Odds and Ends: BU crushes UMass in Hockey East opener

On the road at the Mullins Center in Amherst Friday night, the Boston University men’s hockey team rallied for six goals in the final period to come away with a 8-1 win over the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The Terriers (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) played 10 freshmen — including an unexpected one. Freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee was called upon last minute to get the start in place of an injured junior Matt O’Connor. LaCouvee’s 31 saves and the offensive support, especially from BU’s top two lines, propelled the Terriers in their first regular season game.

Here’s a little flavor of what went down Friday at Amherst, as well as some other news and updates around college hockey:

-For a deeper look into the game, check our game story and piece on LaCouvee’s first collegiate action.

-In case you missed it, we also have a Pluses and Minuses article on what went right and wrong for the Terriers on Friday night.

-Our annual Hockey Preview Issue came out this past Thursday, which includes features and much more content more on the team.

-The Boston Globe ran a season preview for the Terriers earlier this week.

-The University of Massachusetts-Lowell defeated Boston College Friday night at the Tsongas Center.

Ohio State University knocked off Hockey East preseason favorite Providence College.

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Pluses and Minuses: BU second line keys Terriers to 8-1 victory over Minutemen

Senior forward Cason Hohmann registered two points Friday night against UMass Amherst. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Senior forward Cason Hohmann registered two points Friday night against UMass Amherst. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

AMHERST – Despite what the final box score read, the Boston University men’s hockey team’s first regular-season game of the 2014-15 campaign against University of Massachusetts-Amherst was a tight contest.

At least for the first two periods.

BU’s offense arrived in the closing stanza, erupting for six goals in the third period en route to an 8-1 victory over the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Terriers Friday night against the Minutemen:

Pluses

Second line shines

While the Terriers’ third-period outburst was mostly fueled by BU’s first line unit of freshman forward Jack Eichel and junior forwards Danny O’Regan and Ahti Oksanen, BU’s second line unit of sophomore Robbie Baillargeon and senior forwards Evan Rodrigues and Cason Hohmann drew the most praise from BU head coach David Quinn after the game.

“That line was dangerous,” Quinn said. “They could have had three goals in the first period. I thought Rodrigues had a great night, I thought Baillargeon had a great night. We’ve got some depth up front, and those guys are really going to capitalize on their opportunities and they’re going to generate chances.”

The second line made its presence felt throughout the game. Baillargeon opened BU’s scoring at 12:22 in the first period, while Hohmann added a score of his own at 12:39 in the third. Rodrigues finished the night with three assists.

Quinn praised Hohmann’s performance in particular, as the Arlington, Texas, native finished the night with two points while also making plays on the penalty kill, frequently intercepting passes and disrupting UMass’ scoring opportunities.

“I thought it was his best game since I’ve been here. … I thought Cason Hohmann played outstanding tonight,” Quinn said.

LaCouvee impresses in net

Despite only finding out that he was making his first collegiate start early Friday, freshman goaltender Conor LaCouvee put forward a great performance in net against the Minutemen.

Starting in place of junior netminder Matt O’Connor, LaCouvee recorded 33 saves while only allowing one goal en route to his first career win with the Terriers.

Eichel, O’Regan make their mark

Despite its high-powered potential on offense, BU’s first line did not add much on the box score over the first two periods of play. However, the third period was a different story.

Eichel, playing in his first regular-season game with the Terriers, accrued four points in the period, including two goals and an assist in a little over four minutes of play. O’Regan chipped in with two goals of his own – capping BU’s scoring surge with a score at 19:55 in the third. Oksanen led the team in shots with six while assisting on O’Regan’s final goal.

“They’re all good players,” Quinn said of his first line. “They had chances in the first two, but I didn’t think that line was playing great. Then boom, all of a sudden, it was almost like they took the game into their own hands, all of a sudden it’s 4-1. All three of those guys were great, and they all do something very, very well.”

Minutemen’s man advantage snuffed out

UMass was held to just one goal against the Terriers, and it failed to generate many chances during its three power plays – a testament to the performance of BU’s penalty-kill unit. UMass finished 0-for-3 on the man advantage.

“Early on, I thought we might have over-coached the penalty kill a little bit, it looked a little bit sloppy, and then I thought the last two were better. … I thought we got sticks on pucks a lot of time,” Quinn said.

“A lot of times, where you thought, ‘Oh my god, here’s their chance’ and we got a stick on it. Our penalty kill was pretty good and it’s something that we’re going to work on and it will continue to get better.”

Minuses

MacLeod struggles with discipline

While freshman defenseman John MacLeod handles his own for most of Friday’s game, recording the first assist of his collegiate career on A.J. Greer’s third period score at 17:56, the USNTDP U-18 product also took three penalties, giving UMass its only three power-play opportunities of the game.

After the game, Quinn made note of the disparity between the Terriers and Minutemen in terms of chances on the man advantage. BU did not earn a single power-play chance Friday night.

“ I still can’t believe that they had three power plays and we had zero in the amount of time that we had the puck tonight,” Quinn said. “Sometimes that happens in a hockey game.”

Cruise control

Even though the Terriers netted three goals over the final 10 minutes of play, Quinn acknowledged that his team let their foot off the gas pedal for most of the closing minutes of the game, allowing UMass to build up sustained pressure and scoring opportunities in the BU zone.

Even though the Terriers netted six goals in the final stanza, the Minutemen still had their chances, as both teams recorded 13 shots in the third.

“I think once it got 5-1, we got a little sloppy, and all of a sudden they’re getting some chances, and we’re making cross-ice passes, and getting a little irresponsible and [LaCouvee] bailed us out.”

The perils of I-90

The Boston Hockey Blog crew is also getting a minus for the night, as the treacherous traffic on I-90 stalled us for over 3 and half hours on the way to Mullins Center. Sorry to everyone for our lack of live coverage over the first two periods of play and thanks for your patience.

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

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

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

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

Pluses

Ahti, Ahti, Ahti…and more Ahti

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

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

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

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

Special Deliveries from Eichel

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

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

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

Young Defensemen Step Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minuses

One Unlucky Goal

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

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

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