One of the Boston University men’s hockey team’s most experienced defensemen has left the program.
Brandon Fortunato – as first reported by Mark Divver, the Providence Journal’s resident hockey reporter – has bid farewell to his career in the scarlet and white. The native of North Hills, New York would have been a junior in the 2016-17 season.
He appeared in 79 games across two seasons, registering six goals and 34 assists in the process. Often a pillar on the second power-play unit, Fortunato was a staple of BU’s charge to the NCAA title game during the 2014-15 campaign.
Prior to his time at BU, Fortunato featured prominently for U.S. Hockey’s youth national teams, earning a gold medal at IIHF U18 World Championships. During his sophomore year, Fortunato played on the U.S. World Juniors squad that captured a bronze medal.
Brandon Fortunato will not return to @TerrierHockey next season, according to David Quinn. Fortunato has 1 year of junior eligibility left.
It is not immediately clear what Fortunato’s BU hockey career entails, but the Terriers’ logjam along the blueline has become slightly simpler.
Head coach David Quinn will now have eight defenseman to choose from. From most to least experienced, they read as senior captain Doyle Somerby; juniors John MacLeod, Brandon Hickey and Brien Diffley; sophomores Charlie McAvoy and Shane Switzer; and freshman Chad Krys and Dante Fabbro.
David Quinn said it was typical of a Boston University-Boston College game. Jerry York said it capped off a “good college hockey weekend.”
The standings will say it was a tie.
In about as evenly matched a game as you’ll see, No. 10 BU and No. 4 BC skated to a 1-1 tie in the second game of a home-and-home series.
The Terriers gained a lead midway through the second period with a goal from senior captain Matt Grzelcyk and looked poised to come away with a win, but BC forward Ryan Fitzgerald knotted things up with a bar-down strike with 2:05 left in the third period.
Back-and-forth action with a lot of chippy play made this one a fun and exciting one to watch. We’ll break down the 65 minutes in this Pluses and Minuses.
Oh captain my captain
Injuries have limited Grzelcyk to just 10 games this year — less than half of BU’s total number.
But that’s been really the only thing getting in the way of BU’s (11-7-4, 5-4-3 Hockey East) captain, because when he’s been on the ice, he’s been a solid force at the blue line.
With the game scoreless on Saturday night, Grzelcyk was in perfect position to redirect a shot from senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan past Thatcher Demko. It was Grzelcyk’s seventh goal of the season and 12th point in his 10 games played.
He played well on the defensive side, too, staying on his assignments and closing any gaps. Now that Grzelcyk’s getting healthier and more playing time, Quinn said he’ll continue to be a force on both ends of the ice.
“I think he’s the best defenseman in college hockey,” Quinn said, “and when you add that to your lineup, you have a whole different look and I don’t know what our record is with him but I bet it’s a lot better than without him so he makes everybody on that D corps better, he makes everybody up front better and we’re just glad to have him.”
Maguire stands tall
Not much separated senior goaltender Sean Maguire from a shutout, but a well-placed BC (15-4-3, 8-1-3, Hockey East) screen and shot ended any chance of that. But that’s not to say Maguire didn’t play well.
The senior was in good position all night, making a few terrific saves to stop BC odd-man rushes. In all, Maguire finished with 38 saves. Sarah will have more on his game in her sidebar.
Penalty kill comes through
Less than 22 hours after a power-play goal decided Friday night’s fate, the Terriers got a chance to right the ship on the penalty kill.
Freshman forward Jordan Greenway and sophomore defenseman John MacLeod were called for successive penalties halfway through the first period, and BU was forced to kill of an extended 5-on-3. The penalty-unit came up big, as it did the other three times on the night, going 5-for-5.
It wasn’t as if BC didn’t have chances on goal (eight power-play shots), but the Terriers limited grade-A shots, and the ones that were good opportunities, Maguire was generally there to make the stops.
“I liked the fact that we backchecked a lot,” Quinn said, “we did a better job coming back and they didn’t get as much out of it as last night so baby steps and they’re a fast team, that’s the strength of their team, their speed up front and they work hard so we’re a work in progress and I thought we did a lot of good things tonight.”
Making it tough on Maguire
As noted before, Maguire was on his game from start to finish. However, his defense didn’t make his life easy. BC had numerous odd-man rushes — like the 2-on-1 in the second period that forward Colin White nearly scored on — and 39 total shots.
There were sequences in the game, which York even said afterward, where both teams sort of lost their way and let the opposition get good shots at the net. It wasn’t as if this happened the whole game, but if Maguire hadn’t been playing so well, the score might have been different.
0-fer on the power play
BU’s penalty kill was good and BC’s matched up just as well.
Like the Eagles, BU had five opportunities with the man advantage but could not convert. The first two opportunities for the Terriers looked good, though they didn’t score. The problems came after those first two tries, as the Eagles made life tough in the neutral zone on BU entries.
The power play wasn’t awful, but a goal with a man up could have gone a long way.
Fortunato to the box… again
For 60 games, sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato never once sat in the penalty box. In back-to-back games against BC, Fortunato became much more acquainted with the sin bin.
Fortunato took his second penalty of his collegiate career on Saturday with a holding call in the second period.
“Yeah, he probably won’t dress next Friday,” Quinn said jokingly after the game. “I don’t know … the penalty he took tonight, that was a strange call, but we all make mistakes.”
The University of Massachusetts Amherst struck first on Saturday evening at Agganis Arena, but the Boston University men’s hockey team quickly righted the ship en route to a 7-2 win.
Senior defenseman Matt Grzelcyk stole the show and the World Juniors contingent impressed, serving as the highlights on a nearly seamless evening. Below are several positives and negatives from two crucial Hockey East points.
The Charlestown native scored a natural hat trick, showing how big of an impact he can have on this team. Read more about his influence in Judy’s sider.
After rattling off successive wins against Quinnipiac University and Harvard University, the Minutemen admittedly were going to pose a lesser threat in Maguire’s third straight start.
Nonetheless, UMass still peppered the senior goaltender to the tune of 27 shots, and it took opportunistic finishes from Shane Walsh and Steven Iacobellis to light the lamp. There is no denying that Maguire is getting into a groove, and that bodes extremely well for the Terriers with Boston College on the horizon next weekend.
Just ask Grzelcyk, who has embarked on a collegiate journey with Maguire and rests easy knowing his classmate is between the pipes.
“Any time you get a goaltender who’s kind of hot right there, it kind of allows you to play more aggressively just knowing you have that confidence back there and he’s looked incredible in net, so we’re definitely happy to have him back,” he said.
Head coach David Quinn didn’t shy away from praise either, highlighting the rejuvenated goaltender’s gradual journey back to confidence and composure.
“He’s a guy, he can win big games,” Quinn said. “He’s proven that. We have the utmost confidence in him, and he proved that again tonight. I was so happy for him, he’s come a long way after going through a tough year last year with a concussion”
World Junior Foursome
Less than a week removed from the World Junior Championships in Finland, it’s already clear that Brandon Fortunato, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Hickey and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson have benefited from their international experience.
JFK ignited the scoring onslaught with a heads-up play behind the net, Fortunato grabbed an assist on Grzelcyk’s second tally, McAvoy nabbed two helpers of his own and Hickey maintained a solid defensive gap throughout the contest.
That’s just what stands out about their respective nights, though. As anybody close to BU hockey will echo, all four play beyond their years and their importance becomes more tangible as the Terriers round into form.
“Those are four very good players,” Quinn said. “They wouldn’t be playing in that tournament if they weren’t, so they’re gonna get some well-needed rest in the next three or four days. That tournament is a grind, and without them here, we don’t win these games without question”
“We’re talking about three of our defensemen, and our number one centerman,” Quinn said. “They were immense over the last two games.”
When a team wins by five goals, it’s easy to overlook the small details that add up over the course of a hockey game. That’s exactly what can happen with a team’s penalty kill, and the Terriers took care of business in that department on Saturday night.
UMass, which capitalizes on just 17.1 percent of its power plays, was kept off the board when it had a man advantage. To be exact, the Minutemen went 0-for-4 and were limited to only two shots on target across all eight minutes.
Another Slow Start
As mentioned above, BU fell into yet another early hole, letting their opponent grab an early lead that could’ve gotten out of hand if not for some shrewd plays in the offensive zone.
That’s a trend that becomes even more perilous when a top-ranked opponent comes to town or everything is on the line in a playoff scenario. Still, Quinn was pleased with how his team responded in adversity and grabbed ahold of the proceedings when the odds were stacked against them.
“You might get down 1-0,” Quinn said. “But how are you going to respond? You might get down 2-0 and unfortunately that’s happened a lot to us — how are you going to respond? And I like the fact that we do respond that after they did make it 2-2, we made it 3-2 relatively quickly. That’s a good sign for us.”
It took a bit of a wake-up call from head coach David Quinn, but the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team managed to salvage the second half of a home series against the University of Vermont.
After falling behind 2-0 early, and then again facing a 3-2 deficit late in the third period, goals from senior assistant captain Matt Lane and sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey, plus a last-second empty-netter from sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato, secured the 5-3 victory for the Terriers.
Initially in this game, it looked like we might have to be a bit grumpy in our pluses and minuses. But BU managed to turn it around, so we get to be cheerful first today:
We were admittedly skeptical at first about Quinn’s changes to the lines, but they worked well — at the very least, the changes helped “to wake up the whole team,” in the words of senior forward Ahti Oksanen.
Oksanen, after playing on the first line for most of the season, was bumped down to the left wing on the second line, alongside Lane and freshman forward Jordan Greenway.
“It’s nice having two big wingers like that, those guys protect the puck well, and they get me the puck,” Lane said. “Then Ahti being a shooter, it’s easy to find him, he’s gonna let it rip. He played well, and I’m happy to see him score.”
Sophomore forward A.J. Greer moved up to the first line, alongside freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and senior right wing Danny O’Regan. He recorded a secondary assist on O’Regan’s early goal.
BU recorded a season-high 51 shots on goal, behind six players who recorded four or more shots. Oksanen led the way (shocker) with eight shots, while Hickey and freshman center Bobo Carpenter had seven shots on goal apiece.
Improved power play
After going 1-for-13 on the power play in its past four games entering Saturday — and a night after Quinn called the PP unit “lazy” — BU had a much more impressive showing on the power-play unit.
“There was more urgency, we were shooting it, we looked like a power play,” Quinn said. “There was a heightened awareness…We, too often, go into power-play mode and think it’s going to be a beauty contest.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to get pucks to the net, you got to pass it quickly, you got to pay attention and you got to crash the net. There’s really no other way to go about it, so I thought we had a lot more simplicity to our power play tonight.
Just to clarify: there was a bit of confusion as to exactly how many power-play opportunities BU technically had. Because Vermont winger Brady Shaw was sent off with a game misconduct, after Hickey scored a power-play goal, the Terriers remained on the man advantage — thus, technically, giving BU a fifth power-play opportunity after that.
Then Fortunato scored the empty-netter on BU’s next man advantage. After Fortunato’s empty-netter, there was no faceoff, since the teams were already retreating to the locker room, but those remaining 0.3 seconds apparently technically counted as a new power play for BU, even though nobody touched the puck after Fortunato’s goal.
I just used “technically” a lot in that description, but…you get the idea. “2-for-6” is a bit deceiving. Regardless, it was a much improved showing from the Terriers.
Carpenter won praise from Greer against Cornell University on Nov. 28, simply for the fact that “he wins draws.”
Well, we couldn’t help but give Carpenter a shoutout for that very fact. Today, he went 6-for-6 on faceoffs, but he currently leads the conference in faceoff percentage, with a .679 mark.
Forsbacka Karlsson went 14-5 on his draws, while Lane went 12-8. As a whole, BU won 38 of 60 faceoffs.
Strong finish to first half?
In the final home game of 2015, the Terriers were able to escape with a win. It’s the final time they’ll play at Agganis until Jan. 9.
After the game, Lane stressed the importance of BU concluding the first half of Hockey East play with a win.
“We definitely could not afford to drop two,” Lane said. “Unfortunately we got a split, and obviously you’d like to win both, but it’s nice to see our resiliency especially after losing a full game and being down the whole game to come back and get a win. So obviously for Hockey East standings and just finishing out the weekend, it’s nice to end on a win.”
Quinn stressed the importance of the seniors’ leadership in this game. You can read more about that in Andrew’s sider.
That part I mentioned earlier about thinking early on that we’d have to be grumpy in these pluses and minuses? Yeah, we’re at the grumpy point now.
Two goals today came for Vermont off of bad, bad, bad turnovers on BU’s part. The first was on the goal that allowed the Catamounts to take a 2-0 lead in the opening period, when sophomore defenseman John MacLeod gave up the puck to Vermont forward Mario Puskarich behind the net and Puskarich was able to convert.
Later in the third period, with the game tied 2-2, freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy mishandled a pass from Hickey right in front of BU’s net. He left the puck up for grabs directly in front of sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee, and Catamount forward Anthony Petruzzelli took full advantage of it.
Oksanen, a former defenseman himself, noted the slip-ups in the defensive zone.
“Our D-zone coverage has to be better,” Oksanen said. “Those goals scored today were kind of easy bounces we shouldn’t give up.”
Yet again, BU fell to a 2-0 deficit early before having to put together the comeback it did. While the Terriers have been able to more or less come away with wins and ties this season, it’s certainly not a habit they want to keep falling into, as Lane noted.
“Yeah, we definitely would rather score the first goal of the game, obviously,” Lane said. “But definitely, we’ve got to start scoring the first goal, we’ve got to win first periods. That’ll help us in the long run, because parity in this league, and the difference in one-goal games is so small.”
After Lane scored the game-tying goal, it was announced that the goal counted for his 100th career point.
Agganis Arena erupted into an ovation, but soon thereafter, a correction was issued. It was actually Lane’s 50th career point.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t 100,” Lane said. “I wish.”
For the second straight game, the No. 11 Boston Univeristy men’s hockey team eked out a 5-4 victory — though this week, it didn’t need overtime.
The matchup against Northeastern University was highlighted by some big goals and some stressful back-and-forth action — and an even more stressful final few minutes. But in a game with that much action, it gives us a lot to talk about in this edition of Pluses and Minuses.
Forgive that terrible attempt at a joke. But man, was sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee huge in that third period. He calmly turned away 19 shots from Northeastern in the frame, preserving BU’s 5-4 lead and holding off a 6-on-4 attempt from Northeastern for the final minute-and-a-half of the game. He ended the game with a career-best 36 saves.
Despite some shakiness in the middle period — LaCouvee admits to perhaps losing some focus in the second — he was able to turn in a staunch performance in his second straight start.
In a year with some uncertainty as to who the starting goaltender will be, BU head coach David Quinn has mentioned time and time again that he doesn’t think his goaltenders’ stats this year are indicative of the performances they’ve had. LaCouvee, too, said that as he’s grown as a goaltender, he’s become less focused on individual stats and more keeping his team in the game.
“It’s a team game, and you let four goals in the second period, that’s kind of tough, just mental lapses on my behalf,” LaCouvee said. “But I think it’s more important to focus on the win at the end of the game, and just, not focus so much on individual plays … the guys battled really hard, and just take it to the end, you never know how it’s gonna end.”
We’ve praised junior defenseman Doyle Somerby for much of this season for his increased speed and poise on the offensive end. But in Friday’s game against Northeastern, Somerby went back to his old, aggressive ways, with one of the — forgive the clichéd word — grittiest plays of the game.
In the second period, with BU attempting to limit the Huskies’ scoring attempts, Somerby blocked a shot off his leg, then collapsed to the ice in pain. He attempted to get back up probably about three or four times, falling back to the ice each time. Then he managed to stand mostly upright, and block ANOTHER shot, though it’s sort of unclear whether that he actually meant to do that — “I’m not sure if that was intentional or if he was just kind of in the way,” LaCouvee later said about the play.
Regardless, it was a “huge” play, according to Quinn.
“He was immense tonight, he was physical, he did a great job on the penalty kill [and] blocking shots,” Quinn said.
Defensemen still scoring
Quinn is pretty modest about the offensive ability of his team’s defensemen.
“Well, I think in this day and age, you need five guys involved offensively,” Quinn said. “If you’re just going to rely on three forwards, you’re gonna be really starving for goals and I don’t think we’re much different than other teams asking their D to get involved.”
Nonetheless, defensemen accounted for three of BU’s five goals on Friday, and they’ve accounted for a significant chunk of their offense this season – 10 of the Terriers’ 26 goals have come from defensemen, to be exact.
Sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey is tied with freshman forward Ryan Cloonan for the team lead in goals, as Hickey had a third-period, game-tying tally to bring his season total to four goals.
With his third goal this season, tripling his goal total from last year, sophomore Brandon Fortunato ranks second among all Hockey East defensemen in scoring with seven total points.
And, well, there was one more defenseman who was big on offense…
On that same note of defensemen getting on the board, senior captain Matt Grzelcyk had a goal and an assist in his first game back after recovering from offseason surgery. Andrew has more on Grzelcyk’s triumphant return to the ice in his sidebar.
In his postgame comments, Quinn kept bringing the topic back to the number of penalties the team committed in the game. BU had nine penalties in the game — one matching — thus giving Northeastern 16 power-play minutes. The Huskies were able to capitalize, recording 12 shots and earning one goal from their power-play unit.
“You can’t have eight penalties, that’s just, you can’t,” Quinn said. “You really put yourself at a disadvantage when you take eight penalties and it’s just, that’s 16 minutes, almost a full period shorthanded and that’s just, that’s too much.”
It’s hard to ignore the glaring fact that BU did allow four goals in the second period. As we stated earlier, LaCouvee admitted to his lack of focus, and Quinn noticed a similar theme, which caused him to call a time out after Northeastern’s fourth goal.
“I just talked about the focus, lack of focus, we reacted, we give up a goal, it’s 2-1 and all of a sudden it’s 4-3 because we lose focus,” Quinn said. “We blow our responsibilities off the neutral zone faceoffs and we actually batted one of them in.”
“I thought we lost focus … people just not paying attention and taking on their responsibilities,” he added.
For its Hockey East season opener, the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team earned a “hard-fought” win, according to BU head coach David Quinn, to begin conference play with a 1-0 record.
The Terriers (2-1, 1-0 Hockey East) didn’t necessarily start the game at UConn’s pace (2-2, 0-1 Hockey East), but as time wore on, they adjusted their game to dominate the third period and emerge on top.
Here’s what we thought looked good and bad in the victory.
Tied for the team lead in points with four is freshman winger Ryan Cloonan. In his first game of the season at Union College, Cloonan was in the lineup as the fourth line right wing. He scored the second BU goal of the game, assisted by senior center Mike Moran and junior defenseman Doyle Somerby, and gave the Terriers a temporary 2-1 lead.
The next week for BU’s game vs. the University of Wisconsin, he was slotted in as the second line left wing to freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and tallied a pair of assists.
Against UConn, he notched another marker to extend his point streak.
Quinn said Cloonan’s experience is a valuable asset he brings to the team that the other freshmen might not have. While BU’s rookie class is largely comprised of guys 17 or 18 years old, Cloonan is 20.
And he’s improving with each week as well.
“He’s gotten better in the three weeks he’s been here,” Quinn said. “He’s a lot more conscientious away from the puck, there’s more purpose to his game without the puck, but you see his puck skills, he can really skate. He’s got deception to his game, he can shoot it, so there’s a lot to like in his game.”
As the third period began, Cloonan switched places with freshman forward Jordan Greenway and took the left wing’s place on the first line. Quinn said he thought Cloonan’s quickness would give senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan and senior forward Ahti Oksanen more speed to work with on the top line.
O’Regan said lines were a little bit all over the place as the game went on, but that Cloonan is a “great player and a really offensive guy.”
“He’s a really creative player,” O’Regan said. “So I was definitely open to it. And I think at that stage of the game we just needed a little spark, and switching up the lines was definitely something that could do that for us.”
The Terriers managed to simplify their game and really settle into a groove during the third period, netting three goals in the frame. For more on that, read Sarah’s sider.
During its first two games, BU’s power play looked good. The Terriers were moving the puck well and creating chances for themselves, but they had only converted once out of nine opportunities they had with the man advantage.
On Saturday, though, the scarlet and white were able to capitalize on two of their five power plays as they maintained heavy offensive zone pressure. In their first attempt, though the Terriers didn’t score, they spent so much time in UConn’s zone that the second unit never got a chance to hit the ice. On a delayed penalty, even, BU was able to keep possession of the puck for 47 seconds before the Huskies touched for the whistle.
“We spent an awful lot of time in the offensive zone on the power play,” Quinn said. “We had chances and chances.
“That power play’s going to keep getting better.”
Of the 33 shots BU took on Saturday, 10 came on the man advantage, and seven of their 15 third period shots were of the power play variety.
The two successful conversions resulted in Forsbacka Karlsson’s first collegiate marker and sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato’s second of the year.
On the other side of special teams, the penalty kill was perfect as BU went to the box four times during the contest. The Terriers have allowed just one goal while shorthanded so far this season. It was the first penalty they took of the year against Union on Oct. 10. Since then, they have not conceded a power-play goal the last 12 times they’ve had someone in the box.
Though BU managed a win, Quinn said he thought the team’s puck management was “incredibly sloppy” and that his squad held onto the puck way too long. He said that, along with the way the defense played, contributed to the Terriers’ problems on the night.
“I thought that’s as bad as we played as a D corps unit from a puck management standpoint,” he said. “We held onto it way too long, we weren’t making stick-to-stick passes, we just were very sloppy.”
For two periods, Quinn said he thought the team played “incredibly cute.” That, he said, wasn’t going to get them anywhere in this game.
O’Regan said his coach was referring to the way his team entered the offensive zone. Many guys were trying to make plays through the middle in a way that played “right into [UConn’s] system, where they sag back, and it’s kind of what they want us to do.”
In the third period, though, the Terriers were able to use their speed and take guys wide, O’Regan said, possessing the puck down low to try and create offense.
Second period penalties
Though the Terriers were perfect on the penalty kill Saturday, Quinn said his team’s trips to the box in the second period were “unnecessary” and “stupid.”
BU took one penalty in the first period as sophomore defenseman John MacLeod went off for tripping, and then the Terriers were sent to the box three times in the second. Two of those three penalties were committed by sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey, who went off for cross-checking 59 seconds into the frame and then got called for interference at 9:16.
Cloonan also sat for two minutes at 13:56 for hooking.
On Friday night playing against the U.S. National Development Team Program Under-18 Team, David Quinn said he saw what you might expect to see out of a young team playing in an exhibition game — immaturity.
But, Quinn said when the games mattered again, his team would get its act together and right the ship.
True to his word, the No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team won when it counted, defeating the University of Wisconsin on Saturday night at Agganis Arena.
Ten different Terriers chipped in at least one point in what was an all-around, clean win.
As always, though, it wasn’t perfect, so we’ll take a look at what went right and wrong in this Pluses and Minuses.
Lane’s score flips the script
It was beginning to look a lot like Friday night early on in Saturday’s game.
Much like the first period against the U-18s, the Terriers held a sizable shot advantage over the Badgers to start the game, more than doubling Wisconsin’s first-period shot total. However, there were no goals to show for it.
But senior assistant captain Matt Lane changed all of that 1:36 into the second period.
Taking a fortuitous carom off the end boards, Lane backhanded a shot over high over goaltender Matt Jurusik to put BU on the board. It looked a lot like much of Lane’s goals from the previous three years — close and down low in the dirty area.
They haven’t been from far out, but Lane’s scoring has been effective nonetheless.
“He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s got a good stick. He’s got good hands, he’s not easily denied,” Quinn said. “I don’t think his goals traveled, last year, he had eight or nine goals, I don’t think his goals traveled more than a foot combined. He’s off to a great start, both of his goals this year are the same. Back door, quick, picking up a puck, having the athleticism to corral it and get it in the net.
“That’s how you’ve got to score these days.”
Fortunato turns it around
Back in the lineup for the first time this season on Friday, sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato looked like a player that needed to shake off the rust. When it was all said and done, he finished the night with a team-worst minus-4.
But whatever rust was there was nowhere to be found against Wisconsin.
He came away with two points (a goal and an assist) and a plus-1 rating. Better yet, his defensive coverage was strong and he was effective quarterbacking BU’s top power-play unit.
Having a more shoot-first mentality translated in what proved to be a game-winning goal for the sophomore.
“Last year Coach had a lot of individual meetings with me and he said if I were to get my shot a lot better, then I would improve as a player tremendously,” Fortunato said. “And I worked a lot with him last year and went home for summer. This summer I worked on it every day and the first month since I’ve been here I’ve been working on it every day and I feel like I’m getting stronger and I feel like it’s getting better so I’m just going to keep on working on it.”
Fortunato was just one of many players to make an improvement from Friday to Saturday. You can read more about that in Judy’s sider.
New line combinations pay off
Looking for a shakeup, Quinn adjusted all four lines and two of the three defensive pairs.
To say the least, it worked.
Most impressive were BU’s second and fourth lines, which registered four points and three points, respectively.
The second line of freshman forwards Ryan Cloonan and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Lane combined for a speed game that Wisconsin had trouble keeping up with. Each had at least one point, with Cloonan registering two. They were quick on the puck and caused a lot of trouble for the Badgers in the neutral zone.
As for the fourth line, senior Mike Moran centered, while the wingers, sophomore Chase Phelps and freshman Bobo Carpenter, all contributed. Phelps and Carpenter scored the Terriers’ final two goals and Moran had the primary assist on the last goal score.
“I like the speed on Forsbacka Karlsson, Lane, Cloonan line,” Quinn said. “I thought that Bobo Carpenter and Phelps had great nights. So did Mike Moran. So it’s a little bit of everything on those lines.”
BU already has a lot of jerseys and alternates, and they added to that count Saturday night.
The Terriers wore a jersey that was similar to the retro red one they unveiled last season, but the base of this uniform is white and the letters and numbers are red. It’s a nice, clean look that I’m sure BU will use at some more home games this year.
Early goal and struggles
Not even a minute and a half into the game, forward Adam Rockwood somehow snuck in a shot through sophomore netminder Connor LaCouvee and the retreating BU defense.
It wasn’t a pretty goal, but it gave a winless Wisconsin team some early excitement.
There was a response and chances from BU, but it seemed that all of the “Grade-A” chances either went wide or were turned aside by Jurusik. They recorded eight shots on three power plays, but the Terriers just could not hit the twine in the first period.
It didn’t come back to bite them, but it could down the road against tougher competition.
Low power-play percentage
It’s a tough complaint, especially just two games into the regular season, but BU still hasn’t found its groove on the power play.
Yes, they had seven power plays and recorded an impressive 21 shots on goal, but the Terriers just converted once for a 14.3 percent conversion rate.
“Well, we have to capitalize,” Quinn said of the power play. “We had 21 shots on the power play. So again, there are going to be nights where it’s not going to go in, tonight happened to be one of those nights. We certainly obviously have to do some things better on the power play.”
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.
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.”
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.”