BU head coach David Quinn
ORONO, Maine — Almost exactly a year ago to the day, the Boston University men’s hockey team was manhandled by the University of Maine in Alfond Arena, dropping a 7-0 decision to the Black Bears on Nov. 15, 2013.
No. 3 BU (6-1-1, 4-1-1 Hockey East) avenged its previous drubbing Friday night, as the Terriers bested the Black Bears (3-7-1, 2-3 Hockey East) by a score of 3-1 in front of a packed rink in Orono, Maine.
After entering the first intermission facing a 1-0 deficit, the Terriers would net three goals over the game’s final 40 minutes to improve their record to 4-0 when playing away from the friendly confines of Agganis Arena.
Here’s a closer look at what went right and wrong for the Terriers Friday night up in “The Pine Tree State:”
Terriers succeed shorthanded
Special teams play was a key component to the Terriers’ success Friday night, with the team’s penalty kill unit in particular making its presence felt against the Black Bears.
The Terriers, who entered the match ranked 27th nationally in penalty-kill percentage (.853), thwarted all three of Maine’s chances on the man advantage due to a combination of strong play from goaltender Matt O’Connor and a stout net-front presence.
“I thought they kind of exploited us down on the goal line on their power play,” Quinn said. “I thought they did a good job taking the puck to the net, that guy to the left of our goalie in particular. But I thought we recovered well, and I thought we did a much better job defending the net front.”
The Terriers penalty kill also paid dividends on the box score, as BU manufactured a shorthanded tally in the final minute of the second period.
Freshman forward Jack Eichel recovered the puck in BU’s zone and sailed by three Maine skaters before sending the biscuit across the crease of the Black Bears’ net to junior forward Danny O’Regan, who beat goalie Sean Romeo to give BU a 2-1 lead at 19:46.
The return of the OREO line
After crumbling last weekend due to an injury to junior forward Ahti Oksanen, BU’s “OREO” line returned once again and — in what has been a recurring trend this season — dominated the competition.
Oksanen, O’Regan and Eichel scored all three of BU’s goals on the night, with Oksanen getting the Terriers on the board at 8:48 in the second with a power-play tally.
“It was huge, it was huge because our power play hasn’t been great,” Quinn said of Oksanen’s goal. “We haven’t had a lot of them, but our power play hasn’t been great. And I thought that we really did a much better job getting pucks to the net.
“We had six shots on the four power plays. Going into the year, we had 24 shots on all of our power plays combined. So we had 18 power plays coming into the game and 24 shots, that’s just not going to cut it. At least we did a much better job getting pucks to the net and being ready to shoot on the power play.”
Weathering the storm
Quinn acknowledged after the game that skating at Alfond Arena as an opposing player can be intimidating enough for any individual.
Adding in the fact that the boisterous Maine crowd was further buoyed by a pregame ceremony honoring the Black Bears’ 1999 NCAA Championship team, the Terriers were forced to hold their own against an energized Maine squad over the opening minutes of Friday’s game.
“Anytime you come up here you really need to weather the storm because sometimes I feel like we’re the New York Yankees — people love to hate us,” Quinn said. “And certainly they hate us up here, I know that because of the long rivalry and the history we’ve had with them.”
The Terriers were pushed back on their heels for most of the first five minutes of game thanks to an effective Maine forecheck, giving the Black Bears a chance to draw first blood in the game.
At just 1:13 in the first period, Maine winger Connor Leen glided into the BU defensive zone, firing a wrist shot towards O’Connor near the right circle. While the BU netminder turned the initial attempt aside, Leen potted in the resulting rebound into the BU net to dig the Terriers an early hole.
Time for a change?
While Maine did not add to its scoring column in the second period, there were chances aplenty.
Multiple times throughout the 20 minutes of play, the Black Bears were given potential gift-wrapped goals as a result of poor BU line changes. Thankfully for the Terriers, key saves from O’Connor allowed the Terriers to claw back into Friday’s contest.
“What killed us in the second period in particular early was our changes,” Quinn said. “We had two horrific changes. And they get a breakaway and they get a 3-on-1. And we have four freshmen defensemen. … changing is a skill. And they don’t realize that yet. You got to learn to lay tired. And that’s something we need to address because it’s cost us in particular in the second period. We gave up a goal to BC because of a bad change and that’s got to stop.”
Jack Eichel and Danny O’Regan: