Friday’s tilt before cruising to a 4-0 win on Saturday. A lot happened in the last series of 2016. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives from the Terriers versus the Catamounts.

1.) Keller’s return – Man, it’s good to have Clayton Keller back. After missing seven games, the star freshman forward returned to the ice Friday night, slotting back into his center spot on the second line. He didn’t miss a beat, as he won 12-of-14 faceoffs and notched a helper on Pat Harper’s goal in the second period. It was more of the same on Saturday, as Keller went bar down for his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third period. The Terriers may have gone 4-2-1 in Keller’s absence, but it’s obvious that BU is a much more dangerous team with Keller patrolling the ice. – Nick

2.) Power Play – BU came into this weekend having gone 1-for-24 on power plays in conference play. They really flipped the script on that one, going an impressive 3-for-8 on PP opportunities against Vermont. Bobo Carpenter and Pat Harper scored two on Friday, with Keller’s coming on Saturday. The Catamounts’ penalty kill was ranked 9th in the nation heading into Friday’s contest, so a very positive sign from a Terrier offense that has gone silent at times. – Nick

3.) Jake Oettinger – Sixteen games into the 2016-17 season, BU’s freshman netminder has recorded three shutouts and taken the starting job by storm. He posted 24 saves in Friday’s 4-2 loss, then bounced back on Saturday night and stopped 28 shots for his first goose egg on the road. Looking at the national picture, Oettinger is a top-five goaltender, at least according to USCHO’s statistics. Boasting .932 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average will do that for ya. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to point out that Oettinger soon heads to the U.S. Hockey World Junior Championship preliminary camp, so his stock should continue to rise.  – Jonathan

The Small Five

a.) Carpenter – I thought Bobo had a really strong weekend, especially on Saturday. On Friday, the sophomore kicked things off with a power play goal off a rebound, another case of him being around the puck at all times. On Saturday, Bobo was second on the team with four shots taken and was consistently chasing after the puck behind the Catamount net. He’s not going to get on the score sheet a whole lot this season, but he works his you know what off every night, and that was evident this weekend. – Nick

b.) Bellows sits – We mentioned in our Three Thoughts last week that we thought Bellows should sit a game, and that finally happened during Saturday’s win. He did have an assist on Friday, but he also was called for another penalty and finished the loss with a plus-minus of -2. It just hasn’t been the season we hoped the talented freshman would have, at least not yet. Hopefully he’ll turn it around in the second half of the season. – Nick

c.) Hockey East update – BU now sits tied for sixth in the Hockey East standings with 10 points in eight games. The University of New Hampshire, Notre Dame and Vemrmont are in front of the Terriers with 11 points each. Boston College may have a strong grip on the conference standings, but BU is right on the heels of the other frontrunners. Keep in mind, four of the five teams in front of the Terriers have played more games. – Nick

d.) Switzer and Diffley – Shane Switzer and Brien Diffley were pencilled into the lineup on Saturday night – Switzer alongside Brandon Hickey and Diffley with Somerby – and impressed. The moves were prompted by choice and necessity, as Dante Fabbro jetted off to Team Canada’s camp for World Juniors, while John MacLeod didn’t play. Nevertheless, these two blueliners seized their chance, contributing in notable ways to BU’s 4-0 shutout of the Catamounts. Furthermore, it was Switzer’s first appearance since Nov. 12’s 4-2 win over Michigan, while Diffley hadn’t skated since the 4-0 loss to UConn on Nov. 19. – Jonathan

e.) Team Defense –  For all the talk about how “stacked” BU’s offense is, it’s team defense is firmly entrenched in the country’s upper echelon. Its 2.06 goals against average is tied for the fourth fewest in Division 1 college hockey, while its 90.8 success rate on the penalty kill is third best nationally. One worrisome trend is the magic number number for opponents seems to be four – as in four goals allowed. BU has surrendered four strikes five times this fall semester, losing four times (t0 UConn, Michigan, Denver and Vermont) and drawing once (to Northeastern). – Jonathan

Three Thoughts: BU beats Colgate

In case you missed it, BU won its regular season opener on Saturday night, beating Colgate 6-1. There’s a lot to unpack from the game, so we offer three thoughts on how David Quinn’s team performed.

1.) Does Jake Oettinger have the starting job? – Not quite yet, but he made a strong case for Quinn to ride the hot hand in the coming weeks. He made 29 saves against the Raiders, and stopped a penalty shot in the second period.

As one could expect, he was humble as ever in his postgame interview, saying Connor LaCouvee and Max Prawdzik push him week in and week out. But there’s a larger elephant in the room: Oettinger is likely a high selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. That certainly helps his cause.

2.) The Curry line is for real – While so much attention falls on BU’s top two lines, it’s easy to forget the intensity and grit the third line brings. Freshman Patrick Curry serves as the center and senior Nick Roberto and junior Nikolas Olsson the wingers, forming a threesome that plays full tilt full time.

Of note, Roberto scored BU’s second goal against Colgate, and Quinn’s remarks are the most telling of all. He has so much respect for the effort they bring:

“I thought the Curry line played really well. Curry, Olsson and Roberto played really well, but all four lines played well. I thought McDermott’s line played well, and obviously our top two lines were productive as well.” – Quinn

3.) Tougher tests await – Last night’s win was impressive, but Colgate doesn’t quite represent an intimidating foe. For example, next weekend’s tilts are against the University of Denver, the very same team that bounced BU from the NCAA Tournament last year. Then there’s Hockey East play starting in November, and there’s no easy wins in that conference.

It’s easy to bask in the Terriers’ success right now – perspective is more important, though.

The Small Five

  • Brandon Hickey was nursing a small injury, Quinn confirmed in his postgame presser. That explains why he didn’t play against the U.S. NTDP last week, but he’s back at full health now.

“He was dinged up a bit, so we held him out and didn’t want to take a chance. So we just held him out for the U.S. game.” – Quinn

  • Speaking of injuries, Quinn confirmed that Ryan Cloonan, Nick Roberto and Oskar Andrén are all nursing injuries.

“Hopefully they’ll be back sooner than later, but they’re all dinged up. [They’re] day to day. Aren’t we all?” – Quinn

  • Penalties still a problem for the Terriers, who are adjusting to tighter refereeing. Sure, Colgate didn’t score on one, but a stronger team likely will. Quinn expects that area to improve soon, though.

“It’s early and we have nine freshmen, and it seems like every year I’m trying to figure out who the returning players are who kill penalties, and we’ve only got about three of them. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are learning what we’re trying to accomplish from a penalty kill standpoint, so we’ll work on it again this week.” – Quinn

  • One of the media members in attendance last night was ESPN’s Corey Pronman, who specializes in the NHL and prospects. Pronman and Quinn talked a bit after his postgame presser, causing the former to tweet out an interesting tidbit.  As Pronman alludes to, Fabbro and McAvoy essentially give BU two quarterbacks on the power play.


  • Speaking of Fabbro, it’s astounding how much he shoots the puck. He threw five pucks towards goal last night, finished with a +3 rating and controlled the offensive zone. It’s slowly becoming apparent why the freshman is so highly touted, and even more so why the Nashville Predators drafted him in the first round.

Three thoughts from Saturday’s win over Prince Edward Island

Now that the dust has settled on the Boston University men’s hockey team’s 10-2 win over the University of Prince Edward Island on Saturday night, let’s revisit some reactions. To be exact, we offer three takeaways from a contest in which penalties took over the narrative and fans got a glimpse into the well-oiled machine the Terriers could be in 2016-17.

Without further ado, here we go. Feel free to share your thoughts below, too:

1.) The goaltender battle – When people think of BU’s roster, odds are they aren’t jumping to the goaltender position. After all, there’s so much on-the-puck talent that it’s easy to forget Coach Quinn has three viable netminders who are all capable of stepping into the crease on any given night. That was exactly the case against PEI.

The veteran, Connor LaCouvee, got the nod in the first period, and was bested twice in a 5-on-3 scenarios. Quinn conceded in his postgame press conference that BU hasn’t even practiced 5-on-3 hockey yet, and senior captain Doyle Somerby assured LaCouvee was hardly at fault. The Canadian also made 11 saves, and looked assured from the start.

When the second period rolled around, freshman Jake Oettinger got the nod, and he didn’t disappoint, turning aside all seven shots he faced. The U.S. National Team Development Program product never look flustered, and that’s a positive sign. Then came the third period, giving sophomore Max Prawdzik an extended period of live action. Like Oettinger, Prawdzik posted a shutout, stopping the puck 10 times.

All things considered, Quinn has an intriguing goaltender proposition on his hands: Who gets the start? Is it the known commodity in LaCouvee? How about Oettinger, who has high NHL Draft potential? What about Prawdzik? As Quinn likes to say, playing goalie is just about stopping the puck. You stop it, you play. Will it all be that simple?

2.) The freshmen – Leading up to BU’s season, I spoke with John Gardner, Avon Old Farms’ head coach, for a New England Hockey Journal article. Gardner has been around the block once or twice, and he spoke glowingly about Patrick Harper, suggesting he could be BU’s sparkplug on offense. Now we all understand why.

Harper demonstrated incredible instinct in front of goal and an eye for a pass, finishing with a whopping five goals and two assists against the Panthers. The kid is legit. But let’s not forget that center Clayton Keller put up a hat trick of his own, defenseman Chad Krys tossed out three assists and blueliner Dante Fabbro finished with a goal and an assist.

A perhaps unnoticed bit was that winger Kieffer Bellows, the New York Islanders’ first round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, finished without a point. It’s not that Bellows played poorly, it’s just more that a solid night paled in comparison to his classmates. That’s how productive this nine-member freshmen group can be.

3.) The penalties – Holy cow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many penalties in a hockey game in my entire life. To be exact, PEI and BU combined for 122 minutes in the penalty box, and the refs called the game incredibly tightly.

That’s why it’s important to revisit this telling quote from Quinn’s postgame presser. He might have taken exception to the Panthers’ physical style, but he definitely wants BU to clean its game up:

“I thought college hockey had gotten away from calling penalties. I thought it was starting to morph into 1995, ‘85, and I just thought there was too much hooking, holding and grabbing, and we’ve got to get back to calling the penalties that are penalties. To me, we have to do a better job of staying out of the box. I’m not blaming the referees in any way shape or form. We’ve got to adapt to the way they’re going to call it, and we’re going to watch every penalty we took tonight and they have to have a better understanding of what a penalty is. You can’t hit people high, you can’t go over the top and hook somebody, and we just have to adapt. We will, we’ll adapt.” – David Quinn

Will this trend continue? Only time will tell.

The Small Five:

  • Shane Switzer, normally a defenseman, saw some time at forward. It’s likely not a long-term solution, but intriguing nonetheless.
  • Four forwards – Oskar Andren, Ryan Cloonan, Johnny McDermott and Chase Phelps – didn’t dress last night. We’ll follow up and see if there are any injury updates.
  • BU fans had to love seeing Nikolas Olsson and Nick Roberto back on the ice. Neither made huge contributions, but odds are that won’t be their role this year.
  • The Terriers could have one of the nation’s best power plays. Few teams can roll out two five-man units as skilled as BU’s.
  • Take this result with a major grain of salt. PEI is no Hockey East or NCAA team, and greater tests await. Namely the U.S. NTDP visits Agganis on Thursday night, and BU visits Colgate University on Oct. 8. Those will serve as far more accurate gauges of BU’s standing.