In its toughest test this season thus far, the No. 13/14 Boston University men’s hockey team knocked off an aggressive U.S. National Under-18 Team with a 6-4 exhibition win Saturday evening at Agganis Arena.
Here’s some of what went right and wrong for the Terriers:
BU’s first line of junior Danny O’Regan, freshman Jack Eichel and junior Ahti Oksanen — the OREO line, as it has become affectionately known by the Twitterverse — had a strong performance yet again.
The trio combined for four of BU’s six goals. Perhaps the most impressive goal was the Terriers’ first of the game, on a crisp tic-tac-toe play between Eichel, Oksanen and O’Regan, who rang the puck home right in front of the net.
“It wasn’t really how you draw it up,” O’Regan said about the goal. “I didn’t really see Jack — he did a good job speaking up and yelling for the puck, and he feathered a nice pass to Ahti and then I just had a wide-open net after, so it was kind of the skill and chemistry that you talked about kind of took over right there.”
Eichel also noted the line’s fantastic chemistry.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with Danny and Ahti,” Eichel said. “They’re two really good players, so it’s nice to be able to go to school with them every day and you get to know them, so you build chemistry off the ice and I think that translates onto the ice. They’re two unbelievable players, so it’s a lot of fun.”
BU head coach David Quinn said he has been impressed with his team’s play thus far, noting each player’s skills — O’Regan’s hockey IQ, Oksanen’s strength and hard work and Eichel’s “world-class skillset.”
“That line, there’s a little bit of everything on that line,” Quinn said. “I should say a lot of everything on that line.
“I love what I see, but I think their best hockey is ahead of them. I think they can really be a line that’s going to be difficult to match up against and I think they’re just scratching the surface.”
A week after generating zero power-play opportunities against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Terriers had three in this game — and converted goals on two of them.
The first power-play goal came on a right-circle wrister from Eichel, and the second came from freshman J.J. Piccinich on an empty-net opportunity.
“We were just moving the puck, keeping things simple,” Eichel said. “We’re getting pucks to the net, getting bodies to the net.”
BU’s first power-play opportunity impressed Quinn, who said the Terriers had an opportunity to shine in the future despite limited chances in the team’s pervious two games.
“I think with our skillset, I think we’re going to be able to have two really good power-play units,” Quinn said.
The Terriers, after playing with what Quinn described as a “lack of physicality” first two periods, made a number of defensive adjustments in the third period, holding Team USA to just six shots in the final frame.
“I thought we backed off a little,” Quinn said. “I thought we were much more aggressive in the neutral zone, taking away time and space for us. And then to chip pucks instead of carrying with full possession into our end. And I thought we defended much better in the third period.”
Though the team excelled on the power play, BU also committed four penalties, allowing two goals on the penalty kill.
The first PK goal for the U-18 team came after freshman defenseman John MacLeod was called for interference 16:35 into the first period. Forward Jeremy Bracco was able to score 39 seconds into Team USA’s power play, tying the game 1-1 at that point.
The U-18 team scored again after a boarding penalty from Nick Roberto. Auston Matthews scored the first of what would be two goals for him in the game at 6:21 into the second period.
“I think it was a microcosm of what was going on in the game, I didn’t think we were alert,” Quinn said about the Terriers’ penalty kill. “Killing penalties, you’ve better bear down and pay attention to details and work hard. I thought the second one, Matthews makes an unbelievable play – bats it out of the air. So sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other team and I certainly attest to the second one they scored. The first one I just thought we were lackadaisical and just kind of casual.”
Defense lagging in first 40 minutes
Quinn said he was not impressed with his team’s defensive effort, as the Terriers were outshot 9-8 in the first period. They gave up another nine shots to the aggressive Team USA in the second period before holding the U-18 team to just six in the third.
“I didn’t think we did a great job in the neutral zone,” Quinn said. “I thought they really created some odd-man rushes coming out of their end. And a lot of that had to do with our lack of physical play in open ice.”
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:
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.”
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.”
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.
The Boston University men’s hockey team walked away with a 12-1 over St. Thomas University on Saturday night. On the strength of junior forward Ahti Oksanen’s four goals, BU’s offense made things look easy from the outset. Here’s a little bit of what happened in the game and some other news in the world of college hockey.
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.
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.”
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.”