By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
1) No. 8 University of Massachusetts-Lowell
The River Hawks (4-2-0, 2-1-0 Hockey East) proved that their preseason hype was deserved last weekend against BU. The UML offense outworked the Terrier defense on both nights, scoring all seven of its goals from within 10 feet of the BU cage en route to a weekend split. After giving up three fast-break goals in Friday’s overtime loss, the River Hawks bore down on defense Saturday night to pick up their first win against the Terriers in seven tries. UML’s only other loss this season was to another top-10 team –– the No. 10 University of Nebraska-Omaha.
2) No. 5/7 Boston University
After last weekend’s split against UML, you could very easily make the argument that the Terriers (2-3-0, 1-2-0) should be No. 1, or at least 1A. The power play started coming together, sophomore goalie Kieran Millan made several outstanding saves and the offense doubled its season scoring output on Friday night with five goals. But the defense struggled mightily, consistently allowing the River Hawks second- and third-chance opportunities as BU failed to clear the zone. Still, a 2-1-0 record in its last three games –– all against top-10 teams –– is an encouraging sign for BU.
3) No. 19 University of Massachusetts-Amherst
The Minutemen (4-1-0, 3-1-0) haven’t exactly faced the toughest schedule so far, but they do have the best overall record in the conference, and they do sit atop the current standings with six points. A 3-2 home win over BU back on Oct. 16 is obviously impressive, but wins over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Maine and a weekend split with Providence aren’t quite enough to vault UMass all the way to the top yet. Junior James Marcou leads the conference’s best offense thus far (3.80 goals per game) with a nation-best 2.20 points per game.
4) No. 16 Boston College
The Eagles (2-2-0, 1-2-0) are one of the hardest teams to judge for two reasons –– they’ve played the fewest games in the conference, and they’ve been inconsistent. After a blowout loss at Vermont to start the season, BC picked up an impressive road win over the No. 9 University of Notre Dame, but then followed that up with a split against Merrimack last weekend. The Eagles still have boatloads of talent, though, and the point-per-game paces of senior Ben Smith and junior Joe Whitney suggest a turnaround after their disappointing seasons last year.
5) No. 15 University of Vermont
Talk about a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. The Catamounts (2-3-0, 1-2-0) started the season 2-1 with wins over BC and the No. 2/3 University of Denver, but have since lost two straight to Merrimack and Maine by a combined score of 9-3. Before the season, UVM’s biggest question was up front, while the defense seemed like a sure thing. So far, the offense has been fine (3.40 goals per game), but the defense has been porous (3.80 goals-against per game). Six of UVM’s next eight opponents are ranked, so the real Cats should emerge soon enough.
6) Providence College
The Friars (5-2-0, 1-1-0) already have two fewer wins than they had all of last season. Wins at Notre Dame and at UMass are definitely impressive, but they also lost to both of those teams, earning two weekend splits. Providence’s other three wins have come against the College of the Holy Cross and Bowling Green State University (2x) –– two teams that are a combined 2-8-2 this season. The most promising sign for the Friars so far has to be the improved play of sophomore goalie Alex Beaudry, who ranks ninth in the country with a .939 save percentage.
7) Merrimack College
Don’t expect the Warriors (5-3-0, 2-1-0) to be the laughingstock, non-playoff team they’ve been for the last five years. This year’s squad already has impressive victories over Vermont and BC, outscoring the pair 10-5 in those wins. Merrimack also battled the No. 2/3 University of North Dakota down to the wire in a hard-fought 3-2 road loss. The Warriors currently rank second in the conference in scoring offense (3.75 goals per game). Junior Chris Barton is tied for first in the nation with seven goals, while freshman Stephane Da Costa is right behind him with six.
8) University of New Hampshire
Yes, the Wildcats (2-4-1, 2-0-0) are undefeated in conference play, but their atrocious 0-4-1 out-of-conference record is hard to ignore. A tie and loss against No. 1 Miami University is nothing to be embarrassed about, but losing 3-1 to Rensselaer and being outscored 10-2 in a weekend sweep at the hands of the University of Wisconsin certainly are. Someone needs to remind junior Mike Sislo (2 points) that he’s supposed to be one of the league’s top scorers. Oh, and senior goalie Brian Foster’s 3.99 goals-against average and .875 save percentage aren’t helping, either.
9) Northeastern University
The Huskies (2-3-0, 0-2-0) rank last in the conference in scoring (2.40 goals per game) and last in the conference on the penalty kill (69.2 percent). Those are the two biggest reasons they’ve been more than doubled up by UNH and UML in their last two games. Northeastern does have an impressive road win over No. 11/12 Colorado College, but that came as part of a weekend split. The Huskies only other win this year came against non-power Bentley University. NU faces its biggest test so far this weekend when it hosts BU on Friday and heads to BC on Saturday.
10) University of Maine
The Black Bears’ (2-5-0, 1-2-0) offense has actually been pretty good –– sophomore Gustav Nyquist is tied for fourth in the nation with 11 points and freshman Adam Shemansky is tied for seventh with five goals –– but their defense has been horrendous. Maine ranks last in the conference with a putrid 4.14 team goals-against average. The Black Bears’ two wins have come over two pretty good teams –– Vermont and No. 17 Michigan State University –– but they’ve given up 25 goals in their five losses, including 10 in a weekend sweep at the hands of lowly Union College.
By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
Sophomore defenseman David Warsofsky will likely miss Friday night’s game at Northeastern with an injury to the adductor muscles in his hip, according to BU coach Jack Parker.
Warsofsky –– who was named Hockey East Player of the Week after recording two goals, an assist and a plus-4 rating in a weekend split with UMass-Lowell –– suffered the injury Saturday night when defensive partner and senior alternate captain Eric Gryba took both him and a UML player out with a big hit behind the Terrier net. Warsofsky stayed in the game, but the injury proved to be more serious than the team initially thought.
Warsofsky has been skating in practice, but has not participated in any contact drills this week. Parker said that if Warsofsky is unable to go, freshman Ben Rosen, who has yet to play a regular-season game, will be paired with Gryba.
Megan could miss Friday’s game
Freshman forward Wade Megan missed Wednesday’s practice because he had to go home for a funeral, and Parker said that if he is not back in time for Thursday’s practice, he won’t play Friday –– not as any form of punishment, but simply because he won’t be prepared enough. If Megan is out, sophomore Ross Gaudet will move up to center a line with Chris Connolly and Vinny Saponari.
Other injury updates
Junior center Nick Bonino (dislocated right shoulder) has been skating in non-contact drills all week and Parker said he “feels great,” but added that the alternate captain definitely won’t be back this weekend. Parker said the team’s being very cautious with Bonino because they want the muscles in his shoulder to contract more, noting that if he dislocates it a second time, the muscles will stay stretched out.
Sophomore goalie Grant Rollheiser (high ankle sprain) is still week-to-week, according to Parker, and will not be in the lineup this weekend. Parker said that Rollheiser’s been participating in every drill in practice, but that it’s just a hard injury for a goalie to come back from, noting that when then-senior Karson Gillespie suffered the same injury two years ago, it took him two months to come back. Rollheiser has missed five weeks so far.
So we’re going to try to get a little user interaction up in this joint.
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.