Terrier defense turns it around after poor effort last weekend

By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff

After an abysmal showing in last weekend’s split against the No. 8 University of Massachusetts-Lowell, the No. 5/7 Boston University men’s hockey team played its best defensive game of the season in Friday night’s 1-0 loss at Northeastern University.

Not only did the Terriers allow the fewest goals they’ve given up all season, but they also did a much better job of keeping the opponent to the outside, disrupting cycles and clearing out rebounds.

“BU did a terrific job,” Northeastern coach Greg Cronin said. “I thought they did a great job just neutralizing us on the cycle. They really stapled us on the boards. They surrounded the puck on all the battles. They constantly had those red jerseys all over the puck. We just had no mobility.”

Last weekend, the Terriers surrendered an astounding 32 shot attempts from the slot or closer in two games. BU coach Jack Parker said his team was “really inept at covering out front.” Senior defenseman and alternate captain Eric Gryba said the Terriers “weren’t tough enough to play against.”

But Friday night was an entirely different story. The Huskies took just six shots from within 10 feet of the BU cage. Rebound chances were few and far between. Extended offensive zone possessions were virtually nonexistent.

“We were focused,” Parker said. “We played harder. It’s really simple. We weren’t standing around watching . . . Saturday night’s game was a real downer for me as far as how good an effort and how good a focus we had. We looked like we weren’t ready to play. Tonight, we looked like we were ready.”

Besides being more focused and playing harder, changes in the defensive pairings worked about as well as they possibly could have. Reuniting juniors Colby Cohen and Kevin Shattenkirk on the top pairing after they were separated last weekend seemed to ignite the spark that had been lit between the duo over the past two years, but had seemingly flamed out earlier this season.

“I thought Shattenkirk played great tonight,” Parker said. “I thought this was his best game of the year. I thought Colby Cohen played great tonight. I thought it was his best game.”

Freshman Ben Rosen, who played with Gryba as the fill-in for injured sophomore David Warsofsky, also stepped up in his first collegiate regular-season game. After playing well in BU’s two exhibition games, the Syosset, N.Y. native didn’t crack the lineup in any of BU’s first five games due to a combination of both of the other freshman d-men (Sean Escobedo and Max Nicastro) performing well and Rosen not impressing the coaches enough in practice.

“I thought he played well,” Parker said of the rookie. “He was good with the puck. He was good defensively.”

One thing’s for sure –– if the Terriers continue to hold opponents to 20 shots and one goal a game, Parker will be a happy coach. When asked what his message to the team would be heading up to the University of Maine on Sunday, Parker responded, “Play like this. Give me another game like this.”

Terriers shut out by Northeastern, 1-0

By Jake Seiner/DFP Staff

The No. 5/7 Boston University men’s hockey team was dominant in nearly every fashion Friday night against Northeastern University.

The Terriers outshot the Huskies, 43-20, and controlled the pace of play for nearly the entire game. BU ripped 19 shots on net in over 15 minutes of power-play time, and blocked more than a third of Northeastern’s shot attempts.

In the end, about the only thing the Terriers did not have was NU freshman Chris Rawlings in net. The rookie made all the difference as Northeastern blanked BU, 1-0, at Matthews Arena. It was the first time BU was shutout on the road since March 15, 2004.

Rawlings turned away 43 BU (2-4-0, 1-3-0 Hockey East) shots, including 19 with NU (3-3-0, 1-2-0), on the penalty kill.

“He’s starting to get into a rhythm psychologically,” NU coach Greg Cronin said of Rawlings. “This position is such a mental position.

“There was a boatload of [shots] on the power play –– point blank shots, and hey, he was terrific.”

Rather than fold under the pressure of facing a “boatload” of shots, Rawlings said the constant barrage of pucks helped him maintain focus.

“I can’t stand when I don’t get a lot of shots,” Rawlings said. “I need a lot of shots so I can stay in the game.”

The teams played scoreless into the third period until the Huskies capitalized on a penalty by BU freshman Alex Chiasson 11:37 into the final frame. Exactly one minute into the power play, NU junior Mike Hewkin fired a shot from the center-point position. Junior Wade McLeod screened the shot, and the puck bounced off the pads of BU sophomore netminder Kieran Millan.

The puck slid to the top-right corner of the crease, where McLeod located and pushed the puck past Millan and over the goal line. It was McLeod’s third tally of the young season, and put Northeastern up, 1-0.

Just over three minutes later, Hewkin gave an already buzzing Terrier squad a golden opportunity to knot the game and potentially take the lead. The junior leveled Chiasson from behind into the NU half wall, and was handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct with 4:09 left in regulation.

The Terriers, who had dictated the pace of play since the second period, unleashed a flurry of scoring chances on the final man advantage.

Twice, junior Colby Cohen flicked passes from the point to sophomore Chris Connolly, who redirected the puck on net. Both times, Rawlings turned the sophomore away and left BU with no rebound opportunities.

Connolly, who led all players with eight shots on goal, sparked BU’s best scoring chance of the night. The sophomore flew around the back of the cage tried wrapping the puck around on Rawlings. Connolly beat Rawlings five-hole, but Rawlings got enough of the puck with the inside of one of his legs to slow it significantly. The puck trickled through the crease parallel to the goal line, inducing a massive scurry in front of the NU cage and frenzied an already raucous Matthews Arena.

The puck crept through the crease for three or four seconds before a Husky player located it with his stick and flipped it out of the zone.

In the game’s waning seconds, the Terriers wound up for two final shots, but NU defenders blocked both attempts. The horn sounded to end the game and capped off a 0-for-7 showing for the Terriers on the power play.

Despite the story on the stat sheet, the BU power play had one of its best performances of the season.

Coming into Friday, the Terriers were scoring on just 17.2 percent of their extra-man chances, and had been plagued by often horrendous puck possession and composure in the attacking zone.

Friday night, the Terriers in-zone passing game took a major step forward. Parker said junior Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen played their best games of the season, and the pair was in rare form at the points of BU’s power play. Aided by slick wing-to-wing cross-slot passing from Connolly and sophomore Vinny Saponari, the Terriers averaged almost three shots per power-play chance.

“We had a lot of good plays,” Parker said. “We were poised with the puck. We got the puck in the zone. We got control of the puck in the zone.”

The power play improvements were a reflection of a more focused and intense effort, according to Parker. The same concentration and energy also helped BU prevail in a number of 1-on-1 loose-puck chances and win 39-of-69 faceoffs –– a far cry from last Saturday’s 19-for-60 showing against the No. 8 University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

“I thought we came to play tonight,” Parker said. “It was like night and day from the last game. We came with an effort. We came with a lot of brains. We came with a lot of focus. We came with a lot of intensity. All the things we measure our team by, we would say we won this game tonight by the things we measure.

“I’d be very, very happy to continue playing the way we are.”

Kibbles and Bits

Northeastern junior Tyler McNeely suffered an elbow injury in the first period and was not on the ice or the bench for the second and third periods. Cronin declined to comment further on the extent of the injury after the game. . . . Northeastern hit two posts Friday, including one off the crossbar when an isolated McNeely beat Millan gloveside midway through the first period. . . . The Terriers registered at least two shots on every power-play chance they had Friday. . . . Sophomore David Warsofsky, who missed Friday’s game with an injury to the adductor muscle in his hip, will not decide until Sunday if he’ll play when BU travels to the University of Maine.

From the FreeP: Hockey East Power Rankings

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.

BREAKING NEWS: Warsofsky will likely miss Friday’s game

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.

Midweek Discussion Question

So we’re going to try to get a little user interaction up in this joint.

Question for discussion:
Before the season, BU coach Jack Parker said if the Terriers went 2-3 through their first five games, he’d consider that a fairly successful start. What do you guys think? Having had a chance to see BU against some of the country’s top talent, do you think their a top-5 team? Top 10? What’s this team’s ceiling? Hockey East contender? National contender? What needs the most improvement? What can this team lean on the rest of the season?
Just post your answers in the comment thread, and please, be nice.