A couple Monday morning stories from the FreeP:
Gryba on his heavily iced left shoulder
“A little scratch. Nothing too serious.”
Shattenkirk on his goal and the power play in general
“I think our power play has been slowly improving. We’ve been moving the puck a lot better and getting a lot of pressure on them when we have those loose-puck battles. And tonight was a pretty good example of it. Colby and Alex battled in the corner with their guys pretty well and kind of drew all their guys down. When I got it from Alex, I had a lot of time and I kind of just saw an opening and took the shot.”
Shattenkirk on working with Escobedo instead of Cohen
“So far, it’s been kind of an easy transition. Sean and I have been working well together. I think when I play with Colby, we have a lot of thoughts of jumping in the rush, and sometimes that can take away from one or the other’s ability to be offensive. I think now that we’ve been switched around, it leaves us a little more freedom, knowing that strong defensive players like Sean and Max are back there to kind of hold things down for us.”
Gryba on what he takes away from this weekend
“I definitely don’t think it was a step back by any means. We battled back hard last night. We were down going into the third and battled back. Last night was a great win for us. We know that we can come back from behind. We have enough guys who can make plays and come back and win.
Tonight, guys worked hard. There wasn’t a lack of effort at all. There were just some mental breakdowns, a few bad decisions here and there, but that stuff is fixable. We had the effort all weekend, so that’s a positive that we’ll take out of this and start working with it on Monday.”
Shattenkirk on the team’s three early penalties, specifically his two
“Like any game, when you start of with three penalties, especially coming from me, coming from a leader, it’s tough to get into the flow of the game. I know Eric and I were talking before, and it really tires a lot of guys out when you have to consistently go out there and work at a disadvantage. My first penalty was just a stupid penalty. The second one was just an unfortunate break for me. I definitely take responsibility for the goal that was scored off of it.”
Shattenkirk on the team’s faceoffs struggles
“Obviously, first off, you lose a center like Nick Bonino, it’s tough because he’s a great faceoff guy. You kind of have guys like Chris Connolly who are naturally wingers, or Vinny Saponari, and they have to come in and take faceoffs.
Lowell did a great job on faceoffs with all five guys being intense and being ready and maybe slap at a loose puck and gain control off of that. I think we kind of just have to work on keeping pucks alive, whether it’s one to the corner or just kind of a loose puck in the center’s feet, just to kind of whack at it and gain possession that way.”
Gryba on Lowell’s abundance of chances in close
“They worked hard getting to those areas, and give them credit –– they got there. But that’s something we need to work on. We know we have to address it as a team, especially the defensive corps. We weren’t tough enough to play against tonight. We gave up too many chances in close. We have enough older guys –– we have a senior, two juniors and a sophomore –– who should know how to play this. And that’s our bad. It’s something we have to work on this week, and make sure we come back strong the rest of the year and be strong around our net and not give them grade-A opportunities.”
“In general, I think it was a similar game to last night. It was a better played game tonight than last night. There weren’t as many miscues. Guys earned goals tonight moreso than they did last night.
I was pleased once again with our penalty kill. They got two power-play goals, but one of them, the guy picks it out of the air while he’s falling down. I think the PK and the power plays were a bit of a draw. We went 1-for-6, but we got one one second after the power play was over that was really a power-play goal. So, they go 2-for-7, we go 2-for-6. That’s a draw. That’s a very good power play they have. I think it’s more mature than our power play right now, but we did a real good job over the weekend shutting them down.
I thought the game revolved around three things. We start the game taking three absolutely stupid penalties –– stick penalties, slashing guys’ feet, knocking them off the puck –– and give them three power plays right off the bat, and they finally score on one. Rule number one is don’t beat yourself, and we beat ourselves in that first period for sure. Not only does that cause us problems as far as giving up a goal, but it causes us problems as far as getting legless. I think we were a little bit legless in the second period because of what went on in the first period.
Another thing that was a major problem was the fact that we were absolutely horrendous off of faceoffs. The third period was a little bit better, but the first two periods, Lowell won 85 percent of the faceoffs. When you win faceoffs, two things happen –– you get shots on net, and you get absolute puck possession. You demoralize the penalty kill because you keep possession, and you do a great job against the power play because you win the faceoff and ice it. That was the second biggest thing in the game, and it might’ve been the worst thing. It was definitely a difference in the game, how bad we were on faceoffs, and how good they were.
And finally, our inability to stop them below the dots. They possessed the puck and they got the puck to our crease at will many, many times. Our goaltender had to save a lot of grade-A shots that were eight inches from our goal, a foot from our goal, two feet from our goal. We were really inept at covering out front.
Penalties. Faceoffs. They outplayed us at both ends below the dots. Certainly, in the lower grade-A area, they did a really good job and we didn’t. And yet, it was still a ballgame. We played pretty hard. I liked some things I saw from individuals. I liked some things I saw as systems.
But they’re a very good team, and we got a split on the weekend. I think it would’ve been awful nice if we could’ve got four points out of this weekend after winning the one on the road, but then we come back and lose the one at home. So, they probably have a better taste in their mouth right now than we do even though we each got two points, because they won the last one, and that’s the one you remember.
I like that team. They’re a solid team. They’ll be a home-ice team in our league, no question in my mind. Hopefully, we will be, too. We had five goals last night, but we’ve mostly been getting two or three, and we have to get much better at that.”
On expectations going into the weekend versus expectations after last night
“If you told me we were gonna have a split on Thursday, I would’ve said, ‘I’ll take that,’ with the way we are right now and Bonino out and knowing we’re playing one of the best teams in the league and usually it’s a tough place to play up in Lowell. But once you win the first one, you want to win the second one.”
On the problems with the defense getting outworked down low
“We’re not getting to people and ending it. We’re shuffling our feet five feet away from them and letting them carry the puck. Gryba ends it pretty quickly. We lost a couple shutdown defensemen in Matt Gilroy and Brian Strait who could get to people and end it right there and jump out of the zone with the puck. We spent too much time along the wall trying to possess the puck from them. And then, once they turned, they got the puck to the crease, and we did not defend the crease well enough. I don’t know how many goals they got from the crease, but they got way too many chances there.”
On whether or not he might make any personnel changes on defense
“No. We might roll a couple guys in and out, but we’re not gonna make drastic changes. We don’t have a lot of choices. Our biggest problem is down the middle. Without Bonino, Connolly’s playing out of position. He’s usually a left wing, but he’s playing center for us. Some other guys will get a chance to play a little bit, but the bottom line is that we are who we are.”
On whether or not the struggles on faceoffs are a technical thing or an effort thing
“It’s a little bit of a technical thing, and it’s a little bit of an ego thing. We’re trying to win the faceoff instead of making sure they don’t win the faceoff. It was as if the referee was just throwing it back to the Lowell point. That’s how easily they were winning it back.”
On his team’s power play with under three minutes to go in the game
“We got out of position. Guys didn’t recognize where we were. We had the puck right where we wanted it on the half wall down around the hash marks, and there was nobody to pass it to. Our defensemen disappeared on him. On a 6-on-4, we have a certain play, and the guy that’s supposed to go that position to get that play didn’t go there. All of a sudden, Connolly’s got the puck and he’s saying, ‘Where the hell is everybody?’ It’s 6-on-4 and he’s by himself.
We still had a couple opportunities. There were some close calls. I thought Chris had a couple good opportunities. But we haven’t practiced 6-on-4 once this year so far, so that’s not unusual. I would’ve thought we would’ve figured that out a little bit better, though. I thought that a couple upperclassmen disappeared. When Chris had the puck, there should’ve been some people for him to look to.”
On whether he’s leaning toward using Warsofsky as a forward or defenseman on the PP
“I’ll keep mixing it up. I want to get David a lot of ice time out there. I like it with those three guys at the point when he plays with the other two defensemen. But at the same time, I thought Trivino’s line moved the puck pretty well on the power play tonight. They had the better looks. And that was when Warsofsky was playing back at the point.”
On the play of Kevin Shattenkirk
“I think he’s struggling with the puck. I think he’s not moving his feet enough. I think that he looks great at times, and he’s just such a talented kid. He had a great goal tonight, a big goal tonight. But in general, I would say that not just Shatty, but a couple of our upperclassmen are not as effective as they have to be for us. I think Shatty’s a little jumpy with the puck, which is really unusual, because he’s always smooth as hell with the puck. He’s forcing things, I think. It’s not so much that he’s nervous, but he’s just forcing stuff that I don’t think he has to do.”
On Alex Chiasson getting more and more comfortable on the top line
“I think he’s very comfortable there. I think he’s gonna be a real good player for us. He’s our leading goal scorer as a freshman. He’s gonna get goals in this league, and he’s gonna get a lot of ice time for us. He’s very good on the power play, too. One of the reasons the power play with Trivino’s line looked pretty good tonight was because he played pretty well on the power play.”
On if Chiasson could fill the Colin Wilson role of a big body out front on the PP
“He’s a big body down there, but we’re trying to get him out on the flank on what we refer to as the ‘BU power play’ and get him one-timers, because he can really shoot it.”
By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
Offense – Grade B
Despite a terrible 19-of-60 performance on faceoffs, BU held even for the most part in time of possession with the River Hawks. The Terriers fired 46 shots to UML’s 42, and put 26 of those shots on goal (UML put 21 shots on net). Especially in the third period, BU did a better job crashing the net and following up on shots. For the second-consecutive night, David Warsofsky was a catalyst on the attack, assisting on Vinny Saponari’s goal and leading the Terriers with five shots on net. Saponari and Kevin Shattenkirk –– BU’s goal scorers –– tied for second with four each.
Defense – Grade C-
BU’s blue-liners struggled mightily down low in their own zone, allowing numerous grade-A shots from around the BU crease while struggling to box out bodies and clear pucks away from the slot. Parker said in his postgame press conference that Shattenkirk and his fellow upperclassmen were “shuffling their feet” too often and not boxing guys out near the slot.
Special Teams – Grade B-
The BU power play is on track to fully righting itself, it appears. The Terriers generated 14 shots in six chances, and improved its puck movement noticeably. Parker switched between playing Warsofsky at wing and dropping him to the second-unit point, and said he’ll continue to do that. Parker also said the Terrier penalty kill was once again strong, despite allowing two goals in seven chances. The team limited UML to seven shots on the man advantage, a respectable clip.
Goaltending – Grade B
Kieran Millan continues to face shot after shot from right on his own doorstep. Generally, three goals on 21 shots makes for a subpar night in net. But when a ton of those chances come from grade-A areas and the defensive troops don’t clear out rebounds at an even average rate, there sometimes isn’t much for a goaltender to do.
X-Factor – Faceoffs
The Terriers were an abysmal 19-for-60 in the faceoff dot, with Chris Connolly and Ryan Santana going a combined 3-for-18. Vinny Saponari was the only Terrier to best the .500 clip, winning 4-of-7 draws. The absence of Nick Bonino is a clear damper on the BU faceoff, especially considering Connolly has struggled to win draws since moving from the wing. However, as UML coach Blaise McDonald said, faceoffs are a five-man effort, and BU’s struggles to beat opponents to draws on loose pucks is reflective of its same struggles to win battles in front of the net and in the corners.
By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff
Friday morning, Jack Parker had an idea.
After Friday’s 5-4 overtime win against the No. 8/9 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, it looked like the No. 4 Boston University men’s hockey coach’s idea might change his team’s entire season.
Parker knew the Terriers would be playing shorthand for 3-to-4 weeks as junior Nick Bonino recovered from a separated shoulder suffered against the University of Michigan last Saturday. He also knew that his power play was struggling, capitalizing on just 3-of-19 chances –– a .158 conversion rate.
When Parker came up with the idea, the third-winningest coach in Division-I hockey history shared it with his assistants.
The idea: promote sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky to the top power-play unit –– and play him at forward.
“I said to my assistants, ‘You know what, with Bonino out, maybe we should go with our quote-unquote top five out there, see if we can’t go get something going on one half of our power plays at least,’” Parker said.
When UML senior Jeremy Dehner took a tripping penalty with 2:27 left in overtime Friday, Parker, considering his tired core of forwards and a lackluster 0-for-3 showing on the man advantage to that point, decided to make his move.
When the Terriers came out for the left-side offensive draw, sophomore Corey Trivino lined up at center with the regular top power-play unit, except Warsofsky, already two goals into his first-star night, was crouched at his right wing in the slot.
“We never practiced it and never told them about it,” Parker said. “I just said, ‘Hey David, go play up at the shooter’s position.”
On its last outing late in the third period, the top power-play unit struggled mightily to even set up in the attacking zone. After an initial clear off the faceoff, the Terriers tried three times to enter into the UML zone and establish possession. All three times, the River Hawks cleared the puck within a few seconds of its entry.
The line changed one minute into the man advantage without so much as sniffing a scoring chance.
In overtime, with Warsofsky at the right-side half-wall position, the unit clicked almost instantly.
A few passes off the opening faceoff, Warsofsky gave the Terriers their first scoring chance of the power play, detonating an explosive one-time slap shot from atop the right circle that was turned away by senior UML netminder, Carter Hutton.
About a minute of quick puck movement later, when junior Colby Cohen rocketed home the game-winner at 3:54, he did so with Warsofsky setting a screen in front. The defenseman was posted up atop the crease, back to the net like a basketball forward.
For the Marshfield native, the decision to set up in front was a natural one, and carried a potential message to teammates who had opted to hang around the perimeter on the power play in the past.
“It felt kind of good,” Warsofsky said. “You’re out there on the power play and some of your forwards aren’t setting you screens. Everyone takes it for granted how important that screen really is, so I just wanted to get in there and block the goalie’s eyes and create an opportunity to score.”
Warsofsky, who played forward as a youth and some in high school, said he’s “always kind of had that offensive instinct” in his game. With him, Cohen and junior Kevin Shattenkirk on the ice at the same time, the BU power play adds yet another dynamic to an already talented core.
“They’re three of our best players, no doubt about that,” Paker said. “I talked to David about playing him at center and start practicing him at center, just because, I hope we never have to play him at center, but with Bonino out, if somebody else gets an injury, it’s a thin area for us. He’s one of the few defenseman –– he’s the only defenseman who can go up and play forward for us.”
The right wing in BU’s power play might be the ideal position to suit Warsofksy’s dynamic skill set, according to Parker.
“[Warsofksy’s] a real clever player,” Parker said of. “I think he might be better off playing the half wall than the point because at the point he’s a little too clever. On the half wall he can drill it. He can really one-time a shot if he gets a chance to do that, but when he gets it he can close, he can beat people. He can retrieve pucks. He’s a very, very smart player.”
“We’ll probably use him there at least until Bonino gets back.”
After mustering just five goals in their first three games combined, the Terriers doubled their season total by dropping a five-spot on UMass-Lowell tonight. Four of BU’s goals involved guys driving to the net, something that has been lacking for most of the season. The first two goals, scored by Alex Chiasson and David Warsofsky, came on odd-man rushes that were finished with snipes over River Hawk goalie Carter Hutton’s glove. On his second goal, BU’s fourth of the game, Warsofsky jumped into the play late and took a pass from Andrew Glass at the top of the slot, where he fired a wrister threw a screen and into the net. Colby Cohen’s overtime game-winner found its way through a slew of bodies blocking Hutton’s view. The Terriers still struggled to set up at times on offense, and coach Jack Parker noted that his team was outworked down low for much of the game, but it’s tough to find too much to complain about on the offensive side of things after tonight.
The Terrier D allowed the River Hawks extended offensive-zone possessions throughout the game. UML recorded 10 of the final 12 shots in the first period and outshot BU, 19-10, in the second. But then the defense completely turned it around in the third period and overtime, allowing just five shots over the final 23:54. Despite the complete 180, though, it’s hard to ignore those first 40 minutes. Lowell continually got second- and third-chance opportunities as BU failed to clear away rebounds. Perhaps some of the early-game struggles can be attributed to two new defensive pairings –– Sean Escobedo was teamed with Kevin Shattenkirk and Max Nicastro was teamed with Cohen. Parker said he did this because Escobedo looked shaky against Michigan, and thought it would be better to pair him with the captain rather than another freshman. Parker added that he thought Escobedo and Shattenkirk played great together.
Kieran Millan made 32 saves, one shy of his career high. Yes, he gave up four goals, but only one of them could be considered “soft”. On the River Hawks’ fourth goal, he got beat five-hole on a shot that ultimately hit the post, and then failed to recover in time to block the rebound. On the first goal, UML was allowed two hacks at rebounds as the BU D did little to help Millan out. On the second, a shot wide took a hard bounce off the end boards and came right to Michael Scheu on the left doorstep. On the third, Lowell was again allowed two shots at a rebound as Scheu and Michael Budd stormed into the BU crease, culminating in Budd putting the puck home. But Millan stood tall when he needed to late, stopping two 2-on-1s in the final six minutes of the game. Parker said he told Millan in the locker room after the game that normally he wouldn’t be happy with four goals, but that he thought Millan played great.
Special teams: B
The Terrier penalty kill looked terrific for the second game in a row, holding UML scoreless on its five man-up chances. Coming into the game, the River Hawk power play was operating at a 28.6-percent clip –– the best in Hockey East –– and had scored at least one PP goal in each of its first four games. The PK was especially critical in the second period, when it killed off three straight penalties in the final nine minutes of the stanza. The power play, on the other hand, struggled for most of the night. In the first three periods, it was 0-for-3 with just two shots on goal. But it made amends in overtime. After Warsofsky and Shattenkirk doubled that shots total, Cohen ended the game with a one-timer from the left point that found its way through a screen in front. The most interesting part of that power play was the fact that Warsofsky was playing forward. Parker said he talked about moving Warsofsky up to forward on the top PP unit with his assistant coaches for the first time this morning because he thought Warsofsky was one of his five best players, but didn’t want to take Shattenkirk or Cohen off the top unit. He added that he might turn to the new look more in the future. After seeing how it worked in overtime, it’s hard to argue against it, especially since the power play struggled in regulation.