Pluses and Minuses: Return of captain, lock-down goaltending propel BU to win

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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.

Connor LaCouvee. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP STAFF
Connor LaCouvee. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP STAFF

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.

Pluses

Connor La-kept-his-cool?-Vee
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.”

Doyle Somerby
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…

Captain’s back
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.

Minuses

Penalties
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.”

Focus
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.

Treats and Tricks: No. 8 Terriers beat No. 5 Denver in OT

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Sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Coming into Saturday afternoon, the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team had a chance to make a statement.

The Terriers (3-3) had dropped their past two games, suffering back-to-back losses for the first time since Feb. 21 and 22, 2014. They were routed 5-2 by the University of Connecticut on Tuesday and stymied at No. 17 Merrimack College on Friday evening 4-3.

Saturday they were scheduled to face the No. 5 University of Denver and played well for the first two periods of the game, leading 4-2 as the puck was dropped for the third. In those 20 minutes, though, Denver (3-3) struck twice to tie things up. The teams went to overtime, and after sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey blocked a shot on the Pioneers’ first rush, BU took it back up the ice the other way.

Senior forward Ahti Oksanen, freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan were streaking up the ice before Oksanen fired at goaltender Evan Cowley and ended things just 21 seconds into overtime.

Here’s a look at what we thought was good and bad in a pretty lame attempt at a Halloween edition of pluses and minuses.

Treats

Ahti Oksanen

It took 28 shots on net, but Oksanen finally scored his first goal of the season. He also tallied the game-winning score on his 29th shot of the year in overtime to defeat Denver. To read more about Oksanen’s night, check out Sarah’s sider.

Connor LaCouvee and the penalty kill

The Terriers did not have the third period they might have liked to (see below), but the way they played in the first two periods and the way sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee fared in net was a little more encouraging.

By game’s end, Denver took 38 shots on net and cashed in on four of them. When the Pioneers really kept on the Terriers and held them in their own end for much of the third period, LaCouvee stood tall.

“Obviously the story of the third period was our goalie,” Quinn said. “I thought he was outstanding.

“He certainly did a great job tonight,” he added. “That was a Division I goaltending performance and a really good night. … He’s a really good goalie, and so is [senior] Sean [Maguire]. I know we’re going to get great goaltending. Statistically it doesn’t look that way right now, but to be 3-3 with the save percentage we have, with two guys that I know are really good, that I know are going to be able to win big games like we did tonight, I have no doubt. It’s the least of our concerns.”

The netminder was also a large part of the penalty kill. BU took six penalties throughout the game and gave Denver five power play opportunities. The team held the Pioneers without a power play goal and are now perfect in their last 10 penalty kills. However, the last time I included a stat like that (last Saturday), the Terriers gave up four power play goals in seven chances in the next game (Tuesday), so who knows what next Friday will hold.

Still, Quinn said he liked the way the PK blocked shots and kept things on the perimeter.

But even so, the Pioneers managed nine shots with the man advantage in the third period alone that LaCouvee turned aside to help his team hang on.

Defense

The defense as a whole looked better as well. While the blue line unit played a more “helter-skelter” game in the early goings of the season, things are beginning to settle down some. BU allowed Denver 38 shots on net, which is not ideal, but it  blocked 26 shots, of which the d-men had 15. Hickey and freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy led the way with four apiece.

Hickey himself said he thought through the first few games, the defense was trying “to do a little bit too much, trying to get a little bit too offensive and trying to run out of [their] position.”

Now they’re focusing on good, team defense, solid sticks, being tough to play against in the corners and winning one-on-one battles.

“Our D corps is starting to look like it did last year,” Quinn said. “I thought last night and tonight they were back to doing what they were doing last year, which allowed us to have a successful season. And we’re gonna need all of them, not only to match their games last year, but be better than they were last year, and I really, really liked what I saw the last two games out of our D corps.”

Third line

BU’s second goal of the night came off the stick of junior center Robbie Baillargeon, his first tally of the year, assisted by sophomore winger A.J. Greer, who got his first point of the season on the play.

Greer and Baillargeon, along with linemate freshman Bobo Carpenter combined for six shots.

Some of our readers expressed concern about a lack of production from Greer and Baillargeon, which we discussed in our podcast this week.

Tricks

Third period

According to Quinn, the final frame of the game served as “a microcosm” of where the team is mentally right now. He said he doesn’t know if BU is really ready to win and put teams away, but part of that had to do with the way Denver responded.

When teams are down in the third, they tend to find a surge, Quinn said, and the opposing team sits back on their heels. It happened to the Terriers on Friday when they put pressure on Merrimack in the third period in an attempt to knot things up. They got the third goal, but unlike the Pioneers, could not get the fourth to send things to overtime.

BU let Denver dictate much of the play in the final period and was outshot 16-5. The Terriers were out-attempted 36-10 as well and let DU come at them instead of taking the play to them. When it came time for OT, though, they were ready to make the shift.

“We just wanted to respond,” Hickey said. “We kind of wanted to have a little push-back because they kind of dominated the third period, we kind of sat back on our heels a little bit.”

“We knew both goals they scored [in the third] were just individual mistakes,” Oksanen said. “Their tying goal was completely my mistake, so we knew that we’re a better team and if we keep pushing hard, we’re going to win.”

The difference in the period, Quinn said, was that Denver’s power play was energetic and got chances while the Terriers, who had a pair of power plays in the third, gave up a shorthanded goal and were anemic with the man advantage and couldn’t get anything going.

“We got a little bit deflated,” he said. “That can do that, special teams can do that to you.”

Pluses and Minuses: Terriers open Hockey East play with ‘hard-fought’ win over UConn

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.

Freshman Ryan Cloonan. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP STAFF
Freshman Ryan Cloonan. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP STAFF

Here’s what we thought looked good and bad in the victory.

Pluses

Ryan Cloonan

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.”

Third period

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.

Special teams

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.

Minuses

Puck management

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.”

How “cute”

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.

BU places 2nd in 2015-16 Hockey East media poll

The Hockey East regular season and tournament championships a season ago were not enough for the Boston University men’s hockey team to retain its titles this year, at least according to one poll.

In the sixth annual Hockey East Writers and Broadcasters Association poll, BU was picked to finish second (with seven first place votes), while rival Boston College was predicted to win Hockey East, garnering 20 first-place votes.

University of Massachusetts Lowell placed in third and defending national champions Providence College rounded out the top four teams. The University of Notre Dame was the last team to receive a first place vote, coming in fifth in the poll.

BC led the way with three players on the All-Hockey East Preseason Team, but BU saw two of its players selected for this year’s squad, senior captain Matt Grzelcyk and senior forward Danny O’Regan. A tie in votes occurred at the forward position, so there are four forwards on the team instead of the normal three.

Here’s the the full media poll, as well as full breakdown on how we at the Boston Hockey Blog voted:

2015-16 Hockey East Preseason Media Poll (First place votes in parentheses)

  1. Boston College (20)
  2. Boston University (7)
  3. University of Massachusetts Lowell (5)
  4. Providence College (2)
  5. University of Notre Dame (1)
  6. University of Vermont
  7. Northeastern University
  8. University of New Hampshire
  9. University of Connecticut
  10. Merrimack College
  11. University of Maine
  12. University of Massachusetts

All-Hockey East Preseason Team

Forward Tyler Kelleher, University of New Hampshire

Forward Kevin Roy, Northeastern University

Forward Danny O’Regan, Boston University

Forward Alex Tuch, Boston College

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Boston University

Defensemen Ian McCoshen, Boston College

Goalie Thatcher Demko, Boston College

Andrew’s Predictions

  1. University of Massachusetts Lowell
  2. Boston University
  3. Boston College
  4. Providence College
  5. University of Vermont
  6. University of Notre Dame
  7. Merrimack College
  8. University of New Hampshire
  9. University of Connecticut
  10. Northeastern University
  11. University of Maine
  12. University of Massachusetts

All-Hockey East Preseason Team

Forward Tyler Kelleher, University of New Hampshire

Forward Kevin Roy, Northeastern University

Forward Danny O’Regan, Boston University

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Boston University

Defenseman Ian McCoshen, Boston College

Goalie Thatcher Demko, Boston College

Judy’s Predictions 

  1. Boston College
  2. Boston University
  3. University of Massachusetts Lowell
  4. University of Vermont
  5. Providence College
  6. University of Notre Dame
  7. Northeastern University
  8. Merrimack College
  9. University of Connecticut
  10. University of New Hampshire
  11. University of Maine
  12. University of Massachusetts Lowell

All-Hockey East Preseason Team

Forward Tyler Kelleher, University of New Hampshire

Forward Kevin Roy, Northeastern University

Forward Alex Tuch, Boston College

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Boston University

Defenseman Brandon Hickey, Boston University

Goalie Thatcher Demko, Boston College

Sarah’s Predictions 

  1. Boston College
  2. Boston University
  3. University of Massachusetts Lowell
  4. Providence College
  5. University of Vermont
  6. Northeastern University
  7. Merrimack College
  8. University of Notre Dame
  9. University of New Hampshire
  10. University of Connecticut
  11. University of Maine
  12. University of Massachusetts

All-Hockey East Preseason Team

Forward Tyler Kelleher, University of New Hampshire

Forward Kevin Roy, Northeastern University

Forward C.J. Smith, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, Boston University

Defenseman Brandon Hickey, Boston University

Goalie Thatcher Demko, Boston College

Pluses and Minuses: Terriers hang on, advance to national title game

Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Following his team’s 5-3 win over the University of North Dakota, Boston University men’s hockey head coach David Quinn was more than breathing a sigh of relief. With North Dakota making a last-minute surge, overtime looked like more of a reality with each passing second.

“Hopefully we’re going to learn some lessons tonight,” Quinn said. “We dodged some bullets, but we’re living another day.”

The Terriers (28-7-5) did indeed dodge some major bullets during that late stretch, which propelled BU to its first berth in the NCAA Tournament championship since 2009, and 11th overall.

Freshman center Jack Eichel finished with three points (two goals, one assist), including the all-important empty-net goal in the waning seconds of the game. But it wasn’t just Eichel, as some other unsung heroes came up huge.

Here’s a look at some of went right and wrong from the Frozen Four semifinal:

Pluses

Eichelmania rolls on

The North Chelmsford product pretty much has a permanent spot in this section of the blog, and for good reason. You don’t have the year he’s having and not get some positive recognition. Thursday night just added to what has been the best freshman season in Division I college hockey since Paul Kariya’s rookie campaign in 1992-93.

He scored BU’s first goal 4:59 into the game on a backhander down low and set up a game-changing goal (more on that a bit lower down) midway through the second period. But his goal with 18.5 seconds left in the third period from the defensive zone all but ended any chance of a North Dakota comeback.

According to Eichel, though, the credit for the goal shouldn’t go to him, but to the weathered playing surface.

“I just tried to put it on net. To be honest, I thought it was going wide,” Eichel said. “I think it hit a divot in the ice and rolled in. It was a lucky play but Grizzy [junior captain Matt Grzelyck] and [senior assistant captain Cason] Hohmann made a spectacular play in the corner to ice the game.”

Rut in the ice or not, Eichel had a goal and his 70th point in the season. That hasn’t been accomplished at BU since forward Shawn McEachern had 84 in the 1990-91 season.

A special year for the freshman has a chance to end with a championship and a Hobey Baker Award. There were obviously high expectations coming in, but it’s fair to say his performance probably has exceeded whatever people pegged him for at the beginning of the season.

Greer turns the tables

Without the play of junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and some help from the goal posts, North Dakota (29-10-3) could have very well scored three or four times in the second period.

For the first 10 minutes in the middle frame, the puck essentially never left the BU zone.  UND already had one goal in the period, and continued to search for one more. Momentum was swinging and it sure looked like someone was bound to score.

A goal was scored, but it wasn’t from North Dakota. It was from freshman forward A.J. Greer.

Off a bad UND change, Eichel jumped on the ice and passed the puck over to a wide-open Greer just to the right of the slot. Greer unleashed a powerful one-timer that snuck under goaltender Zane McIntyre’s pads for BU’s third goal. Instead of the game being tied, the Terriers went up by two. Talk about momentum swing.

“He works on his shot a lot, and I wasn’t surprised at all,” Eichel said of Greer. “He’s got a great one-timer. It was a big goal in the game. Gave us a little bit of cushion.”

Greer, who moved up to BU’s second line earlier in the postseason, scored his first goal in over three months. His play over the last few weeks, though, has been some of the best hockey he’s played since coming to BU. Sarah will have more on that in her sidebar.

An emphatic recovery 

The puck slid along the end boards and freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey went to try and coral it. As Hickey went to do this, he was slammed hard up against the wall by UND forward Tucker Poolman. Hickey was knocked down on the ice to both knees, clearly shaken up.

It took him awhile to gather himself, but he skated back to the BU bench. He wouldn’t stay put there for long, though. He made his next shift with BU’s second power-play unit, and boy did he make the most of it.

Standing at the left point, he ripped a one-timer off Hohmann’s feed to extend BU’s lead to two goals late in the first period. Give credit to not only his toughness, but the quick recovery to get back on the ice and contribute.

Uncharacteristic strong start 

How many times has the narrative been played out that BU starts slow but finishes strong? More times than one can count on one hand. But that wasn’t the story this game. Thursday, the Terriers looked ready to go from the outset and got a strong forecheck going in the first few shifts.

BU held an advantage in shots through the first 10 minutes (9-9 after 20), and eventually a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.

“It was exciting to see the way we started playing at a pace and possessing the puck,” Quinn said on the first period. “And I think I looked up at one point, the shots were 7-0, seven minutes into the game.”

Minuses 

One that they’d like to have back

There would be no better way to take control of a game than on a power-play chance with a three-goal lead late in the third period. It was an ideal situation for BU, which looked like it had UND down and out. One fortuitous bounce later, though, and North Dakota was right back in the game.

O’Connor mishandled the puck behind his own net, and UND’s lone forechecker, Troy Stecher, tapped the puck into an open net at 12:10 of the third. The goal seemed to energize a seemingly downcast North Dakota team. BU was lucky enough to weather the storm that followed.

Penalty-kill issues

Getting into penalty trouble is never a good thing, and against a quality team like UND, it could very well change the outcome of a game. North Dakota seemingly had the puck deep each time it went to a power-play, which ended up leading to two goals and a 50-percent success rate.

Even when BU would find a way to clear the puck, there was little pressure at the defensive blue line to stop another entry into the zone.

Pluses and Minuses: Faulty penalty kill stymies Terriers against Notre Dame

PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Matt Grzelcyk. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Hockey East regular-season title will have to go unclaimed for at least another week.

The No. 2/3 BU men’s hockey needed either a win or a tie Saturday night against the University of Notre Dame to earn outright possession of the conference regular-season title, but ultimately came up short — dropping a 3-2 game to the Fighting Irish at Agganis Arena.

BU (19-6-5, 13-4-3 Hockey East) bounced back after Notre Dame j(14-15-5, 9-6-5 Hockey East) jumped out to a 2-0 lead almost midway through the second period, but the Terriers were unable to push the tying score past Irish netminder Cal Petersen over the final minutes of play, sealing the three-point weekend for BU’s opponents from South Bend.

As it’s been throughout the season, there were plenty of good and bad points to take away from Saturday’s contest. Here’s a look:

Minuses:

Terriers continue to slump on the penalty kill

For the fourth time in five games, a team managed to orchestrate a power-play goal against the Terriers, highlighting a disheartening trend in BU’s penalty-kill unit over the past month.

Notre Dame left Agganis Arena Saturday night with a 50 percent showing on the power play, scoring twice with an extra-skater to build up a lead that the Terriers ultimately could not catch up to.

After the Terriers managed to hold the University of Wisconsin’s power-play unit off the scoreboard seven times on Jan. 10, BU’s penalty kill has operated at a success rate of just 72.3 percent in the following 11 games. During that stretch, BU’s penalty-kill percentage has dropped to seventh in Hockey East at 82.8 percent.

“It’s correctable, it’s not like we’re scratching our heads wondering, ‘Geez, how are they scoring?’ We got a way that we prefer to kill penalties and the two goals they score, we don’t kill them the way we should,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “And that’s coaching. Obviously, I’ve got to do a better job coaching, because it they’re not doing it, then that’s on the coach. It’s February.”

Fighting Irish pounce on last-second opportunities

Costly mistakes at the end of both the first and second periods proved to be the difference maker Saturday night at Agganis Arena, with Notre Dame taking advantage in both cases.

A goal from forward Mario Lucia with .1 seconds left on the clock broke a scoreless stalemate going into the first intermission, while a roughing call on freshman center Jack Eichel at the end of the second period handed Notre Dame a power-play chance at the start of the final frame.

Notre Dame would make good on Eichel’s blunder, with sophomore Vince Hinostroza scoring the eventual game-winning goal with just 15 seconds left on the man advantage.

For more on BU’s costly last-second mistakes, check out Sarah’s sider.

LaCouvee handed another loss

Freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee saw his record drop to 3-3-1 once the game clock expired Saturday night, marking the second straight appearance in which the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL) product has been handed a loss.

LaCouvee ultimately finished with 19 saves on the night, while Quinn maintained confidence in his backup goaltender after the game.

“I thought LaCouvee was good,” Quinn said. “I thought he was strong, made some big saves. He’s strong in that crease. You can’t fault him on any of the goals.”

Pluses

Grzelcyk jumpstarts BU man advantage

The Terriers have been hard pressed in terms of finding success on the power play as of late.

Entering the third period of Saturday’s game, BU had failed to convert on its last 13 extra-man opportunities, with their last special-teams strike coming on Feb. 13 against the University of New Hampshire.

Ultimately, BU junior captain Matt Grzelcyk would put an end to BU’s listless power-play streak, scoring his fifth goal of the season at 7:50 in the third period.

The Bruins prospect corralled the puck off a pass from Eichel and promptly blasted a shot from the right circle that sailed into the Irish’s net, making it a 3-2 game with a little over 12 minutes to play.

Grzelcyk — not especially known for his goal-scoring prowess — has now found the back of the net four times in BU’s last four games.

Moran lights the lamp

For the first time in 22 games, junior forward Mike Moran found the back of the net, scoring his third goal of the season at 15:39 in the second stanza.

After freshman forward Nikolas Olsson gathered the puck behind the Irish net, he sent the disc to a waiting Moran near the slot. Moran did not hesitate, firing the puck past Petersen to put the Terriers on the board.

“It’s good to see him get on the scoresheet,” Quinn said. “He’s played much better lately. He’s done a good job. I’m not surprised. He plays a hard game, he’s heavy, strong on his skates, gets to the net.”

Hickey dodges a bullet

Well, not literally, of course.

But after the freshman defenseman collided with Fighting Irish defenseman Luke Ripley early on the third, many feared the worst.

The Leduc, Alberta, native immediately fell to the Agganis Arena ice and spun around at a dizzying rate before coming to a stop near the right circle. Hickey was eventually helped off the ice by junior forward Ahti Oksanen and a trainer, and was quickly brought off the bench.

No more than five minutes after exiting the game, however, Hickey was back on the bench, loosened up during a break in action and was back in the game for the final stretches of play.

The Calgary flames draft pick has been an invaluable addition to the Terriers on both offense and defense, placing second amongst Terrier defenseman with 14 points, while also logging a plus-17 rating in 30 games.

“He’s fine, he’s fine,” Quinn said. “Obviously that’s a scary situation when a guy gets hit like that, but obviously was just something that he was able to shake off.”

Pluses and Minuses: BU settles for tie after late Notre Dame goal

Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

It wasn’t a win, but it got the job done.

Well, sort of.

The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team tied, 2-2, with the University of Notre Dame on Friday night at Agganis Arena. With the point in hand, the Terriers (19-5-5, 13-3-3 Hockey East) clinched a share of the Hockey East title and gained a first-round bye in the conference playoffs.

Sophomore forward Nick Roberto scored halfway through the second to tie the score at one, and senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues netted his 14th goal of the year early in the third to give BU its first lead of the evening. However, on the strength of a late goal, the Fighting Irish (13-15-5, 8-6-5 Hockey East) forced overtime and eventually a draw.

A bounce here or a rebound there and this game could’ve swung in a different direction. As always, there were positives and negatives, so here’s a closer look at the pluses and minuses:

Pluses

Defensive corps stands out

When you have five underclassmen manning the blue line, there might the be expectation that there will be a lapse at some point in the game. But for the most part of the season, this young group has risen to the occasion. That didn’t change Friday night.

Just looking at the numbers, it’s fair to say the defense kept BU in the game from start to finish. The blue liners kept the Fighting Irish outside of prime real estate and forced outside shots. By the time the game ended, Notre Dame finished with 19 shots on goal, the second-fewest BU has allowed in a single game this season.

What stood out most for BU head coach David Quinn was the play of freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey. The first-year defenseman again showed his prowess with the stick and body.

“He can really close on people,” Quinn said. “He’s got a great stick, he’s strong. He plays through people not to people, which is important at this level. For a kid 18 years old he certainly has a great grasp of that. But again, I thought in general, I thought we did a good job defending. I thought we did a nice job keeping them on the perimeter.”

Everyone deserves a second chance

We’ve seen some highlight-reel goals this season, mainly from BU’s top line, but when it came down to it tonight, it was plays in the gritty areas that got the Terriers on the board.

Down a goal in the second, freshman center Jack Eichel pushed through near the crease, jamming at a few chances in front of netminder Cal Peterson. Not before long, Roberto came down through the left side of the crease and gave a whack at a loose puck. On a second attempt on the backhand, Roberto drove home just his third goal of the year.

Thirty-one seconds into the third, Rodrigues got his own chance at a second opportunity. Junior winger Danny O’Regan failed to put his shot past Peterson, but a trailing Rodrigues deposited the puck into the the twine.

Fourth line quietly produces chances

Roberto had his name appear on the scoresheet, although his linemates didn’t play all that bad either. Centered by junior Mike Moran and flanked by freshman wing Chase Phelps, the unit hemmed the puck in deep and created some turnovers with a good forecheck.

The line had six shots combined for the night — double the total BU’s first line had. Moran and Phelps had a few good chances in the first period, but Peterson stood tall.

Kudos to this trio. The three of them don’t get the most ice time by a long shot, but they played well when given the chance.

Minuses 

Late goal re-writes ending

With four minutes and 43 seconds to go, the Terriers held a 2-1 lead that appeared pretty safe. The defense had held its own and didn’t give Notre Dame many chances.

It wouldn’t have been much longer until the Fighting Irish would most likely look to pull Peterson for an extra attacker. Sole possession of Hockey East appeared imminent.

But what looked as a benign rush ended up as a game-changer. Freshman Anders Bjork skated the puck through the slot, wristing the puck toward junior goaltender Matt O’Connor. The shot beat him clean, and instead of celebrating with a trophy, the Terriers settled for a tie and share, at least for the night, of the Hockey East Crown.

The ceremony will have to wait another night.

“[Notre Dame gets] a big goal towards the end of the third period there to tie it,” Quinn said. “Give them a lot of credit, I thought they made life difficult for us as coach Jeff’s [Jackson] teams usually do — they got good skill.”

Missed Opportunities 

It wasn’t like the Terriers didn’t have chances two points Friday night. BU garnered 36 shots on goal, yet also had chances that either missed the net entirely or were blocked.

The clock dwindled in the third period and BU looked to break the tie. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk fired a shot from the point that careened perfectly for O’Regan to tap in. Instead, he couldn’t get a clean handle of the puck and shot it a mile high of net.

BU’s power play, which has been a strength of this team, also failed to come through, going 0-for-3. Playing a man up in the third, the Terriers recorded only one shot on the advantage and had trouble entering the zone.

“Space was hard to come by, I thought both teams well defensively,” Quinn said. “Both power plays unable to capitalize on their opportunities.”

Pluses and Minuses: Second line, defensemen give BU life on offense

Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team just keeps on winning, and did so again in the form of a 6-3 victory over the University of New Hampshire on Friday night at Agganis Arena. The Terriers now own the longest winning streak in the nation at seven — its longest win streak since the end of the 2009 championship season.

There was plenty we liked and didn’t like from that game. Here’s a small sampling:

Pluses

Second line shines
The second line of junior forward Ahti Oksanen, sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon and senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann has been clicking as of late, and accounted for seven total points on Friday against the Wildcats. Andrew has more on that in his sider.

Defensemen scoring
A pair of BU defensemen also found their way onto the score sheet against UNH: junior captain Matt Grzelcyk and freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey.

Neither is a stranger to offensive production: Grzelcyk has two goals and 17 assists on the year, adding to his goal total with his tie-breaking goal with 2:50 left in the second period. Hickey, with his powerful shot, was able to tally a goal and an assist, boosting his season total to five goals and nine assists.

BU head coach David Quinn had nothing but praise for Hickey’s production after the game.

“He works incredibly hard,” Quinn said. “Loves hockey, has got a passion for the game, he’s got enthusiasm that’s infectious. He’s got a bunch of physical skills: he skates well, he shoots it a ton. Does a great job getting a shot to the net, but it’s hard it’s low. He’s physical, he’s good defensively.

“He’s had a heck of a year, be hard-pressed to find many freshmen defensemen better.”

Fashion choices
The Boston Hockey Blog fully endorses Hickey’s postgame attire from Friday night, which included a white cap with a picture of Hohmann’s face taped to the front.

“We thought it would be pretty funny if someone walked in wearing the Hohmann hat,” Hickey said. “A double Hohmann interview.”

“I don’t know how that hat got made but it’s been around the locker room,” Hohmann said. “People have been wearing it around, so it’s pretty funny.”

Minuses

Defensive lapses
BU — a team that entered the game giving up an average of just 2.15 goals per game — allowed UNH to tie the game at three goals apiece, less than three minutes after the Terriers had taken a 3-1 lead.

“I just thought were, in particular in the first two periods, irresponsible with the puck and really weren’t committed to playing defense,” Quinn said. “It became a little bit of a track meet, exchanging chances, and that’s certainly not how we want to play. I thought we did a much better job in the third period of being responsible.”

How did they make that adjustment? Simplicity.

“You just try to simplify everything,” Hickey said. “Bear down the D zone, make sure you’re clearing guys out in front of the net. We’re just trying to get back to simple hockey. Just relax and go out and play our game because we know if we play our game and shut everyone down, we have our opportunities to capitalize as well.”

Streak comes to an end
It’s pretty hard to criticize a guy who just got 27 points in 11 games, but it was still a bit disappointing to see senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues’ point streak end on Friday. He had four shots on goal against UNH, but none could cross the goal line. All good things must come to an end, I suppose.