Bruins drop Winter Classic prequel, 3-1

By Josh Mellits/DFP Staff

With 17 days until they meet in the Winter Classic, the Boston Bruins froze against the Philadelphia Flyers, allowing three unanswered goals in a 3-1 defeat at the TD Garden Monday night.

The third annual outdoor game will take place Jan. 1, 2010, and the Bruins (16-10-6) will have to wait until then to avenge their meltdown against a struggling Flyers squad (15-15-1)

“I think that if you want to win a hockey game, you have to play for 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara said. “There were parts of the game when we were just making uncharacteristic mistakes. I don’t know if it was fatigue or lack of effort –– there’s no excuse.”

Early in the first period, a goal by center Vladimir Sobotka was called off after the cage was dislodged. But an even bigger moment came with seven minutes remaining in the period, when the Bruins suffered back-to-back penalties to give the Flyers a two-man advantage.

Boston’s league-leading penalty kill kicked into gear, deftly robbing Philadelphia of the opportunity to strike first. In a stellar effort, defenseman Dennis Wideman blocked three shots and eventually had to leave the contest, though coach Claude Julien insisted “it had nothing to do with” the stops.

“That’s a big sacrifice,” Chara said. “That’s obviously huge, putting his body out there and blocking those shots. That’s one of the reasons why we killed it.”

The first two periods were marked by physical play and outstanding goaltending, as the lamps were dark for the first 38 minutes of the contest. Philadelphia goaltender Brian Boucher was first to crack, allowing Sobotka to redeem himself with a shot that just trickled into the net. That gave Boston the lead heading into the second intermission, a situation in which the team had not lost this season. Going into the game, the Bruins were also 11-1-0 when they scored first.

“When you score the first goal of a game, it’s usually a good sign,” Boston goalie Tim Thomas said. “But one wasn’t enough.”

It wasn’t enough because the game started to unravel in the third stanza. Less than three minutes in, Flyers rookie and University of New Hampshire alum James van Riemsdyk poked the puck into the net for his first goal since Nov. 18.

“We lost a race to a puck in the corner,” Julien said. “They had a guy drive the net and they just hit him with a pass to get that first goal. So again, lose that race, not just for the puck, but you also lose that race to get back to the front of the net, that guy tipped it in. So it’s about races and battles.”

About ten minutes later, Flyers defenseman Kimo Timomen unleashed a rocket from the top-center of the blue line. The puck curved into the top shelf of the net after a deflection off a player’s glove for the go-ahead goal before Thomas could even react.

“I picked it up late,” Thomas said. “From that far away, you’d like to be able to find it and get to it, but I wasn’t able to.”

The Bruins had one more chance with a minute left in regulation when Flyers winger Scott Hartnell gave a high-stick to former Flyer wing Mark Recchi, awarding the home team a two-man advantage with an empty net. But barely twenty seconds elapsed before Timonen added a tally from the other side of the ice to seal the game.

“He got me good,” Recchi said. “But you get ready –– we called the timeout to get an opportunity to get our setup and unfortunately we weren’t able to get it.”

The Bruins look to regroup and refocus with a tough road trip ahead to Chicago, Toronto and Ottawa, and especially with New Year’s Day circled on their calendar.

“I was really surprised we didn’t compete the way we needed to compete,” Recchi said. “That’s just not like us, especially with a lead in our home building –– we’ve really started to play well here. It’s disappointing that’s what ended up happening, the way we responded in the third, and I hope this gets us focused for our trip.”

Jack Parker and Kevin Shattenkirk Postgame Transcripts

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

Parker

Opening statement

I thought we killed penalties well. Six penalties, three shots. Thought we played pretty well in the first period, made two huge mistakes, and literally gave them two goals. And then in the third period, we were afraid to lose, so we lost. And we were a little exhausted, too. We self-destructed in the second period with all the penalties we took. We wound up with Gryba in the box for 10 minutes plus his two. We wore out Shattenkirk and Warsofsky and Escobedo and Nicastro killing penalties. And they were really legless in the third, I thought. But that team came out and played hockey in the third wanting to win, and our team came out, was afraid they were going to lose, so we lost.

On how BU’s goaltending has been

Goaltending is one of our problems, and we’ve fallen back greatly from last year. Overall team defense, you could say the goaltending isn’t playing that well because we can’t protect the front of the net. They got four goals, not including the empty-net goal, they got four of their goals at the crease. We literally gave them goals. Three out of the four goals were pathetic plays by us. I thought Kieran made a few good saves.

Before the season started, I thought we’d have one of the best goaltending tandems in the nation. I thought we’d be in really good shape there. We’d be pretty solid on defense with the guys we got back. We’d have a good power play because we’d have at least one of the power-play units back from last year. And none of that is true now. None of that has been true from day one.

We have a lot of guys that are either underachieving right now or they overachieved last year. As a team, we are almost searching for an identity. We can’t seem to find it. We had all those opportunities in the first period and we come out of it losing 2-1, and they must be saying to themselves, “Oh no, here we go again.”

We come out for the third period winning 3-2, and we literally got run out of the building, I thought. I thought the third period, they were more physical than we were, looked a lot faster than we did, and I really think we were just, “Oh God, what if we lose? What if we lose this game?” So we did. We don’t have anyone stepping up and taking the reins here and saying, “OK, we’re going to get this done.” We have those telltale factors. We won 19 faceoffs. They won 33.

On whether he’s seen the fear of losing before

I think it’s happened. I think against BC, we were back on our heels in the third period. I think there have been times this year where the more you know you are not playing well, the more you are thinking, “Oh no, what if we lose this game? What if we lose this game? What is the coach going to think if we lose this game?”

On whether the break will be a good thing

There’s no question we need a break. I was hoping we’d get a break with a W tonight. Didn’t happen. This is going to be a hard one. It’s a long break for this one to be the last game

On how being afraid to lose affects his team’s play

I think it’s a slow start, overthinking, being jumpy with the puck. We’re not making stick-to-stick passes. We’ve had three or four games this year where we’ve played pretty well on the power play going into the third period, and then we had to get a power-play goal. In the first period, we had three power plays and we had eight shots. In the third, we had one power play and we didn’t get a shot on net. That happened to us at Northeastern, 1-0 game, we couldn’t get a goal on the power play. That happened to us with BC where we had some opportunities early and we were ineffective on the power play. That is a sign. You look at the shot chart in the first period and you look at the shot chart in the third period, it shows you there’s a different look out there. There’s a different mindset. And what’s really sad is that shot chart in the first period, they get one grade-A shot in the first period and it’s off to the side of the net, and the other two are goals. They don’t even get a look, and we’re losing 2-1. And I don’t think that’s the goalie’s fault. We’re just making unbelievable breakdowns giving them two goals.

On the decision to sit Colby Cohen

He hasn’t been playing well. He hasn’t been playing fast enough or smart enough.

On whether the first two RPI goals were the defense’s fault or the goalie’s fault

I think it was a little bit of both on the first one. Guy goes off, one goes out to play his friend. We told them they like to get the puck to the point and then drive down the boards. Same guy takes it down the boards. He didn’t even get blocked. I loved when he didn’t even get blocked. It was no problem for him to be able play that. And he lost him and everyone else just took their man, and he went right to the net and scored.

The second one was a scramble out front. Three guys lost their men, one after another. All the sudden, the puck is in the net. No problems whatsoever, they should be able to control those three guys.

This club gets half their shots off of winning 33 faceoffs. Half their shots were off of faceoffs, one pass and a shot. Losing two-thirds of the faceoffs is a bad sign because it isn’t skill.

On the penalties BU took

Undisciplined play. Stupid play.


Shattenkirk

On how he feels about the upcoming break

I think it’s definitely a great time. I think we need to just cool off and think about things over the break from a coaching standpoint and from our standpoint as players. It’s going to be good to rest for a little bit and not have to worry about hockey.

On the idea that BU was afraid to lose in the third period

I think once we get up by a goal or into those pressure situations, it seems like we don’t believe in ourselves. We’ve said it time and time again. I don’t know where or why we’re losing that confidence, but it’s creeping in for whatever reason and we need to figure that out.

On how as a captain he’s able to boost team morale

It’s just a matter of letting everyone know that we are good enough. I know it, and Coach knows that we have a great team. It’s just a matter of keeping our younger guys aware of it and letting them know that we have the ability to do something like that.

On whether the defense felt legless in the third

Initially, we had Gryba sick, so he wasn’t at his full potential tonight. Once we get all those penalties and you’re sending out the same guys over and over again, especially in the second period, it definitely kills your energy, not only from a physical standpoint, but mental as well. Coming into the third period, I think guys were huffing and puffing a little bit. That can’t be an excuse. We need to bear down in those situations, and we did on the penalty kill, but we couldn’t do it 5-on-5.

On whether benching Colby Cohen sends a message to the rest of the team

It definitely sends a message to Colby. I know from past experiences that Colby’s rebounded well from it. As far as other guys getting a message, it didn’t really seem like it tonight. So hopefully when it happens to them, it will be a slap in the face, and hopefully it will be a good thing and turn them around.

On whether the penalty kill’s success was able to boost guys’ confidence

It’s obviously a morale booster when you’re killing off penalties, but at the same time we killed off a bunch. I think we were killing a penalty after the second period. We came back out and had to kill off a penalty. That should be something that fires guys up, and like I said, it’s just a matter of us losing confidence in ourselves. We’re not really having any belief that we can build off of things like that.

Grading the Terriers: 12/11 vs. RPI

By Cary Betagole/DFP Staff

Defense: D+

Left legless after killing six penalties, BU’s defense gave up three third-period goals to blow a 3-2 lead. BU coach Jack Parker called his blue line’s effort “pathetic,” as RPI reached the crease on four of its five goals. Junior defenseman Colby Cohen was a healthy scratch for not playing “fast enough or smart enough,” but the rest of the backline didn’t seem to get the message.

Offense: B

The Terriers scored three goals Friday night — two of them on shorthanded breaks. Junior defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was involved in both, earning the No. 1 Star of the Game. In the first, he forced a turnover on the blue line that junior forward Nick Bonino turned into a goal. He went coast-to-coast flanked on a 2-on-1 to put BU up 3-2 with 10:05 left in the second. But that was all she wrote for the Terriers, as they were unable to strike back after RPI’s third-period surge.

Special Teams: A-

BU held an RPI team with a 22-percent power-play efficiency to an 0-for-6 showing on the man advantage. Senior forward Zach Cohen tied the game at two on the Terriers’ lone power-play conversion. He screened RPI goalie Bryce Merriam on freshman defenseman Max Nicastro’s wrister from the point, and got a stick on the puck to tip it in on the way by. The Terriers finished 1-for-6 on the power play.

Goalie: C

“Our goalie effort has fallen back greatly from last year,” BU coach Jack Parker said after the game. Sophomore goalie Kieran Millan made 20 saves on 24 shots, and the Engineers netted an empty-netter with under a minute remaining. But Millan didn’t have a lot of help in front of him.

X-Factor: Faceoffs

The Terriers lost the faceoff battle, 33-to-19, Friday. As Parker noted in the postgame press conference, RPI is a team that thrives on making a single pass after the faceoff before shooting on goal. The Terriers’ inability to win faceoffs led to numerous Engineer opportunities. Parker also noted that faceoffs aren’t about skill; they’re about effort. The latter was clearly lacking, and nothing was more revealing of that fact than BU’s faceoff ineptitude.

String of costly penalties leaves BU legless in third

By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
Photo by U-Jin Lee/DFP Staff

The good news is that the Terriers killed all six Rensselaer power plays, holding the Engineers to just three shots while scoring two shorthanded goals. The bad news is that five of those kills came in a 17:31 stretch from the 8:13 mark of the second to the 5:44 mark of the third, and that the Terriers were without senior defenseman Eric Gryba for 10 of those minutes due to a misconduct.

At the end of that span, BU was exhausted. That –– combined with the Terriers being “afraid to lose,” according to coach Jack Parker –– allowed RPI to take the game and run with it. The Engineers potted two even-strength goals in a four-minute span midway through the third to take the lead, and the Terriers were never able to recover.

“We self-destructed in the second period with all the penalties we took,” Parker said. “We wound up with Gryba in the box for 10 minutes, plus his two [for a holding minor]. We wore out Shattenkirk and Warsofsky and Escobedo and Nicastro killing penalties. And they were really legless in the third period, I thought.”

The devastating string of penalties began when Gryba got called for holding, and then picked up an additional 10 minutes in the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Junior defenseman and captain Kevin Shattenkirk seemingly shifted the momentum back to BU during that kill when he roofed a shorthanded goal to give BU a 3-2 lead. But just 27 seconds after junior forward Victor Saponari was done serving Gryba’s minor, freshman defenseman Sean Escobedo was sent off for contact to the head roughing.

Less than two minutes after that infraction was killed, sophomore forward Kevin Gilroy became Gryba’s third box buddy when he was called for a trip. A little more than two minutes after he was set free, sophomore forward Vinny Saponari picked up an interference penalty that carried over into the third.

If that wasn’t enough, sophomore forward Chris Connolly added his own interference minor to the list three minutes after Saponari got out.

“Undisciplined play,” Parker answered when asked what caused his team to take so many penalties in succession. “Stupid play.”

Sometimes, killing a string of penalties can swing the momentum in that team’s favor, and give them a boost once they’re back to even strength. On Friday night, though, that didn’t happen for the Terriers, thanks in large part to the fact that they were simply too tired to come out flying.

“Once we get all those penalties,” Shattenkirk said, “and we’re sending out the same guys over and over again, especially in the second period, it definitely kills your energy, not only from a physical standpoint, but mental as well.”

Shattenkirk, however, was also quick to say that the team can’t use that as an excuse for the way they performed at even strength for the rest of the game.

“We need to bear down in those situations [when we’re tired],” he said. “And we did on the penalty kill, but we couldn’t do it 5-on-5.”

Terriers drop home contest to RPI, 5-3

By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff

Photo by U-Jin Lee/DFP Staff

Despite getting shorthanded tallies from juniors Nick Bonino and Kevin Shattenkirk, the Boston University men’s hockey team blew a third-period lead to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Friday night on the way to a 5-3 loss.

BU (4-9-3) entered the third with a 3-2 lead, but consecutive goals by seniors Erik Burgdoerfer and Christian Jensen midway through the third gave RPI (9-9-1) the lead. Junior Tyler Helfrich added an empty-netter with 53.9 seconds left to seal the deal for the Engineers.

“In the third period, we were afraid to lose, so we lost,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We go into the third period, we’re winning 3-to-2, and literally get run out of the building. I thought the third period Rensselaer beat us to every puck. They were more physical than we were –– looked a lot faster than we did.

“I think we’re really just, ‘Oh my God, what if we lose this game?’ So we did.”

Burgdoerfer tied the game at 3 just before the 10-minute mark of the third. With a delayed penalty coming on senior Eric Gryba for hitting Joel Malchuck from behind, RPI sophomore Patrick Cullen found Burgdoerfer at the right doorstep, who lifted a shot past BU netminder Kieran Millan.

Jensen netted the game-winning goal with about six minutes left after freshman Brandon Pirri fired wide of the net from center point. The puck bounced off the boards behind the cage and found its way to Jensen atop the crease.

Jensen threw one shot off Millan, then put his own rebound back at net. The put-back weaved its way through a jungle of sticks and skates sliding into the back of the cage. Jensen described the goal as a “greasy one.”

BU jumped to an early lead just two minutes into the game with a shorthanded goal. Fighting an aggressive BU forecheck, RPI netminder Bryce Merriam tried to clear the puck up the left boards, but his attempt ended up on junior Kevin Shattenkirk’s stick at the right point.

With RPI in full breakout mode, Shattenkirk had an open lane to sophomore Chris Connolly, positioned just inside the left faceoff dot. Connolly hesitated momentarily before passing to junior Nick Bonino atop the right side of the crease. Bonino one-timed Connolly’s pass under the crossbar for the shorthanded finish and Bonino’s fourth goal of the season.

The Terriers’ early lead was short lived. Just over two minutes after Bonino’s tally, RPI freshman Brandon Pirri wheeled behind the BU cage and backhanded a pass to a charging Alex Angers-Goulet from the left post to the top-right corner of the crease. Angers-Goulet beat both the BU defender and Millan to the puck and pushed his third goal of the year across the red line.

Just 19 seconds later, a defensive breakdown left RPI defenseman Bryan Brutlag with an open lane from the right halfwall all the way to the BU cage. The junior skated along the circumference of the right side circle to Millan’s front porch, where he beat the sophomore goalie five-hole to put RPI up, 2-1.

The BU power play came up with the equalizer 3:10 into the second period as freshman Max Nicastro rifled a wrist shot from the right point. The shot deflected off Malchuck in the slot, then again off BU senior Zach Cohen atop the crease before working its way around Merriam and into the cage. Cohen was credited with the goal, his sixth of the season.

With the game tied at 2 in the second period, the BU penalty kill again went on the offensive, with Shattenkirk converting on a 2-on-1 rush with sophomore Ross Gaudet. Shattenkirk rushed the puck up the ice on the right wing before slowing in the slot and faking a pass to Gaudet. The fake froze Merriam momentarily, and BU’s captain lifted a wrister into the window between Merriam’s left shoulder and the crossbar to put BU ahead. It was Shattenkirk’s third goal of the year.

The loss comes at the end of what has been a disastrous first half for the defending national champions, which has been lowlighted by a number of blown third-period leads.

“The more you go not playing well, the more you start worrying about, ‘Oh [shoot], What if we lose this game? What are they gonna say about us if we lose this game? What’s the coach going to think if we lose this game?’” Parker said. “I think that has really crept in now.”

With a three-week break next on BU’s schedule, Shattenkirk thinks time away from the rink might be the remedy for the Terriers’ woes.

“We need to just cool off and just think about things over break from a coaching standpoint and from our standpoint as players,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s gonna be good to rest for a little bit and not have to worry about hockey.”

“I don’t think there’s any question we need a break,” Parker said. “I was hoping we’d get a break with a ‘W’ tonight –– didn’t happen. It’s a long break to have this one be the last game.”

Kibbles and Bits:
After being called for holding in the second period, Gryba was awarded a 10-minute misconduct penalty. The 12 penalty minutes gave Gryba 295 career minutes in the sin bin, enough to eclipse Freddy Meyer’s all-time mark for penalty minutes accrued by a Terrier . . . Junior Colby Cohen was a healthy scratch for the Terriers Friday . . . RPI is the only team in the country to make multiple visits to Agganis Arena and remain undefeated at ‘The Greek.’

From the FreeP: Terriers host RPI Friday

By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff

Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker ran through the short list of Terriers who have not let him down in 2009-10. The role call only included senior Eric Gryba, junior Joe Pereira, sophomore Ross Gaudet and the entire freshman class.

Friday night, when BU plays host to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Terriers will be without the services of Pereira, who is expected to be out a month after undergoing hernia surgery Wednesday, Parker said.

Pereira is aiming to return to the Terriers’ (4-8-3) lineup for their Jan. 8 matchup with Boston College at Fenway Park, Parker said.

The junior has needed the operation for some time, but chose to put off the procedure until this week in hopes that he’ll only miss two games –– Friday’s game with RPI (8-8-1) and BU’s Jan. 2 contest against the No. 15 University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The Pereira-less Terriers will be looking to bounce back from a 4-1 defeat at the hands of their archrivals, No. 10 Boston College, last Saturday night. The Terriers led that game, 1-0, with less than five minutes left in the second period before surrendering four unanswered tallies to the Eagles.


From the FreeP: Bleeding Scarlet

By Cary Betagole/DFP Staff

Close family friends of former Terrier great Mike Sullivan, his parents had Boston University men’s hockey season tickets. The youngest of three brothers, he spent winter days on the backyard ponds of his native Marshfield and weekend nights inside Walter Brown Arena, a witness to the heydays of names like Drury, Tkachuk and Grier.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky has BU hockey in his blood.

“David was pretty much brought up on BU hockey, so we had a pretty big upperhand on getting him here,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “But we knew we were getting a real talented kid.”


Parker: Pereira out at least until BC game

By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff

Junior forward Joe Pereira will be out approximately a month after having hernia surgery Wednesday, according to BU coach Jack Parker.

Parker said he was hopeful Pereira would return for BU’s Jan. 8 meeting with Boston College at Fenway Park. Pereira will definitely miss Friday’s game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is unlikely to return in time for BU’s Jan. 2 meeting with the No. 15 University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Pereira had been due to have the operation for some time, Parker said, and with only two games on the Terriers’ schedule for the next four weeks, the team decided now was the optimal time for Pereira to undergo the procedure.

The junior was on the short list of players Parker complimented Wednesday for having put forth a full effort the entire season, along with the senior Eric Gryba, sophomore Ross Gaudet and the entire freshman class.

Pereira has tallied three goals and six assists in 15 games this season. Over the past few weeks, Parker has occasionally bumped Pereira up to first-line duties while freshman Alex Chiasson battled the flu and a chin injury.

From the FreeP: Gryba the Goliath

By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff

On Friday night at Agganis Arena, 21-year-old men’s hockey senior Eric Gryba scored his third collegiate goal.

A little more than four minutes into the second period, sophomore forward Corey Trivino led a rush up the right side and into the zone before passing to sophomore forward Vinny Saponari at the left faceoff dot. Gryba, eschewing his normal place on the blue line, crept unnoticed to the right doorstep of the goal. Saponari saw Gryba and fired a pass toward the defenseman, who tipped the puck in for Boston University’s first goal of the game, en route to a 3-3 tie against the University of Vermont.

The goal was Gryba’s first on the season. As a defensive defenseman, Gryba is a force on the ice, albeit not an offensive one. Gryba’s checks often leave opponents crumpled at his feet like a heap of dirty laundry. At 6-feet-4-inches and 220 pounds, Gryba is seven inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than his defensive partner, sophomore David Warsofsky.