Three up, three down: BU’s offense comes from centers in win over Holy Cross

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Three Up

Scoring from the middle
The Boston University men’s hockey team has high expectations from its top two centers, and for good reason. Sophomore center Danny O’Regan led the team in points (38) a season ago, while junior center Cason Hohmann scored more than a point per game through the first half of the season.

The duo showed why those preseason expectations were so high Saturday night, when they each scored in the Terriers’ 3-2 win over the College of the Holy Cross. O’Regan’s goal in particular was a pretty one, as he found a seam in the Crusader’s defense and undressed goaltender Matt Ginn with a deke before backhanding the puck into a gaping goal.

It came as no surprise that the top two centers made a big impact in the game, but it was a nice sign for the Terriers that two of their top contributors are back on the scoresheet.

Nick Roberto provides spark on power play
It was not just the two returning centers that shined Saturday night. Freshman center Nick Roberto scored his first collegiate goal — second if you count the goal he scored in the preseason game against St. Francis Xavier University — and had several other scoring chances in the contest.

“He’s a guy that we’re lucky to have,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I think his best hockey is ahead of him. He’s certainly made the transition to college hockey, I don’t want to say look easy, but it’s certainly been a smooth transition for him, and he has fit right in.”

Roberto has found a nice niche as a man in front of the net on the power play, and has won several puck battles against bigger defensemen than him. If he can continue to do that, he may find himself with more of an even more prominent role than he already is.

Playing time spread throughout roster
Quinn started the year by saying that he didn’t really know much about his players, as he had only spent a few weeks with the group. After the first weekend, Quinn has gotten to know his players a lot better as every player on the roster (with the exception of third-string goaltender Anthony Moccia) earned ice time on the weekend.

After freshman forward Brendan Collier, senior forward Matt Ronan and freshman defenseman Doyle Somerby made their season debuts Friday night, sophomore forward Mike Moran, freshman forward Kevin Duane and freshman defenseman T.J. Ryan all appeared in Saturday’s game.

“I did it because I thought they deserved to be in there,” Quinn said. “From a numbers standpoint we have 14 forwards and seven D-men. It’s not like we’re dripping with bodies around here. The guys that came in tonight certainly had great nights.”

Three Down
MacGregor familiarizes himself with sin bin
The season is still young, but senior captain Patrick MacGregor has already found himself in the penalty box more at consistently high rate. MacGregor has four minor penalties through the first two games, including another two interference penalties Saturday night.

MacGregor was good defensively for the most part on the weekend, but he was also the man matched up with Holy Cross forward Mike McNamara when the Crusaders scored their first goal of the game. He will have a longer leash than most in terms of making mistakes due to his leadership abilities, but Saturday’s contest featured a few notable ones that need to be fixed come next weekend.

Ryan shaky in debut
Ryan made some nice plays, including one where he forced a turnover with a nice pinch at the blue line and created a scoring chance. However, the freshman made multiple poor decisions with the puck in his own zone that led to turnovers, and was not particularly good in one-on-one situations.

The one play in particular that stood out with Ryan in one-on-one situations was the Crusaders’ second goal, when forward Adam Schmidt faked outside and slipped inside on Ryan before being tripped up and scoring a goal from his stomach. Ryan was beaten and then tried to recover by taking a penalty*, but Schmidt scored the goal anyway.

While Ryan was not great Saturday night, it is important to keep in mind that it was only his first collegiate game and that most freshmen need time to adjust to the faster pace of play early in the season.

*Correction: Ryan was not called for a penalty on the play. The referee raised his arm for a delayed penalty as Schmidt was hooked down on the rush, but the penalty was waved off once the goal was scored.

Terriers struggle with power-play conversion
BU has scored twice in two games on the power play, but it has missed several other opportunities to cash in with a man advantage. Currently, the team’s power play percentage is at 16.6 percent (2-for-12).

It is not that the Terriers have not moved the puck well, but rather that there is nobody available to finish off the passing play. During a first-period power-play opportunity, Hohmann had the puck to Ginn’s right three times with the opportunity to shoot, but elected to pass into a crowd of defenders instead. The idea was right, in that there were forwards with open chances at the goal if the puck had reached their sticks. However, the Crusaders defenders were playing to defend the pass, leaving Hohmann with an open look at goal.

Hohmann’s power-play goal Saturday night came off of a rebound, as senior captain Garrett Noonan’s shot bounced off of Ginn’s pad and into space where Hohmann easily finished the play. Perhaps the Terriers will look to create more opportunities off of shots Friday against Rensselaer.

Three up, three down: Kurker, third line come through as BU advances to Hockey East semifinals

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

The No. 18 Boston University men’s hockey team finished up its Hockey East quarterfinals series with Merrimack College early on Saturday, winning the second game of the series 5-3 at Agganis Arena. Here is a look at what went right and what went wrong in Game 2.

Three Up

Sam Kurker and the third line
It was a big night for the third line of senior Ben Rosen and freshmen Matt Lane and Sam Kurker. For a unit that has struggled to score all season, only combining for nine goals all season before Saturday, it scored the game-tying and game-winning goals to help the Terriers advance to the Hockey East semifinals.

Kurker, who was moved to the power play for the first time this weekend, finally broke scoring drought which dated back to Dec. 6, 2012. In his 22 games since then, Kurker only totaled two assists. However, the Reading native credited his new role on the power play as a source of confidence.

“I love [playing on the power play],” Kurker said. “I’m a big guy out front just trying to battle out front and open up space for the skill guys around the top. Tonight it really worked out well.”

Sean Maguire
Freshman goaltender Sean Maguire may have lost his shutout streak at 151 minutes and 22 seconds, but he still had another strong night in net for BU. The Powell River, British Columbia native stopped 39 shots in his fourth consecutive win, including 18 in the second period.

In his six games since taking over the full-time starting goalie job on at the beginning of March, Maguire has a 1.68 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage. Senior captain Wade Megan noted that Maguire’s play as of late has helped the team play more confidently in front of him.

“When he is able to make saves and make them look easy it kind of puts a little calming effect through our team,” Megan said. “We just want to get in front of pucks and do what we can to keep the puck away from the net. But we know that if we make a mistake then he will be there to back us up.”


Resilience
It was not an easy win by any means for BU Saturday night, but the Terriers are moving on to the semifinals thanks to their ability to respond to Merrimack’s goals. For every goal Merrimack scored, BU scored the next one until it pulled away with two goals in the third period.

Perhaps the most important goal of the game was Kurker’s goal in the final eight seconds of the second period. Merrimack forward John Gustafsson had just scored a goal to give his team the lead with a little more than a minute remaining in the frame. However, Kurker responded with a late power-play goal to give BU the momentum entering the game’s final period — momentum that turned into two more goals to seal the BU victory.

Three Down

Goals late in periods
It did not come back to hurt the Terriers in the end, but BU allowed a goal in the final two minutes of the first two periods Saturday night. The first goal — a breakaway goal by Merrimack forward Shawn Bates, was right at the final minute mark of the third period.

Goals late in periods tend to be the moments that shift the momentum of a game from one side to another. However, thanks to BU’s resiliency Saturday night, it was able to come back and pull ahead in the third period for the win.

Penalty Kill
BU entered Saturday’s game having killed off its last 20 penalties. However, after BU extended that streak to 21, Merrimack had little trouble scoring with a man advantage, scoring twice in its final two chances.

BU allowed a breakaway for Bates’ goal in the first before leaving Merrimack’s top scorer Mike Collins alone at the top of the circle for the Warriors’ second goal. It was the first time BU allowed more than one power-play goal in a game since Feb. 15 at the University of Maine.

The penalty kill definitely has to tighten up for its next game, as it will be facing off against Boston College’s power play, which is the best in Hockey East with a 22.4 conversion percentage. That is more than three percent better than UNH, which has the second-best power play in the league with an 18.9 percent conversion percentage.

Lots of shots
In what has become a bit of a trend, Maguire had to make a lot of saves Saturday night. The freshman had to make 39 saves in the win as BU allowed more than 40 shots.

Maguire has now made 30 or more saves in six of his last seven starts, showing that BU is letting a lot of shots through. Maguire is playing well enough to make enough saves to win, but he is forced to play well every night to keep the Terriers’ season alive.

Three up, three down: BU defense stifles Merrimack, but Terriers still have work to do

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

The Boston University men’s hockey team took the first necessary step forward of the postseason on Friday, beating Merrimack College 3-0 at Agganis Arena in the first game of the Hockey East quarterfinals. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for BU in Game 1.

Three up
Peppering Marotta 
BU hit Merrimack junior goalie Sam Marotta with 45 shots Friday, and attempted a total of 77 compared to the Warriors’ attempted 50. In the second and third periods, they had 20 Grade-A chances to Merrimack’s four.

Although BU coach Jack Parker praised the Warriors’ energy in the first period, BU outshot them 13-7 even in that frame. The Terriers picked up the pressure from there, registering 15 shots in the second and 17 in the third. Marotta had a .933 save percentage on the night, stopping 42 shots, but that wasn’t enough to earn his team the win.

“We looked pretty sharp with the puck, played hard without it, and I liked our grit, and I liked our poise with the puck,” Parker said.

Defense creates “hole in the middle”
For most of the game, BU’s defensemen kept Merrimack to the perimeter in the offensive zone, preventing them from getting quality scoring chances. That was nowhere more apparent than on the shot chart from the second period: Merrimack didn’t take a single shot from below the faceoff dots or anywhere in the slot.


The Terriers didn’t block an outstanding number of shots. In fact, they only blocked seven, a relatively low figure by their standards. But they forced the Warriors to the outside, making it harder for them to challenge freshman goalie Sean Maguire.

“We did a good job of not giving them big jumps, two-on-ones or three-on-ones,” Parker said. “We had a couple of two-on-ones and they didn’t. So we did a good job on that. But we did defend pretty well in Grade-A. I think that was an aberration that that was such a big hole in the middle. I don’t think that happens very often with them. They usually get the puck to the net. So we played pretty well there.”

Santana on the board
Before Friday’s game, senior forward Ryan Santana hadn’t scored since Jan. 4 against Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute. He picked up his second goal of the year to give BU a three-goal cushion just 55 seconds into the third period Friday, a rare payoff on the scoresheet for all the work he’s done on BU’s power play and penalty kill recently.

“He’s a senior. He’s getting a lot of ice time. He was a fourth-liner for us – he’s still a fourth-liner for us, but he now kills every penalty and plays every power play, and nobody deserves it more than he does,” Parker said. “He works so hard, and he’s a great example of, keep working. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Three down 
Power play underperforms
In eight power-play opportunities, the Terriers had 14 shots, almost a third of their total on the night. However, they scored just one goal, the rebound Santana jammed past Marotta early in the third.

Second- and third-chance goals on the power play are nothing to complain about. Considering the number of shots BU had, though, their production could be disappointing. The Terriers also failed to capitalize on a prolonged 5-on-3 in the third period, although they were already up 3-0 by that point.

Lack of depth on defense exposed, briefly 
The scariest moment of the night for BU came not from any Merrimack scoring chance, but when freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk slammed awkwardly into the boards in the second period. Grzelcyk stayed facedown on the ice for a minute or so and skated off favoring his left leg.

He returned for the rest of the game and took his shifts as usual, although he appeared to be skating somewhat stiffly at times. Parker said it was a relief to see him return, although he wasn’t sure whether the ankle might swell up more after Grzelcyk removed his skate.

If Grzelcyk had been unable to play the rest of the game, BU would have had five defensemen dressed, including junior Matt Ronan, who played sparingly.

“As my twin brother Bob always, says, ‘I was a-scared,’” Parker said. “We can’t afford to lose [Grzelcyk] or anybody, so it was nice to see him get up. When he walked off, I thought, he’s going to be okay. We’ll see what happens when he takes his skate off – it might puff up a little. We’re really thin there.”

Not done yet
This isn’t a negative so much as a fact, but BU still has at least 60 more minutes to play against Merrimack, and despite the way they’ve dominated the Warriors this season, they can’t afford to take them for granted in a best-of-three series.

The Terriers’ NCAA tournament hopes rest on making it deep into the Hockey East tournament. That’s especially true because eliminating Merrimack from the conference tournament actually removes Merrimack from being a Team Under Consideration for the NCAA tournament, thereby hurting BU’s standing in the PairWise rankings. So even though they’ve now won three straight games for the first time all year, the Terriers still have plenty of work ahead of them before they can begin to celebrate.

Three up, three down: Terriers’ hot finish key headed into postseason

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
After all that, the Boston University men’s hockey team is hosting a Hockey East quarterfinal series.
The No. 19 Terriers (18-15-2, 15-10-2 Hockey East) handled Northeastern University, 5-0, Saturday night at Agganis Arena. With a little help from UMass-Lowell, which beat Providence 4-1, BU nabbed the third seed in the league tournament and will play Merrimack at Agganis next week.
Here’s a look at what went right (a lot) and what went wrong (a little) against the Huskies (9-21-4, 5-18-4 Hockey East).
Three up
Finishing hot — and happy
To paraphrase junior forward Sahir Gill, if you told BU a month ago it would finish third in the conference, it would’ve taken that in a heartbeat.
The team’s well-documented struggles in the second semester are a bit easier to swallow now that they finished with four wins in the last five games, taking eight out of 10 points and sneaking into the top four in the process.
During the midst of BU’s slump coach Jack Parker mentioned there was something wrong with the locker room — nothing in particular, maybe, but some sort of tension or stressor. Losing will do that to a team.
Now, though, seems to be different.
We played more of a team game,” Gill said of the difference between this weekend and two earlier losses to Northeastern. “At times this year we had a tough streak after Christmas I think, maybe guys were maybe pulling in different directions.
“Everyone thought it had to be them or it was one individual that was going to get us a win, but I think the best that we play is when we’re as a team, and I think tonight and this weekend you saw a lot of [that].”
Sahir Gill’s pair of goals
Gill is a distant sixth among BU’s top-six forwards in terms of scoring, but with a pair of goals in the third period Saturday he climbs to a respectable 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) on the season. He also has four points his last three games.
Gill said he felt “a little relief” to net a pair, adding that everyone’s going to need to contribute in the playoffs with the Terriers having exactly zero healthy scratches.
He also mentioned a conversation between he and Parker during which the coach told him to pick it up effort-wise.
“The points haven’t been coming but it can get frustrating at times but you don’t want to be a distraction that way. You want to keep playing hard. You don’t want to be a liability,” Gill said. “The quote I like to refer to is, ‘If it’s not working, you’re not working hard enough.’
“I don’t think [Parker] was happy with my effort, and I agreed with him, that’s just something I kind of wanted to go in this two games this weekend was just really focus on working hard first and not worrying about the points and sometimes that’s just they way it goes.”
Sean Maguire’s third shutout of the season
The freshman netminder has now started four games in a row — the first time a BU goalie has done so all season — and discounting the game in which he found out he was starting just hours before, he has played very well.
With 26 saves Saturday night, Maguire improved his save percentage to .919 and goals-against average to 2.72.
More important than the numbers, though, is his confidence headed into the postseason. He and the team know he will be in net every night, and although he didn’t exactly have to stand on his head to whitewash the Huskies, another shutout can only improve everyone’s level of comfort in the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect.
“It’s nice to see guys blocking shots with a minute left, two minutes left to get that shutout for him,” Gill said. “For him going forward, that’s probably huge.”
Honorable mentions: Danny O’Regan (one goal, two assists), Matt Ronan (first career point, an assist), special teams (two power-play goals, 4-for-4 on the penalty kill).
Three down Two down
The second period
After BU steadily controlled play throughout the first, outshooting Northeastern 11-2, the Huskies flipped the script a bit the next 20 minutes.
The Huskies ended up with a slight 10-9 shots on net advantage, but the disparity in momentum was bigger.
The change from the opening frame to the middle one didn’t escape Parker.
They outplayed us in the second period,” Parker said. “We were waiting for something bad to happen, it looked like, and then we came out and got the goal right off the bat in the third, and that kind of took the pressure off.”
Lack of depth
It wasn’t an issue this game, but hey, it’s hard to find “downs” in a 5-0 win, especially when the win is a team’s fourth in five games.
With junior assistant captain Garrett Noonan suffering a badly separated shoulder in the first game of the weekend, BU has exactly as many healthy scratches as Jake Moscatel had career goals before Friday night: zero.
The injury forced junior walk-on Matt Ronan into action for the third time this season and his fifth as a Terrier. He didn’t play poorly Saturday — he even assisted Gill’s second goal — but he also didn’t play a whole lot, by design.
Sooner or later rolling five defensemen for most of the game will likely come back to hurt BU, if only via fatigue.
It’s no one’s fault Noonan got hurt. Each team runs into its fair share of injuries as a season progresses.
The Terriers just happened to have theirs at the worst possible time.

Three up, three down: Poor power play, faceoff results doom Terriers vs. Catamounts

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
Two steps forward, one step back.
That seems to be the tactic the No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team is using in trying to dig itself out of its second-semester hole. After winning the week’s first two games, the Terriers (16-15-2, 13-10-2 Hockey East) blew a chance at a perfect week by dropping the season finale to the University of Vermont, 5-2.
Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong against the Catamounts (11-16-5, 8-12-5 Hockey East).
Three up
Matt Nieto
With his parents in town, the junior forward capped his best week in scarlet and white with a power-play goal at the end of the first period, the sixth Terrier tally in a row to come off of Nieto’s stick.
At times it looked like the second-line left wing would get even more, but UVM freshman Brody Hoffman (26 saves) shut the door.
Nieto now has six goals in his last three games and eight in his last seven — a far cry from the seven he put up in his first 26 games of the season.
With 15 goals on the season, Nieto is one shy of his total from last year and is six points away from 100 for his career.
Nieto gave us another real good [game],” BU coach Jack Parker said. But “we had too many of our important players have off nights.”

Staying disciplined and killing penalties
The Terriers stayed relatively disciplined Saturday — their four penalties were the fewest they’ve taken since the first round of the Beanpot Feb. 4 — and when they did end up in the box the penalty-killing units did a good job of keeping the puck out of the net.
BU went a perfect 4-for-4 on the kill, though it did give up 10 shots on net.
The Terriers may have finally turned a page in terms of staying out of the sin bin, but they are still far and away the league leaders in penalty minutes (510) and penalty minutes per game (15.5).
Sean Escobedo
Since defenseman Alexx Privitera was suspended for the rest of the regular season, Privitera’s former partner on the blue line has stepped up even more so.
Escobedo led the team in blocked shots, just as he has each of the last four games, this time with four. The senior defenseman leads the team in blocked shots on the season with 87.
He was also one of the few Terriers to draw praise from Parker.
“I thought Sean Escobedo had a hell of an effort,” the bench boss said.
Three down
Sean Maguire
One night after I wrote about how good he had played of late, the rookie gave up four goals on 41 shots against a gritty Catamount team that absolutely attacked the net every chance it got.
At least two of the UVM goals — Brett Bruneteau’s at 6:35 in the first and Michael Paliotta’s wrister 39 seconds into the second — were soft, and Maguire did not look nearly as sharp as he did during his 49-save performance the night before.
Vermont also got its first two goals on its first three shots.
To be fair, Maguire found out just hours before puck drop he was going to be starting, with classmate Matt O’Connor having respiratory issues. It was the first time in his young collegiate career Maguire started back-to-back nights and the second time he has started two games in a row all season.
He didn’t get himself prepared like he usually does,” Parker said. “And obviously he had a tough night physically last night … He probably would like to have a couple goals back.”
Power play                            
As much as the penalty kill was a strength, the man-advantage was not for BU Saturday night.
Although the Terriers picked up another goal — thanks to Nieto, of course — they also gave up a shorthanded tally and managed just two shots on five power-play opportunities.
“We did a much better job on the kill, and I’m pleased for our guys,” said UVM coach Kevin Sneddon.
Faceoffs
If faceoffs were graded, the Terriers would’ve failed their quiz Saturday.
They managed to win just 16 out of 60 — 26.7 percent — with senior forward Ben Rosen the biggest culprit with a 0-for-13 mark.
It was quite the turnaround from Friday’s result, when BU went 41-21 led by Cason Hohmann’s 18-2, and Sneddon made sure to hammer that home to his players between the two games.
“We addressed it. You talk about urgency, we got absolutely killed last night on faceoffs,” Sneddon said. “Our centers did an excellent job. There was a sense of urgency. That’s a little thing, but it’s huge.
“I think we won every power-play faceoff tonight. That gives you possession right off the bat instead of chasing it 200 feet. It’s a small detail that we really harp on and it’s nice to see us respond after last night.”

Three up, three down: Defense allows 50 shots against, but Maguire stands out

By Annie Maroon/DFP Staff

Against a University of Vermont team desperate to clinch a playoff spot, the Boston University men’s hockey team earned a 3-1 win at home Friday to move into a tie for fourth place in Hockey East. Junior wing Matt Nieto and freshman goalie Sean Maguire turned in outstanding individual performances for the Terriers. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for BU.

Three up
Maguire’s 49 saves
In his last three starts, Maguire has stopped 40, 36 and 49 shots. He said Friday that the more pucks he sees, the more focused he is, and that was evident as he turned away a barrage of 22 Catamount shots in the third period.

Of those 22 shots, 11 came from below the faceoff dots in the defensive zone, many rebound chances and one-timers that forced Maguire to react quickly. Vermont didn’t stop threatening until the final buzzer sounded, but Maguire held on to turn in one of his best performances yet as a Terrier.

Second line
Nieto got the first-star recognition, and rightly so, but his linemates, freshman Danny O’Regan and sophomore Evan Rodrigues, each had two assists on the night. Rodrigues created the rush that led to Nieto’s third goal, and O’Regan threaded a pass through traffic in the slot to set him up for his second.

“My teammates and linemates made it easy for me,” Nieto said. “They set me up for success where I just had to tap pucks into open nets.”

Nieto has six points – five goals and an assist – over the last two games, and Rodrigues has at least a point in seven of his last eight games.

Power-play success
After going 0 for its last 18, the BU power play scored twice on six opportunities Friday, with 10 shots. The power-play unit with O’Regan, Nieto and senior Ryan Santana up front and Rodrigues and freshman blueliner Ahti Oksanen at the points accounted for both goals.

That group has shown the balance of skills the Terriers need: O’Regan’s playmaking vision, Nieto and Rodrigues’ creativity with the puck and finishing ability, Santana’s hard work in the corners and at the crease, and Oksanen’s powerful slap shot from the point. Santana’s net-front presence and Rodrigues’ poise at the point have made them the Terriers’ most effective power-play unit.

“He has been a great addition to our power play in front of the net as well, getting screens and creating mayhem in front of their net,” Nieto said of Santana.

Three down
50 shots against
Vermont averaged 28.7 shots per game before Friday. They got 50 through to the net in the game, had 22 more blocked by BU players, sent 12 off target, and hit one pipe. All in all, the Catamounts attempted 85 shots to the Terriers’ 66.

BU allows, on average, more shots than it takes per game – 32.9 compared to 30.5 – but that ratio got out of hand Friday, forcing Maguire to make numerous saves on second and third chances from close range.

“We’ve got to play harder in front of our net than they do,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We had too many times when they were banging away and we weren’t clearing them out, so we’ll take a look at that.”

Matching Vermont’s physicality
The Terriers got off to a quick start on Friday, but midway through the first period, the Catamounts’ style of play began to slow them down. Although they weren’t called for a penalty until almost 15 minutes into the period, they found other ways to impede the Terriers’ progress through the neutral zone and tie them up along the boards.

Despite being the most-penalized team in the league, BU isn’t a particularly physical squad, and early on Friday, it looked as though Vermont might be able to shove and check them off their game. Eventually, BU’s superior speed won out, but not without some bruises.

“I saw them play in a 1-1 game against UNH, their last game,” Parker said. “I had that game on film, and I watched that just to scout UVM and I thought they were unbelievably physical that night. They weren’t quite as physical tonight.”

BU winding down, Vermont winding up
In the first period, BU outshot Vermont 14-11. In the second, Vermont led 17-10 and in the third, 22-8. While BU didn’t play badly or lazily late in the game, they did lack some of the Catamounts’ intensity after the latter found themselves in a 3-1 hole, still fighting to secure a playoff spot.

“This is a desperate hockey club we played tonight,” Maguire said. “They’re going to be shooting from everywhere, trying to get some gritty goals, and that’s what they did tonight.”

Three-Up, Three Down: Early scoring leads BU to 5-2 win over Merrimack

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

Not a lot went wrong for the No. 19 Boston University men’s hockey team in its 5-2 win over No. 17 Merrimack College Tuesday night at Agganis Arena. The team’s offense struck early and often as it scored its most goals in a regulation win since Nov. 16, 2012 at the University of Vermont.

Here are three things that went right and two things that went wrong for the Terriers.

Three up

Fast start
BU struggled to get any offense going in its weekend losses to No. 10/12 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, but that was not the case Tuesday night. The Terriers peppered Merrimack goaltender Sam Marotta with 19 shots in the first period, which is three more than they recorded through the entire game in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the River Hawks.

The best part of the offense for BU was that it was capitalizing on its opportunities, especially on the rush. Sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues’ first goal came on a one-on-one rush, while the next two goals developed with some crisp passes upon entry to the offensive zone.

Tuesday’s game was the perfect time for BU’s offense to get back on track. With Vermont and Northeastern University left on its schedule, BU will be facing two of the bottom four defenses in the league in its final four games.

Matt O’Connor
Lost in BU’s scoring parade was the stellar play of freshman goaltender Matt O’Connor, who made 32 saves in his team-leading eighth win of the season.

The former Youngstown Phantom played particularly well against Merrimack’s Grade-A chances, stopping 16-of-17 shots from high-scoring areas. The only goal that was scored outside of a Grade-A chance was on a hard shot through a screen on the power play by defenseman Jordan Heywood.

O’Connor has picked his play up after a rough start to the second half of the season. After allowing four goals or more in his first three starts of the semester, O’Connor has allowed three goals or fewer in his last five starts.

Sam Kurker and the third line
The third line may not have added any goals to the scoreboard, but it had one of its best games of the season Tuesday night. The unit applied consistent forechecking pressure and created several high-quality scoring chances.

Sam Kurker in particular had an impressive game, recording three shots on goal and nearly scoring on a breakaway. The Reading native had been struggling recently and was frequently replaced on the third line by senior forward Ryan Santana in third periods.

BU coach Jack Parker said the team played only three forward lines for the most part Tuesday night. If this trend continues, Parker will need continued strong play from his third line to make the NCAA tournament.

Three down Two Down

Third Period
The game looked like it would be perfect for the Terriers until the third period, when Merrimack outscored BU 2-0. BU still outshot the Warriors in the period, but part of that was because Merrimack spent 10 minutes of the frame on the penalty kill. BU had trouble with Heywood specifically, as he netted two goals within two minutes of each other in the middle of the third.

BU has not been good in third periods over the past five games, as it has a minus-5 goal differential during that span.

Power play
The Terriers certainly had enough opportunities to score on the power play, as they had eight chances throughout the game, but they could not put the puck past Marotta or sophomore Rasmus Tirronen.

The most chances came in the third period, when Merrimack took five penalties and even gave BU a 5-o-3 chance. However, BU only earned four shots throughout those opportunities despite having several opportunities to score.

With the 0-for-8 performance, BU is now goalless in its last 17 power plays dating back to Feb. 16 at the University of Maine.

Three up, three down: PK gives BU chance at win, but offense overwhelmed

LOWELL — The Boston University men’s hockey team’s postseason hopes took another hit this weekend as they were swept by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in Saturday’s 3-1 loss.

Three up Two up
The penalty kill
With the characteristic parade of Terriers to the box on Saturday, the BU penalty kill had plenty of time to continue sorting itself out after struggling in Maine last weekend. And it acquitted itself well, allowing one goal on 13 shots in 16:16 of UML power-play time and improving to 82.5 percent on the year.

Killing off an early 5-on-3, with junior defenseman Garrett Noonan and then sophomore forward Cason Hohmann in the box, helped keep the game close, although BU didn’t get the momentum boost it could have from the kill.

Sean Maguire
As in many of his starts this semester, freshman goalie Sean Maguire played better than his final stat line indicates (and the final line – 36 saves on 39 shots – is nothing to be ashamed of). Lowell forward Joseph Pendenza’s goal, which snuck through Maguire’s five-hole to give the River Hawks a 3-1 lead, was the only one that reflected badly on the goaltender.

On the River Hawks’ first goal, Lowell forward Scott Wilson executed a near-carbon copy of his play from the night before, taking advantage of a badly timed BU change to rip a shot from the top of the circle into the net.

The second goal came from an overzealous shorthanded rush from which BU couldn’t recover when a UML defender sent the puck back toward BU’s zone quickly. Maguire made the initial save on Pendenza, sprawling to rob him of a sure goal, but couldn’t get up in time to stop defenseman Chad Ruhwedel’s shot off the rebound.

“On the second goal, he made an unbelievable save and the guy just buried the rebound,” sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues said.

Three down
Offense stifled again
All year, the Terriers have struggled with aggressive forechecks, finding themselves pinned in the defensive zone and unable to establish possession in the offensive zone. This weekend, they faced the opposite in UML – a team that sits back and focuses on overwhelming teams in its own defensive zone – and fared no better.

BU finished Saturday’s game with 16 shots. UML had 39, more than twice as many. They failed to challenge freshman goalie Connor Hellebuyck on rebounds or

The forwards’ issues were apparent at even strength, but they were underscored further when, in eight minutes of power-play time, BU got just one shot through to Hellebuyck.

“When we tried dumping it in, it was just little battles that they were winning,” said Rodrigues, the only BU player to score. “They were getting bounces, the puck and from the refs. It just wasn’t our weekend.”

Penalty troubles continue
No matter how hard the penalty killers work, it’s difficult to win games by taking 36 minutes’ worth of penalties, especially when those include two prolonged 5-on-3 disadvantages.

Junior defenseman Garrett Noonan received a 10-minute game misconduct, bringing his total penalty minutes on the year to 86. Parker said he thinks some of the calls made against BU were questionable.

“Most of the time I think we deserve our penalties,” Parker said. “I think we probably deserved about six or seven of those.”

PairWise, Hockey East standings take a hit
BU is now looking up at five teams in the Hockey East standings, sitting in sixth place with 24 points. In their final five games, they face fourth-place Merrimack College, the seventh-place University of Vermont, and tenth-place Northeastern University. They have clinched a playoff spot, but nothing else – certainly not home ice – is guaranteed.

The Terriers also fell to 22nd in the PairWise rankings. That puts them just ahead of Merrimack, as UML jumped into a tie for 11th.

Three up, three down: Parker pleased with effort in 3-0 loss to UMass-Lowell

By Tim Healey/DFP Staff 
The No. 13/15 Boston University men’s hockey team made history Friday night Agganis Arena: For the first time since they started playing on campus in 1971, the team has endured a five-game home winless streak thanks to dropping a 3-0 decision to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

It was another step backward for the Terriers (14-13-2, 11-8-2 Hockey East) after they seemed to be trending upward thanks to taking three of four points from Maine last weekend.

It was a widely unspectacular game, but here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for BU against the visiting River Hawks (17-9-2, 11-8-2 Hockey East).

Two up 
Penalty kill 
Yes, the Terriers gave up a power-play goal at the 14:55 mark in the third, but on the night BU killed five of Lowell’s six penalties — mostly in an impressive fashion — and allowed only five shots.

Lowell’s lone goal on the man-advantage came with nine seconds left on forward Sam Kurker’s tripping penalty — the latest in the freshman’s rash of minors in recent weeks — when the puck ended up trickling through freshman goalie Matt O’Connor’s legs.

BU coach Jack Parker was pleased with penalty kill overall, but harped on a pair of apparent missed calls, one of which lead to that power-play goal.

Freshman defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was battling for the puck behind BU’s net when a River Hawk knocked his stick out of his hands. Grzelcyk looked confused, as if he wanted a whistle, before trying to kick the puck out of the zone.

Parker was furious when Lowell scored seconds later.

“I believe it’s a penalty if you slash a guys stick out of his hands,” Parker, calmer after the game, said. “The guy slashed his stick out of his hands right in front of the referee and [Lowell] got the puck on through to net. We were playing three and a half because he [Grzelcyk] didn’t have a stick and like I say, I’m pretty sure that if you slash somebodies stick it’s a penalty.”

Effort
Effort has been a buzzword for Parker all semester, and Friday night the team continued to do well in that department, according to the coach.

The Terriers, though they were shut out in league play for the first time since November 2009, looked like they, well, cared, which has been far from a given during their lackluster second half.

“[The loss] wasn’t for our lack of effort,” Parker said. “We were pretty alert. We were pretty intense we were pretty emotional. This was not a blah game for us. We just couldn’t beat a team that was playing very well tonight.

Three down 
Lowell’s first goal UML opened up the scoring at 5:35 in the second after a lengthy possession in BU’s zone. With defensemen Garrett Noonan and Grzelcyk exhausted and BU’s top line looking for a change, they got just a little too eager.

BU nearly cleared the puck, but the River Hawks kept it in at the blue line. A pair of Terriers went to change, opening the door for a momentary Lowell 5-on-3, which they quickly capitalized on.
Forward Scott Wilson, last year’s Hockey East rookie of the year, didn’t waste any time with a shot from the right circle.

“Just a bad change,” Parker said. “We never should have changed when the puck is at our blue line. One guy came off early, another guy started to come off, try to go back down on again. But either way [Scott Wilson] really ripped it. That was a rocket.”

Terrier power play 
BU came into the came having converted on 10 of their last 44 power-play opportunities, but went 0-for-3 with just four shots Friday night.

Much of that could be credited to Lowell — taking just three penalties to begin with was a sign of Lowell’s discipline, a factor coach Norm Bazin commented on after the game — but when the Terriers did get a chance they rarely set up in Lowell’s zone.

During BU’s first of two power plays in the third, with Lowell freshman Ryan McGrath in the box, the River Hawks ended up pinning the Terriers in their own zone. The result was a huge momentum shift, which pushed BU toward frustration leading to another UML goal and several more penalties. 
Home struggles continue 
BU is 0-4-1 in its last five home games and has lost the first two regular-season games to the River Hawks, both at Agganis Arena.

Parker said the crowd, which was unusually quiet Friday, had nothing to do with it.

“The fans were here. They would have energized us if we energized them,” Parker said. “We didn’t get a goal. We’re down 2-0, but we could have been winning eight in a row and if you’re down 2-0 and you’re not doing anything, creating enough offense, it doesn’t energize. So I don’t think it’s the fans’ fault at all. We had a nice crowd, but we didn’t give them enough to cheer about.”

With this loss the Terriers drop into a tie with Lowell for fifth in the Hockey East standings.

The top four teams get to host the Hockey East quarterfinals, but at this point, the Terriers might be wondering whether or not they want to play at Jack Parker Rink.

Three Up, three down: Santana brings life to power play in 5-4 OT win

By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff

The Boston University men’s hockey team finished off a 5-4 overtime win over the University of Maine in the final four seconds at Alfond Arena Saturday night. Here is a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Terriers in the win.

Three Up

Santana helps the power play
BU coach Jack Parker made a personnel change to his second power play unit, moving senior forward Ryan Santana onto the line and moving sophomore forward Evan Rodrigues back to the point.

The change proved effective Saturday night, as that unit scored twice with a man-advantage. On both goals, a shot from the point kicked back out into the slot, where Santana won a battle for the puck and helped move it to freshman forward Danny O’Regan to shoot on a wide open goal.

“I thought he looked great,” Parker said. “He did a good job taking faceoffs for the power play. He was in their crease. He is the reason why our point men are shooting it low from the point, because there is a screen there.”

The BU power play had recently had an 0-for-12 stretch and had been struggling to get shots toward the goal before Santana’s addition.

Sean Maguire
For the first 20 minutes of the game, it looked as if Maine was going to run away on the scoreboard. The Black Bears led the Terriers in shots 10–3 through the first half of the first period, and then 18–8 by the end of it.

However, BU clung to its short deficit through the first frame thanks to 17 saves from freshman goalie Sean Maguire. The only goal that snuck past the Powell River, British Columbia native was a power-play goal that deflected off senior defenseman and to Maguire’s side, where he did not have a chance to make the save.

Maguire made a career-high 40 saves on the night, and made some key saves in the third period despite allowing three goals.

Holding on in the standings
The Terriers have struggled of late, but they have not fallen out of contention for the first place in Hockey East. With the overtime win Saturday night, BU has pulled even with the University of New Hampshire at third place in the league, only trailing first-place Merrimack College and second-place Boston College.

BU has a crucial series with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell coming up before its re-scheduled game against Merrimack College on Tuesday, Feb. 26. After those games, BU has weekend series with the University of Vermont and Northeastern University, who are both among the bottom four teams in the league.

“Not getting points in a weekend puts you way down. Every weekend is so important,” Parker said. “We are back in the thick of it.”

Three Down

Start of the game
The Terriers got outshot 18–8 in the first period, but it was more than just the shots totals that made Maine look like the better team. The Black Bears controlled the puck for much of the frame, dominating time of possession.

A bad start did not hurt BU in the end Saturday night, but BU could have left Alfond Arena with only one point on the weekend instead of three had Maguire not bailed the team out.

End of the game
BU started the game poorly, but it ended the game on an even worse run. The Terriers allowed three goals in the final period after earning a three-goal lead, including a goal in the final minute of play that sent the game to overtime.

This is not the first time BU has surrendered a three-goal lead this season. The team did it twice to Harvard on Jan. 9 before accomplishing the same feat Saturday night. However, Maguire said no one on the team lost its composure when they lost the lead.

“No one was scared on the bench,” Maguire said. “We kept our composure and I think that’s one of the traits of a strong team, and we have it. That’s why we won 5-4.”

Joey Diamond
Maine captain Joey Diamond agitated senior forward Wade Megan enough to take a double-minor penalty Friday night and then capitalized with a power-play goal on the ensuing man-advantage.

Diamond gave the Terriers fits again Saturday night, as he totaled a game-high nine shots and scored his team’s second goal to start a run in the third period. Fortunately for the Terriers, BU will likely not have to face the Long Beach, N.Y., native again, as he is graduating after the end of this season.