Pluses and Minuses: No. 2/3 Terriers thwart UConn comeback at XL Center

Sophomore Nick Roberto scored his first goal of the season in BU's 5-2 win over UConn on Saturday.  PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS SPORTS
Sophomore Nick Roberto scored his first goal of the season in BU’s 5-2 win over UConn on Saturday.
PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS SPORTS

HARTFORD, Connecticut — A quick turnover from Friday night’s game against the University of Maine was not enough to hinder the No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team on Saturday afternoon versus the University of Connecticut.

The Terriers (8-1-1, 6-1-1 Hockey East) jumped out to a 1-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the first and extended the advantage to a three-goal margin by the beginning of the third period. UConn (3-6-4, 2-3-1 Hockey East) got back in the game with two tallies in the middle of the final frame, but BU hung on for a 5-2 win at the XL Center.

As with every game, certain things went right and wrong for the Terriers. Here’s a closer look at the positives and negatives:

Pluses 

Extra-man Unit Thrives 

The BU power play started Friday night 0-for-3 before freshman forward Jack Eichel won the game in overtime with a goal on BU’s fourth chance. Building off some of that momentum, the Terriers scored their first two goals against UConn with an extra attacker.

Junior forward Ahti Oksanen one-timed BU’s initial goal at the 7:28 mark in the opening period, and senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann redirected a point shot from freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey past goaltender Rob Nichols. For more on BU’s power-play success, check out Conor’s sidebar.

A Trio of Firsts 

Yes, BU’s top line totaled three of the team’s goals, but the win did not come without a different cast of characters contributing. About 2:30 into the final period, freshman forward Chase Phelps jumped on the ice as fellow freshman forward A.J. Greer skated back to the bench.

Phelps took a pass from junior center Matt Lane, skated through the slot and patiently waited for a chance. As he got close to the goal, he fired off a wrister. Sophomore forward Nick Roberto was in the right place at the right time and deflected the puck into the net for the Terriers’ third goal.

The tally gave Phelps his first career point at the collegiate level and Roberto his first goal of the season.

“When you go to the net like that you get rewarded,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I felt we had a lot more grit and grind to our game as the game went on.”

Although his name did not appear on the scoresheet, redshirt junior forward J.D. Carrabino made his first appearance in the scarlet and white since transferring to Commonwealth Avenue last year. He did not have a ton of ice time, but Quinn said the 6-foot-6 forward made his presence felt.

“He’s a big, strong, physical guy,” Quinn said. “I just felt this was a good game to get him in, smaller rink. They’re a normally stronger team and I thought he would be effective and he was.”

An Effective Timeout and An Equally Effective Regroup 

When freshman Corey Ronan put the Huskies within one goal at the 8:46 mark in the third period, a crowd of 7,712 that was silent for most of the contest erupted as UConn scored its second goal in 57 seconds. Quinn then used his one timeout in attempt calm his team down after a poor minute of play.

Whether the timeout that was the reason or not, the Terriers answered back.

Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor made a few key stops on chances low in the slot to keep the Terriers in the lead after the stoppage. The netminder and his defense hung on long enough for the Terriers to get the fourth goal, which all but clinched the game.

Oksanen banked a pass of the glass near the penalty box and set up Eichel near the blue line. As the freshman has done time and time again, he took the puck, skated into the offensive zone with speed and created his own chance. Nichols robbed him with a sprawling pad save, but junior winger Danny O’Regan was there to pick up the loose change at the 17:16 mark, scoring his seventh goal of the year.

“The timeout, team scores two goals in that short period of time, it seemed like the right thing to do and I don’t know if it was but it felt like I needed to do it,” Quinn said. “Crowd was getting into it, they were feeding off their energy, they had a couple of good shifts after that but I thought we defended a lot better. They got some zone time and I thought we did a good job not giving up any chances and we get in the fourth goal.”

Minuses 

Fifty-Seven Seconds of Poor Play

Roberto’s goal at the beginning of the third gave the Terriers a comfortable three-goal lead and put BU seemingly in command. UConn, however, fought back in a hurry. In a short span, forward Cody Sharib knocked in a rebound and Ronan wristed a shot from the left circle, beating O’Connor glove side.

The breakdown gave the Huskies life and a chance to tie up the score. UConn couldn’t get that third goal, but the chances were there. Quinn’s aforementioned timeout was a key in making sure the tide was steadied.

More Time on Special Teams 

A special teams unit that worked off four power-plays a night ago had to kill just as many against the Huskies. Right off the bat in the first period, freshman defenseman John MacLeod took a boarding penalty, one of his three on the afternoon. His three penalties now give him eight for the year, which is tied for the team lead with freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. By the end of the contest, Hickey skated along with junior captain Matt Grzelcyk on the top defensive pairing during most shifts.

The penalty kill did work off all eight power plays this weekend, but going forward, staying out of the box is something the Terriers need to improve upon.