BU hosts Northeastern in Hockey East Tournament quarterfinals

This article originally appeared on The Daily Free Press.

M46A0355Playoff hockey is back.

Beginning Friday night, the No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team will host Northeastern University at Agganis Arena for a best-of-three series in the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East Tournament. The second-seeded Terriers and eighth-ranked Huskies will square off again on Saturday evening and, if necessary, on Sunday night.

Both squads are riding high, as BU is fresh off earning a share of the Hockey East regular-season title, while Northeastern is 11-3 in its past 14 games. Perhaps more importantly, though, senior captain and defenseman Doyle Somerby said that postseason play brings about urgency.

“It’s pretty serious now; it’s a big brand of hockey,” Somerby said. “ … When we met on Tuesday, we left it all on the line and said, ‘This is a weekend where we need to play the way we can play and set a tone for what our playoffs are going to be like.’ We trust ourselves, and it’s just something that has to come from within.”

These two sides met back in early November, with the Terriers taking three of a possible four points from the weekend series. However, BU (21-10-3, 13-6-3 Hockey East) head coach David Quinn said those results won’t influence these upcoming games.

The dominant reasons, Quinn said, are head coach Jim Madigan’s team is healthy and “better defensively.” As for Somerby, he said Northeastern (18-13-5, 9-10-3 Hockey East), which won the 2016 Hockey East Tournament, always seems to get hot come playoff hockey.

“They’re a really good team,” Somerby said. “They’re fast, they’re up-tempo, they like to push the pace. They put up so much offense.”

The superlatives from Somerby bear fruit, too.

Northeastern’s power-play unit scores 28.95 percent of the time, good for second in Division I hockey. Meanwhile, it boasts three of the nation’s top-10 scorers in senior Zach Aston-Reese (62 points), junior Dylan Sikura (56 points) and sophomore Adam Gaudette (52 points).

The Huskies’ biggest flaw, arguably, is goaltender Ryan Ruck, whose goals against average (2.94) and save percentage (.896) all rank in the bottom three of Hockey East netminders. Through those highs and lows, Quinn said Northeastern poses a serious challenge.

“We certainly understand our opponent and how talented they are, and we just have to make sure we don’t give them time and space,” Quinn said. “If you do that, you have a much better chance to have success.”

Leading that charge for BU – the youngest team in college hockey – will be a slew of talented youngsters.

M46A0533Freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger, who will start on Friday, ranks in the top-10 nationally in goals against average (2.06), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (four). Meanwhile, forwards Clayton Keller (38 points) and Patrick Harper (34 points) both rank in the top-five nationally in freshman scoring.

Outside of any single player, Somerby said another motivator is how BU fared in the 2015-16 postseason.

In the Hockey East Tournament, the Terriers narrowly squeezed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the opening round, only to be promptly bounced by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Come the NCAA Tournament, BU lost in the opening round, 7-2, to the University of Denver.

In simple terms, Somerby said playoff hockey means there’s no guarantee of another game.

“We’re not taking anything for granted,” Somerby said. “We know we have a special group and we have a close-knit group, so we put it on the line that we’re playing for each other and extend our season for as long as we can. That starts tomorrow.”

All things considered, Quinn said BU must approach the weekend one tilt at a time. From that, he said, BU could secure its ninth Hockey East Tournament title.

So, what will Quinn be looking for?

“Our puck movement, our urgency,” Quinn said. “When a puck comes to you, are you ready to do something with it? The edge that we have physically and offensively, and then our commitment to playing defense. Those are the things that are going to determine our success throughout the weekend.”

The Look Back: BU slides past UMass ahead of Beanpot Tournament

mihvsumass_February_03_2017_malhotra_9011-1600x1065A three-point night from freshman forward Clayton Keller was the difference on Friday, as the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team skated past the University of Massachusetts at home.

The final scoreline was 3-1 in favor of the Terriers, with the Arizona Coyotes first rounder snagging a goal and two assists. Dante Fabbro, a freshman defenseman, had himself a game, too, pitching in a goal and an assist.

Bobo Carpenter, who now has 10 goals on the year, potted the third tally midway through the third period. The sophomore winger was a continual threat all night long, tying Keller’s team-high seven shots on goal.

For a full account of the game’s events, check out Jonathan’s recap over on The Daily Free Press.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the win assured BU heads into the Beanpot Tournament on a high, having won 10 of its last 12 games. The annual Boston showdown will get underway Monday at 8 p.m. against No. 8 Boston College.

Yep, the squad BU already beat twice this year.

Highlights

Press Conferences

Live Blog: BU hosts UMass Lowell

Fresh off being swept by Merrimack College, the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team is right back in action tonight.

It’ll take on No. 7 University of Massachusetts Lowell at Agganis Arena, with puck drop set for 7:05 p.m. A stream of the game can be found by clicking here.

We’re on site for all the action, so follow along via our live blog below!

Live Blog BU vs. UMass Lowell
 

Live Blog: BU at Merrimack

We’re live at Merrimack’s Lawler Rink in North Andover, Massachusetts for a Tuesday night clash between BU and the Warriors.

The Terriers are the nation’s newest No. 1 team, while Merrimack’s season can be defined by inconsistency. They’re 8-13-3 on the year; BU, on the other hand, is riding an eight-game winning streak.

Trends aside, tonight’s tilt should be full of energy and intensity, as Lawler is probably the smallest barn in Hockey East.

Be sure to follow along on our live blog for updates throughout the contest!

Live Blog BU @ Merrimack
 

Here are tonight’s lines:

 

The Look Back: BU sweeps Maine

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PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

There’s no other way to put it: It was another great weekend for the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team.

Pegged against the University of Maine for a weekend series, BU pushed its win streak to eight games with back-to-back victories. The first came on Friday night at Agganis Arena, with the Terriers knocking off the Black Bears, 4-1.

While that scoreline flatters BU, it wasn’t until a flurry of goals in the third frame that head coach David Quinn’s squad pulled away. What the third stanza did do, though, is set the stage for Saturday night’s rematch at Alfond Arena.

 

Maine was certainly boosted by playing on home ice, but the Terriers still etched out a 3-1 win. Here are some thoughts from the weekend’s games:

  • Patrick Harper: The freshman forward scored on the power play on Saturday, but then got injured and sat out the third period. We’ll touch base with Quinn early this week and see what his status is.
  • Clayton Keller: In my opinion, more people should be talking about what Keller’s return from injury in early December did to this squad. He now has a 10-game point streak and simply elevates his teammate’s play.
  • Jake Oettinger: What else is there to say about the 18-year-old goaltender? He stopped 39 of the combined 41 shots he saw against Maine; the only two that beat him were flukes off the stick of Blaine Byron. Should Oettinger keep this pace up, he could carry BU towards some hardware.
  • Kieffer Bellows: One surprise from Friday’s game was that Bellows dropped to the fourth line. He stayed there for Saturday’s contest, too, and saw time in both on the second power-play unit. It would be unfair to say he’s playing poorly, but fans have to be yearning for more offensive contributions from him.
  • Quick turnaround: BU will have hardly time to bask in these wins, as a visit to Merrimack College awaits on Tuesday night. The squad will take Sunday off, have an abbreviated practice on Monday and then get right back into the thick of it.

Highlights:

Press Conferences

Tweets of the Weekend

RECAP: BU Beats BC in first installment of the Battle of Comm. Ave.

The third period was shaky as can be, but Boston University held on against Boston College on Friday night at Agganis Arena, earning a 2-1 in the process.

The scoring got underway in the second period, when Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson tipped home a shot from Dante Fabbro. BC answered right back, though, with Colin White banging home a power-play goal with ease.

Looking to regain the lead, Clayton Keller scored the ultimate game-winner as provided by Jordan Greenway. For a full recap of the night’s affairs, check out Jonathan’s recap over on The Daily Free Press.

Outside of the goalscorers, this game was always going to feature an elite battle of goaltenders. On one side it was BU’s Jake Oettinger, and on the other BC’s Joseph Woll. They both featured on Team USA’s 2017 World Junior Championship squad that last week secured a gold medal.

For more on that clash, check out Jonathan’s sider over on The Daily Free Press.

Highlights

Press conferences

Photos

Tweets of the Night

Live Blog: BU-BC rivalry returns

One thing’s for sure in college hockey: Boston University and Boston College don’t like each other. Not one bit, and it’s largely why their rivalry is so anxiously anticipated every year.

Luckily for fans, the return of BU-BC hockey is here, as the sides will clash at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Agganis Arena. For those who are interested, the game is also being streamed online.

Per usual, we’ll have our live blog, offering fans a chance to comment on the night’s affairs. Join in the thread below!

 

Live Blog BU vs. BU at Agganis Arena
 

Here are tonight’s lines for the Terriers and the Eagles:

Three Thoughts: BU, with shorthanded roster, beats Union in OT

Freshman Gabriel Chabot centered BU's third line. PHOTO BY JONATHAN SIGAL/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman Gabriel Chabot centered BU’s third line. PHOTO BY JONATHAN SIGAL/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

In case you missed it, Thursday night was a special one at Agganis Arena.

With seven Terriers off competing in the gold medal game of the World Junior Championships, the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team hosted No. 10 Union in a high-stakes clash. The game would have massive implications on the Pairwise Rankings, and it was hard not to wonder if BU truly stood a chance without so many of it’s top players – Clayton Keller, Jordan Greenway, Charlie McAvoy, Dante Fabbro, Jake Oettinger, Patrick Harper and Kieffer Bellows.

However, doubters were proved wrong, as BU stormed back from two different deficits to win, 5-4, in overtime. Now that the dust has settled, we offer several thoughts on the crucial victory.


1.) History –  It’s hard to think of a more satisfying regular season win in the last two years that this one for head coach David Quinn’s side. The 2016-17 season has brought about some great ones, including ones on Nov. 22 over now-No. 4 Harvard University and on Oct. 22 over now-No. 15 Quinnipiac University. Stretch back to the 2015-16 campaign, and the only ones that come to mind are an overtime win over Denver and an away stomping of Quinnipiac that snapped its unbeaten run. Sure, the debate can rage on either side here, but every player and coach had an ear-to-ear grin after this one vs. Union. Quinn even went as far as to say it felt like a playoff game, and that speaks volumes to the collective belief in the locker room.

“It feels like a playoff win in a lot of ways. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. They believed, all week in practice you could kind of feel it, it was an excitement to play. I don’t want to say [we] shocked the world, but it was more, not only the coaches but I’m sure the players were being asked, ‘How are you going to play a game with all these guys gone?’ I think they felt a little bit slighted, and it was a great win. A great, great win for us.” – Quinn

2.) JFK – Wow. What a night it was from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, BU’s first-line center and sophomore assistant captain. He figuratively carried the Terriers on his back throughout the contest, doing so many of the little things right. It’s sometimes jaw-dropping how fast he crosses the blueline, using his body to protect the puck and create space for himself to operate. He even won 17 of his 27 draws and logged crucial minutes on the penalty kill. Oh yeah, the Swede netted a hat trick, too, with one tally in the first period, another to tie it up late in the third and then an overtime game-winner. It was a performance for the ages.

His first goal:

His second goal:

His third goal:

3.) LaCouvee – It got lost in the shuffle a bit last night, but Connor LaCouvee had another solid outing in what marked his third start of the 2016-17 season. He of course let up four goals, but that was with a depleted defensive corps in front of him, with two strikes coming on broken plays and two more on power plays for Union. By the night’s end, he stopped 35 of the Dutchmen’s 39 shots, and did his part in largely quieting Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo, the nation’s top two scorers.


The Small Five

a.) Switzer – Shane Switzer, BU’s sophomore defenseman who’s honestly been lost in the thicket of immense talent on the blueline, had himself another positive outing. He scored BU’s opener on the power play, giving him three goals in his last two games. Then he spent the better part of the game in the locker room, with Quinn saying he suffered a concussion. He’ll likely be out for a couple weeks.

b.) Hickey – Another game, another outing in which Brandon Hickey keeps doing so much right for BU. The junior defenseman snagged an assist on JFK’s second goal of the night, but he was everywhere from start to finish. Due to Switzer’s concussion, the Terriers spent most of the game with five blueliners, and Hickey filled the gap and then some.

c.) PK – For long stretches of the 2016-17 season, BU has thrived itself on its penalty kill. Union seemed to finally crack the code so to speak, as it beat LaCouvee on two of its four extra-man opportunities. Quinn said in his post-game press conference that the problem will be remedied, but it goes to show that even one of the nation’s best units isn’t always perfect.

d.) JFK part 2 – When JFK walked in for his post-game interview, he was wearing a walking boot and linemate Bobo Carpenter helped him along at some points. JFK gave us the thumbs up and said he’ll be OK, so I wouldn’t take too much stock into it for the time being. After all, he played the whole game, so it’s likely a precautionary measure.

e.) Role players – Guys like a Gabriel Chabot or a Brien Diffley logged far more ice time than they normally would, as the aforementioned seven missing players normally eat up minutes for BU. In other words, role players stepped up and the Terriers are showing they’re a selfless bunch. These quotes from my 1-on-1 interview last with Doyle Somerby speak volumes to that phenomenon.

“There was some guys that weren’t used to playing in roles that they were about to play in, so you never know how someone is going to step up. We kind of did something like this my freshman year when guys had to sit, and we battled. That’s something you can come together with and use it as a positive.” – Somerby

 

“I think everyone has accepted their roles at this point. Everyone wants to be scoring goals and do big things, but it shows a lot of maturity and a lot of positives that guys are willing to sacrifice their own benefit for the better success of the team.” – Somerby

From The FreeP: Pat Curry Feature

BU hockey fans, we have another feature laying in wait. This time we profiled Patrick Curry, one of the Terriers’ nine freshmen.

He has six points through his first 14 collegiate games, but it’s often the intangibles that best sum up Curry’s contributions. Be sure to check out all Jonathan wrote up here over on The Daily Free Press.

Here’s a small snippet:

“He’s definitely one of those guys who’s not afraid to mix it up out there and he’s very good at getting guys off their game,” Maciuk said. “He has a little bit of that Kenny Linseman in him from back in the day. You want to have him on your team because you hate to play against him.”

The rest is yours to read…

Three Thoughts: BU’s weekend series with Providence

BU celebrates its second goal in Saturday's 2-2 overtime draw with Providence College. PHOTO BY JOHN KAVOURIS/DAILY FREE PRESS
BU celebrates its second goal in Saturday’s 2-2 overtime draw with Providence College. PHOTO BY JOHN KAVOURIS/DAILY FREE PRESS

The Boston University men’s hockey team snagged three of a possible four points against Providence College this past weekend. Friday night’s clash was a 2-1 win at Schneider Arena, while Saturday’s game unfolded as a 2-2 overtime tie.

From the good, the bad and the ugly, we offer several takes on what unfolded. As a bit of foreshadowing, it wasn’t the prettiest weekend of Terrier hockey, even if the results were largely favorable.


1.) Bellows struggles – As much as we don’t want to admit it, it may be time for Kieffer Bellows to sit a game or so. After getting two penalties in the first period on Saturday, including one in the offensive zone, Bellows now leads all Terriers in total penalties with 16. For comparison, Jordan Greenway is second in penalties with 10. Quinn made the decision to bench Bellows for pretty much the rest of Saturday’s contest, and he can’t be blamed. It’s been a tough stretch for the freshman, as he has just one point in his last seven contests. With BU not as deep as it would like to be, hopefully he can get more comfortable in the college game soon. – Nick

2.) Penalties – If you thought the Terriers’ penalty problem had subsided, last weekend seemed to prove you wrong. After averaging 9.6 penalty minutes in their previous six contests, Quinn’s squad logged 47 minutes in the box in the two games versus the Friars. BU still secured three points despite having to kill the power play so much, but it’s obvious that Quinn will be stressing cutting down penalties in practice this week. – Nick

3.) Who’s out – It will be interesting to see which forward gets bumped out of the lineup once Clayton Keller returns from injury (which could be before the winter break, FYI). Pat Curry has stepped up to replace Keller on the second line, and he’s performed well the last few games. Does he stay somewhere on that second line, especially with Bellows’ recent struggles? And where does Ryan Cloonan fit in when Keller and Tommy Kelley are back on the ice? Who on the fourth line gets the boot? If BU can get all of their playmakers back to full health, keep an eye out for what Quinn does with the bottom three lines. – Nick


The Small Five

a.) Oettinger – For anyone claiming that Jake Oettinger can’t handle the starting spot for these Terriers, it’s time to hold your horses. The kid is just fine. Actually scratch that – he’s more than fine. He made a combined 68 saves across both games with the Friars, including 38 on Friday night. The 17-year-old also now has a 1.92 goals against average and .930 save percentage. – Jonathan

b.) D pairings – Coach Quinn tossed a small curveball this past weekend when he switched up the top two defensive pairings. He partnered Charlie McAvoy with Brandon Hickey, and also put Chad Krys with Dante Fabbro. Normally it’d be McAvoy-Krys and Hickey-Fabbro, so perhaps a small point. Meanwhile, John MacLeod and Doyle Somerby stayed together on the third pairing. – Jonathan

c.) McAvoy – Speaking of McAvoy, we’re starting to see some serious offensive production from this past summer’s first-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins. He has one goal and 11 assists, including a helper in each of his last three games. That should come as no surprise, though, as he had three goals and 22 assists in his freshman season. Either way, it’s nice to see McAvoy contributing on the offensive end consistently. – Jonathan

d.) Harper – Is it possible that Patrick Harper is regressing to the mean? He still leads BU with 17 points, but he was kept off the scoreboard in both tilts with the Friars. Many of the team’s top forwards were as well, so it’s hardly a slight. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Harper returns to his scoring ways or balances out some. – Jonathan

e.) Power play – The Terriers’ power play isn’t up to snuff right now, of that there is no doubt. BU has the 43rd-best success rate in the country, as it scores on 14.29 percent of its man advantages. With copious talent – Keller, Harper, Bellows, Fabbro, McAvoy and Greenway, to name a few – something has to click soon, right? On the contrary, BU’s penalty-kill unit is the nation’s third best, as it clocks in at a 91.1 percent success rate. – Jonathan