The Boston Hockey Blog crew swung by TD Garden on Tuesday for Hockey East’s media day.
Coaches and captains were in attendance, and the league announced the Boston University men’s hockey team took home the top spot in the preseason poll. For BU’s purposes, that meant we got some reactions from head coach David Quinn, captain Doyle Somerby and the assistant captains in Nikolas Olsson and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
Here’s our article on the poll, as well as some thoughts on Hockey East as a whole. You can also find the complete poll below:
Boston University’s home schedule was released Wednesday afternoon. The Terriers will play 18 games at Agganis Arena, including 11 Hockey East games.
BU will open its season with exhibition games versus the University of Prince Edward Island on Oct. 1 and the U.S. National Under-18 Team on Oct. 6. The Terriers fell to the Under-18 squad, 7-4, last year, with incoming freshmen in forwards Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Chad Krys featuring prominently.
Head coach David Quinn’s squad will then return to Commonwealth Avenue on Oct. 21 to host Sacred Heart University. It will be the first ever meeting between the two programs. The following night, 2015-16 national runner-up Quinnipiac University will come to town for its first contest at Agganis in team history. Boston University got the best of the Bobcats last season, defeating the country’s then-No. 2 squad, 4-1, in Connecticut.
The Terriers will then host their first conference opponent on Nov. 5, when defending Hockey East champion Northeastern University makes the short trip from Matthews Arena. BU will then play the University of Connecticut at home two weeks later.
Harvard University comes to Agganis Arena for a non-conference game on Nov. 22 after the Terriers earned a 6-5 win on the road over the Crimson last season. BU’s next home game is against Providence University, who defeated the Terriers in the 2015 national championship. The Friars and the Terriers played twice last season, with both games resulting in ties.
BU will then host Yale University on Dec. 13, the final game before the holiday break. It will be the first trip to Agganis for the Bulldogs since 2009. After the holidays, the Terriers will begin the second half of the regular season with a game versus Union College on Jan. 5. That matchup will be the last non-conference home game of the season.
After the Union game, Boston University’s last eight home games will be with familiar foes. Boston College comes to Agganis on Jan. 13 as part of the Green Line Rivalry. The Terriers then host the University of Maine on Jan. 20, Merrimack College on Jan. 27 and the University of Massachusetts Lowell the following night. BU had a 4-3-1 record against those four teams last season.
In February, the University of Massachusetts Amherst comes to town on Feb. 3, while the University of New Hampshire visits the Terriers Feb. 17. BU will wrap up the regular season with a pair of home games versus the University of Notre Dame, who will be leaving Hockey East next season for the Big Ten Conference. The Terriers split a pair of games with the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana last year.
The full 2016-17 regular season schedule will be released in the coming weeks.
Senior goaltender Sean Maguire kept BU in it for most of the night, but his opposer, sophomore Cal Petersen, made 39 saves to preserve the Notre Dame (19-8-7, 15-5-2 Hockey East) shutout.
Freshman Dylan Malmquist provided the only offense needed with a power-play goal at the 11:47 mark of the second period.
BU’s loss, in conjunction with No. 11 University of Massachusetts Lowell’s win over No. 2 Boston College, means the Terriers slipped to the No. 5 seed in Hockey East, so there will be no first-round bye in the cards.
We’ll take a look at the bad and the good in our breakdown from Compton Family Ice Arena:
Opportunity knocks, no answer
BU had the chance to clinch the third or fourth seeds in the conference playoffs under a few scenarios, the easiest of them being a win or tie against the Fighting Irish.
But, as I’m sure you’ve read up to this point, BU did neither of those in its regular-season finale. Instead of getting a first-round bye and home ice in the quarterfinals, the Terriers will play host in the first round and have to travel to a road site in the quarterfinals, if they advance out of the opening series.
The silver lining in this? BU will host 12th-seeded University of Massachusetts Amherst, a team BU has defeated four times in as many games the last two seasons, outscoring the Minutemen (8-22-4, 2-16-4 Hockey East) by a combined score of 30-11.
“Obviously you’re hoping to get a point tonight, allow yourself to get a bye, but didn’t happen and, as a I told our guys, ‘You’re hockey players, you get to play more hockey,'” Quinn said. “That’s how you got to look at it. Right? Obviously lick our wounds from tonight, they can feel sorry for themselves for the next 24 hours, but you get to play more hockey. That’s how you got to look at it.
“It’s an opportunity to get better, it’s playoff time, it’s the best time of year.”
Before Saturday, Petersen had 15 games this season in which he stopped at least 30 shots. Make that 16 now.
Whether it was the glove, pads or blocker, Petersen made some terrific saves all night, and Friday for that matter, too.
At times, BU was hemmed in its own zone and couldn’t get any offense going toward net, but especially toward the end of the game, the shots came in and Petersen was there for each one.
“It’s frustrating, I thought we had some good chances,” said senior assistant captain Matt Lane, who registered one shot on net. “I thought at times we could have challenged a little more, but he’s a great goaltender and he was on his game tonight.”
Power play ineffective
This has been a recurring theme in this section of our articles, so we’ll try and keep this part brief.
At times in this game during BU’s power play, it was difficult to even see that the Terriers even had an extra man on the ice. There were a lot of passes in the neutral zone (sloppy ones at that) and not a whole lot of shooting on net. All three man advantages came in the second period, and at least on the first one, BU did next to nothing.
On those three power plays, BU totaled four shots, and it wasn’t as if Petersen was pressured in any of these particular instances.
More than one thing attributed to the lack of success, Quinn said.
“Just, we lost a lot of battles,” Quinn said. “Sometimes what can happen on a power play is you lose sight of the fact that you’ve got to play hockey within a power play. Go here, do this, do that, and you’ve got to play hockey within the power play and I think when we’re not effective on our power play, we don’t play hockey within our power play. We go to our spots.
“I just thought we lost some one-on-one battles, I thought we were a little inept coming up ice, and it cost you.”
Maguire hangs in, shots come late
BU’s senior goaltender didn’t face a tremendous number of shots through two periods (13), but he saw a lot of action his way in the early stages of the third.
Notre Dame pressed for a game-breaking goal, but Maguire hung in there, making 15 saves on 15 chances. Quinn said Maguire did all of the things he’s been doing all season to be successful in this one.
And while the Terriers could not make their final push come to fruition, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. There was almost nothing going on in the Fighting Irish zone in the opening minutes of the third, but around the halfway point, BU made a rush to get the score even. BU had 13 shots and goal and attempted 24, including one in which senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan was denied on in the final five minutes.
McAvoy’s big hit
Freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy has been on the top pair for most of this season, bringing an offensive element to the game any time he’s on the ice.
But tonight, we’ll give him a plus for the crushing hit he put on forward Connor Hurley late in the first period.
With the calendars now flipped to 2015, the second half of the college hockey season is set to begin. A lot of things have changed since our preseason power rankings, so this list will look a bit different than it did in early October.
To kick off the 2015 portion of the season, here are our rankings of the 12 Hockey East teams — not necessarily a regurgitation of the standings:
1. Boston University (11-3-2, 7-1-2 Hockey East) – The Terriers were expected to improve after a dreadful 10-win 2013-14 season, but questions loomed as another large freshman class would have to play a major role in the turnaround. But the young group has more than stepped up. Freshman center Jack Eichel has arguably been the best player in the country with 27 points in 16 games — a national best. Eichel’s “OREO” line with junior wingers Ahti Oksanen and Danny O’Regan has combined for 62 points. BU’s four rookie defensemen have also helped as a force on both ends. The return of sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon and freshman forward Nikolas Olsson should improve the depth of this team.
2. University of Massachusetts-Lowell (13-3-3, 7-0-2 Hockey East) – The loss of a few key seniors was not enough to keep the River Hawks from being a force at the top of Hockey East. No one from UML has more than 16 points, yet the River Hawks’ balanced scoring attack has them as the No. 1 scoring offense in Hockey East at 3.78 goals per game. Freshman C.J. Smith is averaging just under a point a game with 17 points in 19 contests. UML has used Kevin Boyle as its top netminder, and he has a .918 save percentage, a number the River Hawks would likely prefer to see go up.
3. University of Vermont (14-4-1, 7-3-1 Hockey East) – A 20-win team a season ago, Vermont is ahead of pace to break that win total this year. Forward Mario Puskarich and defenseman Mike Paliotta are tied for third in Hockey East with 18 points, and Paliotta’s mark is the best for a defenseman in the conference. Goaltenders Brody Hoffman (.924 save percentage) and Mike Santaguida (.953) have been a solid backstop duo. With their help, Vermont is best in the conference in goals allowed per game and penalty-kill percentage. However, the balanced Catamounts team still has to play BU, BC and UML down the stretch.
4. Providence College (11-6-1, 6-4 Hockey East) – Our preseason pick — and Hockey East coaches’ selection — at No. 1 began the year with an unimpressive 1-3-2 start, but has won seven of its last eight games. Goaltender Jon Gillies is back to his old form, posting the league’s best save percentage at .942. Gillies put an exclamation point on 2014 with a shutout over Vermont on Dec. 29, and capped off the week by being named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week. The Friars have been one of the conference’s best defensive teams, though still struggle offensively, beginning play in 2015 in the bottom third of Hockey East in scoring offense.
5. Boston College (10-7-1, 4-4-1 Hockey East) – Another team at the top of our list to start the year has struggled. The Eagles have yet to find a breakout goal scorer; however, the Eagles boast six players with at least 11 points, so a well-rounded attack has kept them in the top tier of Hockey East offenses. Surprisingly for the Eagles, a very good group of defensemen — two of whom represented the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Canada — have played sloppy hockey at times. Missing defenseman Steve Santini might have hurt the BC blue line corps more than some expected. His expected return to the lineup could help improve a defense that ranks sixth in the conference in goals allowed per game at 2.44.
6. Merrimack College (10-5-2, 4-4-1 Hockey East) – The Warriors have taken advantage of the smaller ice at Lawler Arena and have a 7-1-1 record at home. They’ve been able to bottle up faster teams, and keep scoring to a minimum. Goaltenders Rasumus Tirronen and Collin Delia each have a goals-against average under two. Freshman Brett Seney is tied for the team-lead in points with 15 and has done an admirable job leading the second line. The road gets tougher for the Warriors, though, with Hockey East games remaining against BC, UML and Vermont.
7. University of Notre Dame (9-9-2, 4-4-2 Hockey East) – The Fighting Irish had to deal with losing 11 seniors after last season and have battled inconsistencies thus far. Forwards Robbie Russo and Mario Lucia have been bright spots with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Notre Dame’s goaltenders, however, have struggled, as neither Cal Peterson or Chad Katunar has a save percentage above .909. Eight games against teams at the bottom of the conference at the beginning of the second half could benefit the Fighting Irish.
8. Northeastern University (5-10-1, 3-6-1 Hockey East) – The Huskies have recovered a bit since an awful 0-8-1 start, though they are still a long way from the top of the standings. A Hobey Baker Award nominee last year, forward Kevin Roy started this year off slowly, although he’s back to a point per game pace with 16 points in 16 contests. Goaltender Clay Witt has not matched his miraculous performance from a season ago, and has a lowly .909 save percentage. Northeastern has gotten outshot by a sizable amount, which has put a lot of pressure on Witt. The Huskies ended the first half with wins in four of their last five games, which could propel them going forward.
9. University of Connecticut (4-9-4, 2-4-1 Hockey East) The Huskies have just four wins, but they’ve beaten BC and Vermont and tied BU. Those wins and one tie are in large part thanks to goaltender Rob Nichols, who sports a .931 save percentage. But UConn has relied on Nichols a bit too much, as the Huskies are getting outshot 557-440. Poor possession numbers could end up hurting the offensively deficient Huskies more as the season rolls along.
10. University of New Hampshire (6-11-1, 1-5-1 Hockey East) – The Wildcats’ one win in Hockey East play came against Northeastern. UNH’s reliance on freshman goalie Adam Clark, who has a .903 save percentage, hasn’t paid off. Forward Tyler Kelleher has been solid with 17 points, which is tied for sixth in Hockey East. The defensive unit and Clark will need to step up for this team to make a run.
11. University of Maine (4-13-1, 2-6 Hockey East) – Coach Red Gendron’s squad has taken more than a step back this season and find themselves as one of the weakest teams in Hockey East. Forward Devin Shore has just 11 points in 18 games, nowhere near his 43-point sophomore campaign. All of Maine’s skaters are averaging under a point a game, and thus are at the bottom of the offensive rankings. And coupled with the second-worst defense, the Black Bears are in a world of hurt. Goaltenders Sean Romeo and Matt Morris have been abysmal with goals-against averages over 3.30 and save percentages under .900. Maine also continues to struggle away from Alfond Arena, finishing 2014 with an 0-6 record on the road.
12. University of Massachusetts (5-13, 1-9 Hockey East) – The only defense worse in Hockey East than Maine’s is the one from this UMass squad. The Minutemen have given up 4.44 goals per game and goaltender Henry Dill has the worst save percentage (.868) among qualifying goalies. Forward Frank Vatrano and his 11 goals — second in Hockey East — have been the lone positives for the Minutemen.
(Disclaimer: These power rankings were released midday before many of the 7:00 p.m. games later Friday night.)