From the FreeP: BU and UNH seek consistency in weekend pair

By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff

In a typical season, a Boston University-University of New Hampshire men’s hockey matchup is a showcase of two national powerhouses. But this weekend’s home-and-home between the Terriers and Wildcats, which kicks off tonight at the Whittemore Center in Durham, is a meeting of two unranked clubs loitering below the .500 mark.
Neither team has been able to find any sort of consistency this season. BU (3-6-0, 2-5-0 Hockey East) started the season 2-2, but then proceeded to lose four straight before beating Merrimack College, 6-4, on Saturday night. UNH (3-6-2, 3-2-1) has more or less followed the same path, getting off to a 2-2-1 start, but then going 0-4-1 in its next five before picking up a 4-2 win at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on Saturday.

Injury updates heading into UNH series

By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff

Connolly questionable with shoulder injury

As The Boston Hockey Blog reported yesterday, sophomore forward Chris Connolly is questionable with a separated shoulder heading into this weekend’s home-and-home with UNH, according to a source close to the team.

Connolly, who was named a Hockey East Co-Player of the Week on Monday, skated briefly at the beginning of practice Wednesday, sporting one of BU’s light-blue non-contact jerseys. Connolly left the ice about 15 minutes into the session, and watched the remainder of practice from the BU bench. He had an ice pack saran-wrapped to his left shoulder for part of that time.

BU coach Jack Parker declined to specify Connolly’s injury after practice, saying he had an upper-body injury that “may or may not keep him out of play this weekend.”

Colby Cohen leaves practice with lower-body injury

Junior Colby Cohen left practice early Wednesday with what Parker called a “lower-body injury.”

Parker said the injury was “probably not” anything serious, and did not go into further detail.

Warsofsky 100 percent, practicing at forward

Sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky said after practice Wednesday that the injury to the adductor muscle in his hip that had caused him to miss three of the last four games is back to 100 percent, and that he expects to play this weekend.

Warsofsky practiced as a forward during Wednesday’s practice. During 5-on-3 power-play drills, Warsofsky worked as BU’s big-man atop the crease with junior Nick Bonino and freshman Alex Chiasson on the wings and junior Colby Cohen and junior Kevin Shattenkirk at the points.

“That’s an important part of the power play for sure,” Warsofsky said about setting screens and scrounging for rebounds. “If I get in front of the net, maybe some of the other guys will see that and learn a little something. We’ll see.”

Parker said he had yet to decide where Warsofsky would play this weekend, saying the decision will be made based on what players are kept from the lineup with injury.

“I know he can play defense for us. I know he can play forward for us,” Parker said. “I think it’s a matter of who’s available and where we’ll be depth-wise. If we had everybody, I’d probably play him back on defense.”

If Warsofsky does play forward, he’ll play on Bonino’s wing, or if he plays defense, he’ll be paired with senior Eric Gryba, Parker said.

Warsofsky, who was selected as a defenseman by the St. Louis Blues in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, said the move wasn’t likely to be permanent.

“I mean, I don’t think it’s going to be a career-changer, but we’ll see,” Warsofsky said.

Rollheiser’s status still uncertain

In Saturday’s 6-4 win over Merrimack College, sophomore goalie Grant Rollheiser tweaked the high-ankle sprain that had kept him out of action for the entire season leading up to last weekend. Rollheiser practiced at full strength Wednesday, and Parker said he would wait to see how Rollheiser felt tomorrow before deciding who would start in net on which nights this weekend.

Bonino and Chiasson practice full-contact, ready to go

The list of BU players dealing with injuries is finally dwindling to only a select few. Bonino and Chiasson both missed time last weekend due to injuries, but both participated fully in practice Wednesday and are expected to play this weekend.

When it was suggested that BU might actually have most of its players healthy and in the lineup this weekend, Parker turned to knock on the wood table next to him and said, “There’s still one more practice to go, though, so we’ll see.”

Parker joked that he might have to keep an eye on Gryba, whose hits are responsible for Warsofsky’s and Chiasson’s injuries.

“We might have to have him come out with just no shoulder pads, no elbow pads,” Parker said jokingly.

From the FreeP: Terriers unravel on back-to-back nights after strong first periods

By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff

In a 6-3 loss to Merrimack College Friday night, the No. 17 Boston University men’s hockey team hit rock bottom, by BU coach Jack Parker’s account.

After the Terriers outshot the Warriors, 12-5, and dominated the time-of-possession battle in the first period, BU unraveled mentally, Parker said.

Jack Parker Postgame Transcript

Opening statement

Well, let’s pick out all the positive things, and there were a lot of them. I thought that my goaltender played real well tonight, for the first time since shutting out Providence in this building last year. We needed a win and he got it for us. He stood tall in the third period especially. I thought despite the fact that we gave up three power-play goals, we did a pretty good job killing penalties. We had so many to kill. And the 5-on-3 really got a couple guys exhausted. They scored a 5-on-4 because the 5-on-3 guys were exhausted and couldn’t get off the ice when it was 5-on-4. We had gone quite a long time without getting a 5-on-5 goal and we got a few tonight. Nice to get Rollheiser back. Obviously nice to get Bonino back. Probably, we’ll have the guys who were out of the lineup back next week, give us a little different look in our lineup.

But these guys played pretty hard tonight. I thought everyone played pretty hard most of the time, played stupid sometimes with penalties. I thought our forecheck was great, the way we were playing it against their stretch. Then we got caught off-guard with the defense crashing, gave them a 2-on-1 for a goal to make it too close a game than it should have been. Nice to see Ross Gaudet get his first goal of his college career. I thought he played very, very well. I thought the best player on the ice for us was Joe Pereira. I thought he played great. Our All-American defensemen, Shattenkirk and Cohen, I try to keep both of them in sometimes with some of the plays they were making.

Once we were up 4-0, I thought we self-destructed two ways tonight. We got up 4-0, and I thought we tried to make too many cute plays, tried to make a big play instead of just playing them straight, the way we were playing them earlier. And then we self-destructed tonight because of the penalties we took. Real disheartening to see us, you know this game’s in the bag, we’re up 4-0, and all of the sudden we’re making foolish, foolish decisions with the puck, and not protecting the puck thinking we can wheel out. The amount of turnovers we had in that second period was like night and day compared to how we played in the first period. And believe me, it wasn’t them who was doing it to us. We had complete control of the puck, and then we just wanted to make something special happen and turn it over. But the 5-on-3 goal was huge in the second period when Colby got that. It was a bomb, which is what he can do. In general, it was a much-needed win.

On whether or not Bonino plays if the team’s 6-2 rather than 2-6

Yeah. He could’ve played last night. I don’t think he could’ve played two games in a row, conditioning-wise. It has nothing to do with his shoulder. His shoulder’s fine.

On what worked on the top line

They had a lot of energy. Pereira really gave them a lot of energy. Nick was gasping a little bit. He’s not quite in game shape, but he made some nice plays, looked like himself out there. And I think Connolly played extremely well. Connolly’s been playing well all year. He’s been getting a lot of shots, but I think now, at least he got two goals tonight, which is nice after being snakebitten for quite a while. I thought Bonino played well. That line had a lot of jump for us, and a lot of opportunities. And I thought Pereira was the guy that gave it that jump. His determination really changed things around for them, and opened up some areas for the other two guys.

On his decision to change up all four forward lines

The saying is, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ So, the opposite is true, too. We went 217 minutes, I think, without scoring a 5-on-5 goal. So, mix it up. And we could mix it up because we got Bonino back. All of a sudden, Megan goes from a first-line center to a third-line center. When we get Alex back, we’ll have a different look. When we get David back, we’ll have a different look. And all of a sudden, everyone gets moved around a little bit, and the whole lineup gets stronger top to bottom. So, Bonino made that lineup stronger top to bottom, just by being the first-line center. And, also, he made us stronger because he’s so good, too.

On what allowed his team to get out to a fast start

We changed the forecheck a little bit to what’s known as a triangle plus-two to offset their stretch guy. It gave us the opportunity to go forecheck without worrying about the guy behind us, so I’d say we played it almost 75 percent of the game. Other than that one defenseman crashing down that one time when he shouldn’t have and gave them that 2-on-1, I thought we controlled most of center ice, which we didn’t last night. Last night, there’s the stretch guy. and then passing it back, the guy’s flying and our gap isn’t really there. Tonight, we were able to keep the current gap, so to speak.

On what he makes of the current Hockey East standings

I picked Maine to be one of the dark horses and to make the biggest improvement. Everyone knew that Merrimack lost, I think they lost 12 one-goal games last year, and they added some new players. BU and Northeastern don’t lose what they lost and come back. For us to be the preseason favorite in the league was a bit of a stretch considering what we lost compared to the guys we’re having come back. That was still a little polish from the national championship last year. But then we start off with some of our key guys not playing well, and then we get all the injuries, and the injuries really made a mess out of it for a while. We had guys out with the flu, guys out with whatever. What goes around comes around. We had Strait miss about five games last year, and Higgins missed about four games last year, but that was it. This was a mess right off the bat.

But the good part about it is if we can keep our head above water here and get everybody back, we had some guys step up and some guys play different positions. And I think Gaudet proved he needs to be kept in the lineup, and Santana has proven he needs to be kept in the lineup and given more opportunity to play. Megan’s proven he can be a center and a pretty good player out there for us. And maybe those guys wouldn’t have had opportunities early if everybody’s here. And Rosen wasn’t playing much, and he’s shown us he can play. I certainly don’t like the idea that we’re so far down in the league as far as the games we’ve lost, but at the same time, it gave us an opportunity to see some other guys we wouldn’t have seen.

On his decision to sit Andrew Glass and Kevin Gilroy and play Victor Saponari

Well, I sat Glass and Gilroy because we were going to play Victor and Bonino. Bonino obviously is coming in the minute he gets back healthy. Victor hasn’t played a game this year yet, and I thought those guys were the easiest two guys to take out. I needed to take a right wing out, and I took a left wing out, but I put Gaudet on left wing. He played center last night. I thought he played well. Another guy I thought played great tonight was Luke Popko. He had a great night. What he does for us so well, there’s not many guys that can do it as well as he does. So, I was happy to see that that line played pretty well. I thought Ross played well going on left wing, which is not his usual position. I thought he played well. So, we’ll see what happens here in the next few games, and we’ll get some different combinations. We’d like to get Alex back. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get David back. We may not get Alex back. It all depends on how he feels these next two days, but we’re pretty sure David probably could’ve played tonight.

On what caused his team to unravel a bit in the second for the second straight night

Two things, two completely different things. Last night, we unraveled because we got rattled. We acted like, they made it 3-1 at home, we’re afraid to lose. And we’re playing like, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to lose this game’. Tonight was just the opposite. We can do what we want out there, and then all of a sudden, we’re giving up turnover after turnover after turnover. We weren’t covering anybody last night. We were giving away turnovers tonight. So, we were rattled last night. We thought we were too good tonight. Neither one of those scenarios is very good. I don’t know if it’s leaders. That creeps in every once in a while when you get a big lead, always has. People get satisfied, the other team gets a little more determined, especially when it’s 4-1, 4-2. When it’s 4-0, ‘Aw, the game’s over.’ The game’s over when the game’s over.

Nick Bonino, Chris Connolly and Kevin Shattenkirk Postgame Transcripts

Bonino on how it feels to be back

Aw, it felt great. I’ve been practicing for a couple weeks, and I knew I was getting closer to being ready to play. And they cleared me for this weekend, and they knew it was the minimum for this weekend, so just to go one. And it felt good. It felt good to be back in the locker room with the guys and getting prepared for the game on gameday instead of not getting prepared and not playing. So, it felt great to get back in the lineup and great to get a win.

Connolly on what clicked on the first line

Nick and I had played together a little bit last year and the start of this year. I knew Nick was going to be excited to play, and Joe brings a lot of energy to our line, works hard, frees up a lot of open space. And we just wanted to create opportunities, keep it down in their zone, and we were fortunate enough to be on the winning side of that.

Shattenkirk on what changed in 5-on-5 play

If you look back at the last couple games, we’ve had plenty of shots. There really wasn’t a lot of traffic, and we were making it pretty easy for the goalie. Everyone just got a lot of traffic to the net, and we kind of surprised him on a few shots. It’s just a matter of time before they started to fall because we were really pressing a lot of teams. It just wasn’t bouncing for us.

Shattenkirk on why Merrimack was able to get back in it in the second

I think it’s tough to play when you’re up four goals. I think that’s our fault, maybe getting a little too loose in the locker room. I think that’s something we definitely need to work on. The last game, it was kind of the same thing. We went into the locker room with a 1-1 tie, and came out and Merrimack really took it to us. I think it’s just a matter of playing a full 60 minutes and realizing that any team can really step it up no matter what the lead is.

Shattenkirk on whether or not the team’s surprised by its bad start

I wouldn’t say it’s surprised us. It’s definitely gotten to us a little bit. Coach has been stressing a lot that we need to believe in our talent and our skill. I think that’s kind of what we focused on tonight, was really just knowing that we can be a great hockey team. I think it showed at certain points in the game.

Bonino on whether or not he felt like he was back in game shape

It felt good. It’s tough to get the timing back. There’s plays when I would lose my guy for a second and have to go get him, but hopefully that will come back to me next weekend and in these practices. After not doing any contact all week, and then doing a little bit Thursday, and then having to cover a man and body somebody, so it felt good. Buddy Powers skated me a lot after practice this week, and that helped me, so it felt good.

Connolly on whether or not getting Bonino and Rollheiser back lifted some spirits

Yeah, definitely. We’ve been on the wrong side of injuries for the beginning of the season, losing Nick, Dave’s been in-and-out, Rollie’s been hurt the entire season. We’re just starting to get those guys healthy, and they all bring a lot to the team. Just the mental side of it, knowing we get those players back in our lineup, we know it’s going to bring a lot and obviously it helped us win tonight.

Shattenkirk on whether or not the win changed the team’s mindset

Absolutely. I think this was big for us tonight, just keeping our team morale up and guys are happy. And I really think we need to remember this feeling and remember what it takes to really get a win because it’s hard, but at the same time it’s great.

Connolly on the mindset of the team coming in after four straight losses

We came off of three one-goal losses, so it’s kind of tough to deal with when you’re working hard, outshooting teams a lot. You know you’re getting chances and you just end up on the losing end. What we wanted to keep stressing is we’ve gotta keep at it, working hard. The only thing we can control is our effort. And if we go out there and keep doing the same things we’re doing, and Coach emphasizes not beating ourselves by taking stupid penalties, and just staying after it, things like these are going to start going our way.

Bonino on the team’s mindset after taking a 4-0 lead

We were on a high. We try to stay even keel, not too high, not too low, but I think we were pretty excited after struggling to score all year, and it kind of came together in the first period. So, that was difficult. It wasn’t too bad in the locker room. Guys were focused for the most part. When we came out, I think we just got a little jumpy with the puck. We were up and we didn’t want to blow the lead, and they got a couple. But we just got a little too comfortable there, and we just had to take a step back. Coach called a timeout and we were able to come back and battle after that I think.

Connolly on whether or not he’s starting to get some confidence after scoring a few goals

Yeah. The weight’s off my shoulders now, so hopefully they’ll just keep coming. I knew that pass was coming from Nick, just had to wait the defenseman out. So, I was getting ready to shoot the puck and I had an open net. I told myself, ‘If I miss that, I may as well just leave the ice and go get undressed.’

Shattenkirk on the play of Rollheiser

It was great. I know the last couple weeks, he’s been really fighting that injury, and it’s a tough injury to come back from for a goalie. I think he competed tonight. Whenever a goalie plays like that, it really just gives the defensemen confidence. He made some big saves for us down the stretch. I think it will be good for Kieran. It allows Coach to go back and forth with them and get that competition like they had last year at the beginning of the season, really fighting for the job.