Pluses and Minuses: No. 2 Terriers trounce Wisconsin to close out weekend trip

MADISON, Wisconsin — No late-game deflections were needed this time for the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team.

Danny O'Regan. Photo by Alexanda Wimley/Daily Free Press Staff
Danny O’Regan. Photo by Alexanda Wimley/Daily Free Press Staff

Behind freshman forward Jack Eichel’s four points, the Terriers (12-3-4, 7-1-2 Hockey East) cruised to a 6-1 victory over the University of Wisconsin on Saturday at the Kohl Center.

A new-look first line composed of Eichel, senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues and junior winger Danny O’Regan combined for five of the six goals. For his part, freshman netiminder Connor LaCouvee made 32 saves in his return to the crease.

As always, there were positives and negatives to Saturday night’s game. Here’s an in-depth look at the pluses and minuses:

Pluses 

Eichel’s big night

If there were any fears that the freshman was in the midst of a slump, Eichel allayed those  — and then some.

Trailing by a goal early in the second period, the Terriers were in need of a goal to get back in the game. Eichel came through.

As he skated in through the left wing, he had the opportunity to feed Rodrigues as he charged low to the net. But instead of making a cross-ice pass, Eichel dangled through multiple defenders, turned around and fired a wrister that Badgers (2-12-2) goaltender Joel Rumpel had little chance to stop.

Eichel connected on his second goal of the game on a power-play opportunity as he threw a puck in between a well-placed screen in front of the net. On the man advantage midway through the third, it appeared like Eichel might have scored his third of the night, but O’Regan deflected the puck past Rumpel, so the freshman was credited with the assist.

As if he didn’t have enough spaces on the stat sheet filled, the North Chelmsford native started a shorthanded 2-on-1 with O’Regan, who tapped the puck into a gaping net at 11:32 in the final period.

BU coach David Quinn said a down game on Friday fed into a positive one on Saturday.

“I didn’t think he played well and, more importantly, he didn’t think he played well,” Quinn said. “So I knew he was going to bust out for a big night sooner or later.”

Revamped first line clicks 

Yes, Eichel had a stellar night, but his linemates weren’t too shabby either. Instead of Oksanen playing at one of the wing spots, Quinn shook things up and bumped Rodrigues up, while Oksanen slid into the second unit. The move paid off, as the new trio finished with 10 combined points.

O’Regan scored two goals off of Eichel primary helpers, and Rodrigues finished the night off with a goal in which he toe dragged around a diving Badgers defenseman and wristed the puck high over Rumpel.

The addidtion of Rodriuges to the group didn’t affect the chemistry the line previously had, O’Regan said after the game.

“Ahti’s got a big-time shot, but Evan’s just a great player,” O’Regan said. “He’s got great vision and [he’s] really creative. It’s really fun playing with him, he opens stuff up and creates a lot of offense.”

LaCouvee returns in a big way

It had not been since Nov. 30 that the freshman started a game. If he had any cobwebs, it didn’t show. It was his best game since opening night in Amherst.

He finished the night with 32 saves, including 17 in the third period alone. It was not just the saves he made, but the way he made them that stood out. Time and time again he used his right pad to kick away most rebound attempts to the side boards.

“I thought he played very well, Quinn said of his goaltender. “Made some big saves and did a lot of good things.”

His only blemish came two minutes into the second period when forward Jedd Soleway jammed a loose puck into the net.

Olsson continues physical play

For a long stretch in the first half of the season, the Terriers were without the 6-foot freshman forward. Since Nikolas Olsson’s return to the lineup on Jan. 3, BU has benefitted from his gritty efforts.

The freshman seems to find his way fighting for the puck near the boards or down low in the crease. This is exactly how he found the back of the net Saturday. As he pushed to the net after an initial shot from sophomore forward Nick Roberto, Olsson bounced on the rebound and deposited the puck into the cage for his second goal in three games.

“You know when he’s out there, he’s a big, wide body, Quinn said. “He’s got good hands, he’s got good skill. He’s a guy that we missed when he was out of the lineup.”

Minuses 

Too many chances allowed in third period

Up 3-1 to start the third period, the Terriers sat back and let Wisconsin rack up offensive-zone time. In just the first few minutes, the Badgers held a 6-0 shot advantage in the frame.

Although BU scored three goals in the final 20 minutes, Wisconsin outshot the Terriers 17-12 to end the game. Quinn said the problems that led to so many Wisconsin chances need to be addressed.

“We were just way too sloppy, Quinn said. “We were much better than we were last night, but still, we can’t just give 17 shots up in the third period with a 3-1 lead. We have to play smarter hockey than that — we recognize that, we know that.”

Pluses and Minuses: No. 2/3 Terriers thwart UConn comeback at XL Center

Sophomore Nick Roberto scored his first goal of the season in BU's 5-2 win over UConn on Saturday.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS SPORTS
Sophomore Nick Roberto scored his first goal of the season in BU’s 5-2 win over UConn on Saturday.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS SPORTS

HARTFORD, Connecticut — A quick turnover from Friday night’s game against the University of Maine was not enough to hinder the No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team on Saturday afternoon versus the University of Connecticut.

The Terriers (8-1-1, 6-1-1 Hockey East) jumped out to a 1-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the first and extended the advantage to a three-goal margin by the beginning of the third period. UConn (3-6-4, 2-3-1 Hockey East) got back in the game with two tallies in the middle of the final frame, but BU hung on for a 5-2 win at the XL Center.

As with every game, certain things went right and wrong for the Terriers. Here’s a closer look at the positives and negatives:

Pluses 

Extra-man Unit Thrives 

The BU power play started Friday night 0-for-3 before freshman forward Jack Eichel won the game in overtime with a goal on BU’s fourth chance. Building off some of that momentum, the Terriers scored their first two goals against UConn with an extra attacker.

Junior forward Ahti Oksanen one-timed BU’s initial goal at the 7:28 mark in the opening period, and senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann redirected a point shot from freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey past goaltender Rob Nichols. For more on BU’s power-play success, check out Conor’s sidebar.

A Trio of Firsts 

Yes, BU’s top line totaled three of the team’s goals, but the win did not come without a different cast of characters contributing. About 2:30 into the final period, freshman forward Chase Phelps jumped on the ice as fellow freshman forward A.J. Greer skated back to the bench.

Phelps took a pass from junior center Matt Lane, skated through the slot and patiently waited for a chance. As he got close to the goal, he fired off a wrister. Sophomore forward Nick Roberto was in the right place at the right time and deflected the puck into the net for the Terriers’ third goal.

The tally gave Phelps his first career point at the collegiate level and Roberto his first goal of the season.

“When you go to the net like that you get rewarded,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I felt we had a lot more grit and grind to our game as the game went on.”

Although his name did not appear on the scoresheet, redshirt junior forward J.D. Carrabino made his first appearance in the scarlet and white since transferring to Commonwealth Avenue last year. He did not have a ton of ice time, but Quinn said the 6-foot-6 forward made his presence felt.

“He’s a big, strong, physical guy,” Quinn said. “I just felt this was a good game to get him in, smaller rink. They’re a normally stronger team and I thought he would be effective and he was.”

An Effective Timeout and An Equally Effective Regroup 

When freshman Corey Ronan put the Huskies within one goal at the 8:46 mark in the third period, a crowd of 7,712 that was silent for most of the contest erupted as UConn scored its second goal in 57 seconds. Quinn then used his one timeout in attempt calm his team down after a poor minute of play.

Whether the timeout that was the reason or not, the Terriers answered back.

Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor made a few key stops on chances low in the slot to keep the Terriers in the lead after the stoppage. The netminder and his defense hung on long enough for the Terriers to get the fourth goal, which all but clinched the game.

Oksanen banked a pass of the glass near the penalty box and set up Eichel near the blue line. As the freshman has done time and time again, he took the puck, skated into the offensive zone with speed and created his own chance. Nichols robbed him with a sprawling pad save, but junior winger Danny O’Regan was there to pick up the loose change at the 17:16 mark, scoring his seventh goal of the year.

“The timeout, team scores two goals in that short period of time, it seemed like the right thing to do and I don’t know if it was but it felt like I needed to do it,” Quinn said. “Crowd was getting into it, they were feeding off their energy, they had a couple of good shifts after that but I thought we defended a lot better. They got some zone time and I thought we did a good job not giving up any chances and we get in the fourth goal.”

Minuses 

Fifty-Seven Seconds of Poor Play

Roberto’s goal at the beginning of the third gave the Terriers a comfortable three-goal lead and put BU seemingly in command. UConn, however, fought back in a hurry. In a short span, forward Cody Sharib knocked in a rebound and Ronan wristed a shot from the left circle, beating O’Connor glove side.

The breakdown gave the Huskies life and a chance to tie up the score. UConn couldn’t get that third goal, but the chances were there. Quinn’s aforementioned timeout was a key in making sure the tide was steadied.

More Time on Special Teams 

A special teams unit that worked off four power-plays a night ago had to kill just as many against the Huskies. Right off the bat in the first period, freshman defenseman John MacLeod took a boarding penalty, one of his three on the afternoon. His three penalties now give him eight for the year, which is tied for the team lead with freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. By the end of the contest, Hickey skated along with junior captain Matt Grzelcyk on the top defensive pairing during most shifts.

The penalty kill did work off all eight power plays this weekend, but going forward, staying out of the box is something the Terriers need to improve upon.

Pluses and Minuses: Offense, defense both shine against St. Thomas

The 2013-14 Boston University men’s hockey team must be wondering where all of this scoring was last year.

For a team that finished ninth in Hockey East in offense a season ago, scoring has not been a thing the Terriers have been all that accustomed to in recent months. But after this year’s BU team skated off the ice with a 12-1 win against St. Thomas University on Saturday afternoon, it was clear the Terriers offense has changed for the better.

In a blowout win against the Canadian school, most things went right for the Terriers during this game. Here’s a closer look of what went right and wrong for BU against the Tommies.

Pluses

Ahti, Ahti, Ahti…and more Ahti

Junior Ahti Oksanen has been part of the defensive unit since he stepped on to Commonwealth Avenue in 2012 as a freshman. But before this season, the Finland native had another position listed next to his name for the first time since he was a young kid: forward.

And in his first game action of the 2014-15 season, Oksanen was able to play on BU’s top line. To say he made the most of the opportunity is an understatement. The 6-foot-3 forward tallied four goals and earned the game’s No. 1 star. After depositing a second-chance goal a little over three minutes into the game, Oksanen added three more goals between the first and second periods.

Playing with freshman forward Jack Eichel and senior winger Evan Rodrigues, Oksanen took advantage of the open ice talent level around him.

“It’s almost a dream come true,” Oksanen said of playing on the top line. “Eichel and Rodrigues, too. I just feel like I just need to find myself open and [Eichel] would get me the puck. It’s really easy playing with both of those guys.”

Special Deliveries from Eichel

The freshman center gave BU of a taste of just what he can bring to the table. Eichel used his speed and quick hands to weave around the Tommies defensive unit all game long. From his first shift, Eichel appeared composed and in control of the game.

He did not score, but Eichel was the primary assist man on five of BU’s goals. On the Terriers’ fourth and fifth goals, the STU defense tried to contain Eichel’s explosiveness by putting multiple defenders on him. But the freshman found a wide open Oksanen both times to extend the Terriers’ lead.

Whether it was a toe drag or a quick deke to elude defensemen, Eichel got the job done against STU in the offensive end.

Young Defensemen Step Up

Before Saturday’s game, BU coach David Quinn said he hoped his corps of rookie defensemen would get used to the college level quickly. If the weekend’s contest is any indication of the unit’s ability, the group has a bright future ahead of itself.

Four of the five starting defenseman against STU had never played a game for the Terriers. The blue-liners’ inexperience mattered little, however. The defensemen excelled in both defensive zone coverage and in their ability to start breakout plays going toward the offensive end.

Defenseman Brandon Fortunato stood out among the pack with his plus-6, three-assist game. He also tied for a game-high in blocked shots with three. On BU’s final goal, Fortunato blocked a St. Thomas chance at the point, fed a pass through the neutral zone to freshman forward A.J. Greer, who finished the play with BU’s final goal of the game.

Freshmen Brandon Hickey also added two assists and John MacLeod scored a goal.

“I thought all of the defensemen did a great job moving the puck, Quinn said. “I thought we came out of our zone clean on numerous occasions, they showed great poise.

“To me, it wasn’t our D-zone coverage that was the issue last year, it was the fact that we had trouble breaking it out of the zone, which forced us to defend an awful lot. That certainly allowed us to generate offense on the initial rush and establish the offensive zone and create offense.”

Minuses

One Unlucky Goal

It’s really nit-picking to say anything went wrong for the Terriers on Saturday, but the one goal prevented BU from a three-goalie shutout. With freshman netminder Connor LaCouvee in goal for the first time, St. Thomas went on the power play and scored with the help of the BU defense.

The Tommies took a shot from the blue line that was blocked and flew high and over an unsuspecting LaCouvee. In an attempt to help their goaltender, the BU defense swatted the puck out of the air to try to get it out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, the puck hit LaCouvee and into the net for a goal.

“And the goal was a flukey one, unfortunately for LaCouvee,” Quinn said. “You’re a freshman and you get in there and we bat it in the air and it goes off him and into the net.”