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.
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.
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.
Quinn said Shane Switzer got a concussion in tonight’s win. Will be out for a while.
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
It feels like yesterday that the Boston University men’s hockey team got its 2016-17 season underway, but the halfway point is here. As things stand, BU is 10-5-2, sits fourth in the Pairwise rankings and sixth in the Hockey East standings.
Of course, the state of the Terriers is not that simple, so we’re here to break down some of the subtler nuances and trends that developed in the fall of 2016. It’s also important to note context, as BU entered the year with great hype and expectations, largely the byproduct of rostering 11 NHL Draft picks. The jury is still out on whether all that talent will translate into silverware of some kind.
Before we get underway, it’s important to give these two quotes from disparate parts of the semester a read through. The first came on Sept. 27 at Hockey East’s annual media day, and is from junior assistant captain Nikolas Olsson. Meanwhile, the second is from head coach David Quinn and came after BU’s 5-2 win over Yale on Dec. 13.
Quote 1: “We want to hold ourselves to our own standard, so we don’t want to pay attention to what everyone else expects us to do. We tune everything out and when we’re all in the locker room, we have a saying of, ‘Close that up and everything that’s in here matters – this is what matters, whatever is outside doesn’t.’ If we can figure out our affairs in here, then we can do great things.” – Olsson
Quote 2: “It’s been a really good first half for us. We feel our best hockey is ahead of us. It’s a great group. I love coming to the rink every day with them. They work hard, they care for each other, they’re forming some of those characteristics you need to have as a group to win important games in late March and April. We feel really good about where we’re at.” – Quinn
Patrick Harper – Who would have thought that freshman Patrick Harper would lead the team in points by the end of 2016? Heading into this season, the hype centered around Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows, but it’s been the 5-foot-9, 160-pound playmaker from New Canaan, Connecticut who has led the way early on. With seven goals and 13 assists, Harper ranks fifth in scoring among Division I freshmen. He will head into the next half of the season with a three-game point streak, and it’s safe to assume that the Nashville Predators draft pick will look to extend that run of form on the first line. – Nick
Kieffer Bellows – Yes, Kieffer Bellows has disappointed in his freshman campaign, but there’s a very good chance he turns it around. Just look at sophomore Jordan Greenway, who totaled one goal and seven assists in the first half of the 2015-16 season. After the holiday break, Greenway scored four goals and notched 14 helpers to finish the season top-5 on the team in points (26). Of course, Greenway didn’t have a plus/minus rating of -8 halfway through his freshman year, but you get the point. Sometimes, freshmen need some extra time to adjust before they flourish, and that very well could be the case with Bellows. His penalty problem can be easily fixed, and he’s flashed his trademark scoring ability at points. Let’s hope playing with Team USA in the World Junior Championships will energize Bellows so he can begin the 2017 on a high note. – Nick
Third line – Oft-overlooked, especially on a team with five forwards drafted by NHL teams, BU’s third line deserves ample credit for wins against powerhouse and mid-level teams alike. The contingent typically features senior Nick Roberto and junior Nikolas Olsson as wingers, with freshman Patrick Curry at center. They all have subtly good hands, play heavy on the forecheck and consistently skate with the pace and intensity Quinn so ardently desires. They’re chipping in on the scoreboard, too, as they’ve combined for 19 points from eight goals and 11 assists. What’s perhaps most significant about the third line, though, is that it affords BU’s top two lines the chance to catch a breather, all the while maintaining the level those elite forwards (Keller, Greenway, etc.) demand. Lastly, any team looking to make a deep postseason run with only two lines is in deep trouble. Luckily for Quinn, this Roberto-Olsson-Curry group won’t cause that worry to arise. – Jonathan
JFK – It’s natural to watch BU’s top-end players and make NHL comparisons. When it comes to Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, a sophomore and assistant captain, one of the highest honor surfaces: Patrice Bergeron. Both are centers, both were picked 45th overall by the Boston Bruins in their respective drafts and both offer forth the same skill set. Bergeron, now a two-time participant in the NHL All-Star Game, has smooth hands, makes smart hockey plays like clockwork and has won the Frank J. Selke Trophy three times, which is annually given to the NHL’s top defensive forward. As for Forsbacka Karlsson, the scorer of 45 points in 56 career games for the Terriers, he’s an expert at using his body to protect the puck, plays a 200-foot game in every sense of the phrase and does so many of the little things right. Who knows if “JFK” will ever reach Bergeron’s notoriety or respect throughout the professional ranks, but it’s still a joy to watch the 20-year-old Swede lead BU night in and night out. And for those who feel JFK isn’t chipping in on the scoreboard, he boasts three goals and 12 assists. That puts him a tie with Keller for the third-most points on the Terriers. – Jonathan
Sixth Man – There’s really not much to complain about in this department, as BU ranks fourth in the nation in goals allowed (2.06). The core four of Charlie McAvoy, Chad Krys, Dante Fabbro and Brandon Hickey have been excellent, but perhaps the most important piece of the defense has been the sixth man, usually paired with captain Doyle Somerby. For the most part, that has been John MacLeod, who has four assists in 13 games but has also been dealing with injuries. When he’s unavailable, Brien Diffley and Shane Switzer stepped into his spot on the blue line, making smart choices with the puck and seamlessly slotting into the defensive zone. Expect the D-unit to continue to shut down top offenses in 2017. – Nick
LaCouvee –Jake Oettinger has been terrific in net, but a shoutout has to go to his backup, Connor LaCouvee. He’s only started twice, but knowing that there’s a solid netminder behind Oettinger is comforting for Terrier fans. He earned victories in both of his starts, and has a save percentage of .938. Sure, a small sample size, but so what? He’s been awesome in limited play. Should the 18-year-old Oettinger fall in a slump or require some rest, LaCouvee can slide right into the starting lineup and keep the Terriers in it. – Nick
Oettinger – Speaking of Oettinger, it’s hard to ask for more from the freshman. It’s commonplace in postgame press conferences for his teammates to shower the recently-turned 18-year-old with praise, and that’s because he deserves every plaudit thrown his way. In his young career, the former U.S. National Team Development goaltender has three shutouts, blanking Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart and Vermont. He also boasts a .932 save percentage and 1.87 goals against average, which both lead Hockey East. In terms of a grander scope, the former statistic stacks up as the eighth best in the country, while the latter is fifth best in the nation. To the credit of critics in and around Agganis Arena, Oettinger did have an incredibly rough outing at home – BU’s 4-0 loss to UConn on Nov. 11 – but he has since bounced back with aplomb. Looking ahead, the Lakeville, Minnesota native seems stout enough to lead the Terriers when playoff hockey rolls around, as he instills confidence in the squad and can stymie the nation’s best forwards. Do you know what’s scariest of all? This kid is so young he isn’t even draft eligible until the summer. – Jonathan
Fourth line – While BU’s defense has largely been resolute, one area in need of marked improvement arises through the fourth line. Whether it’s freshmen Johnny McDermott and Gabriel Chabot, sophomores Ryan Cloonan and Oskar Andren, junior Chase Phelps or senior Tommy Kelley, a worrisome theme has surfaced against tougher opponents: an inability to break out of the defensive zone on a consistent basis. This note is based on the eye test and isn’t easily measurable, but too often has some combination of the aforementioned group been hemmed below its own blue line. There are several reasons for this trend – being mismatched against an opponent’s top line, a changing cast of characters and general fatigue late in games – but it needs a firm resolution. On the other hand, when this is the biggest complaint about the Terriers’ defense, they’re in pretty good shape. – Jonathan
Net value – Special teams have been the strongest part of the Terriers’ game in 2016. They have scored on 16.87 percent of their power plays, while going 91.2 percent on the penalty kill, second best in the nation. What’s the most impressive stat from special teams? The Terriers have allowed nine goals on the penalty kill, yet they have scored six shorthanded goals this year. That makes them a fantastic -3 on the PK, which is even more impressive when you consider the number of penalties this team has been whistled for. Stick taps to all involved. – Nick
Freshmen –So who have the stars of the power play been thus far? You may want to sit down for this … it’s been the freshmen. Harper, Keller and Fabbro have three power play goals each, which lead the team. In fact, the only other Terrier with multiple power play goals is … Bellows. It’s obvious that these guys are well-coached when it comes to the PP, so another shoutout to the coaching staff for a job well done. – Nick
QB1, QB2, QB3 – In his weekly sit-down with the media, Quinn routinely talks about the importance of learning what a professional-level power play looks like. From BU’s first 17 games of the year, it appears as though Keller, Fabbro and McAvoy have firmly grasped every coaching point. The trio often operates from the point, quarterbacking the Terriers’ man advantages and always seems willing to pull the trigger. There’s proof in the pudding, too, as Keller and Fabbro both have three tallies on the power play. McAvoy hasn’t registered a point on the power play, but his contributions surface in other ways. – Jonathan
The magic number –During October and November, as was the case throughout college hockey, penalties dominated the conversation. Truthfully, BU has been one of the worst culprits in this regard, as its 16.24 penalty minutes per game is the 15th-highest total in the NCAA. Given that fact, you’d never guess this, but coach Quinn considers four to be his team’s magic number. And that’s a reference to taking no more than four penalties across all three periods. When that’s been the case, meaning BU is playing 5-on-5 hockey, it’s a dominant team that makes mediocre teams look poor and great teams look OK. This was the case in the 3-0 win over Northeastern on Nov. 5, as BU took five penalties, and the same pattern repeated in the 4-0 win over Vermont on Dec. 10, when it took six penalties. The Terriers are far from perfect in this regard, but the trend is clear. – Jonathan
Surprise, surprise – Perhaps the most fun I’ve had watching the team so far was the last game of the semester, when Shane Switzer scored twice to propel BU to a 5-2 victory over Yale. Can’t say anyone saw that coming. It was great to see the guys hype the crowd up when Switzer was named the No. 1 star after the game. – Nick
Breakout moment – Another shining moment came in the exhibition against Prince Edward Island, when Pat Harper scored five times. Obviously, the competition wasn’t the best. But after Harper’s third or fourth goal, it became pretty clear that this guy was going to be integral. I remember being surprised that Harper was on the first line with Forsbacka Karlsson and Bobo Carpenter. Can’t say it was a bad move. – Nick
Bye bye Crimson – Outside of the result itself, pre-break games boast an extra layer of significance in that the scoreline will linger around for quite some time. So when then-No. 9 Harvard University visited Agganis Arena on Nov. 22 – just before the Thanksgiving break – an essential opportunity was before the Terriers. Its next game wasn’t for 10 days either, so a win or loss would remain fresh. In back-and-forth fashion, BU edged out a 5-3 win over the Crimson. Furthermore, coach Ted Donato’s side is now ranked fourth in the nation, making the win better than advertised at the time. – Jonathan
UConn at home – While adulation usually follows the Terriers at every turn, a low moment arose on Nov. 19 at Agganis Arena. The visiting UConn Huskies blanked BU, 4-0, cementing the fact that Hockey East wins won’t come easily for this squad. Quinn’s side didn’t play poorly against the likes of Tage Thompson and Max Letunov, so perhaps the result was an outlier without much of an explanation. After all, sometimes the better team goes home empty handed. – Jonathan
The big get: Oh yeah, we almost forgot about the commits the Terriers secured during the season. It appears the biggest one was forward Shane Bowers, a 17-year-old currently with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL. He currently has nine goals and 10 assists through 26 games after totaling 33 points with the Black Hawks last season. With a few present Terriers likely to move on to the NHL next season, Bowers should contribute right away in 2017-18. – Nick
Reinforcements –On top of that, Finland defenseman Kasper Kotkansalo (at least it’s easier to spell than Grzelcyk) committed to BU and is likely to play next season. Kotkansalo, 18, measures up at 6-foot-2, 190-pounds and has a reputation for hard hits on the boards. He is also currently in the USHL, totaling a plus/minus rating of +7 in 20 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede. – Nick
Red, white and blue – When BU scrimmaged the U.S. National Team Development Program on Oct. 6, Terrier fans got a major glimpse into the future. The coveted squad featured defenseman David Farrance and forwards Brady Tkachuk and Logan Cockerill. While none registered a point – largely the product of BU skating to a comfortable 8-2 win – it was still interesting to see what the young guns could do. Lastly, Tkachuk is second on the NTDP in points with 22, Farrance is seventh with 18 and Cockerill is ninth with 17. – Jonathan
Don’t forget about me – While so much attention, understandably, is given to BU’s big-name recruits, it’s important not to lose sight of those who might not boast as lofty of a pedigree. This is certainly the case with Ty Amonte, who will call Agganis Arena home in the fall of 2017 and currently skates with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL. That’s the same squad that Fabbro used to play for, and Amonte currently has 28 points in 35 games for them. – Jonathan
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:
This past weekend’s NHL Draft in Buffalo, New York was undoubtedly historic for the Boston University men’s hockey team. A whopping six Terriers heard their name called at First Niagara Center, speaking volumes to the youthful talent that will soon grace Agganis Arena for the 2016-17 season.
It’s important to take a step back, though, and ponder this: Just how many NHL selections does head coach David Quinn have at his disposal? As it turns out, quite a lot.
On any given weekend in Hockey East or out-of-conference play, it’s likely 11 skaters will have been drafted. The numbers break down to five forwards and six defensemen, altogether coalescing into what is – on paper – one of the NCAA’s most talented rosters.
Forwards: The Terriers have nearly two lines NHL scouts have tabbed as ready for the next step. It’s impossible to predict who will pan out as hoped, but potential is abound.
Kieffer Bellows – Freshman – New York Islanders – First round, 19th overall in 2016
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – Sophomore – Boston Bruins – Second round, 45th overall in 2015
Jordan Greenway – Sophomore – Minnesota Wild – Second round, 50th overall in 2015
Patrick Harper – Freshman – Nashville Predators – Fifth round, 138th overall in 2016
Clayton Keller – Freshman – Arizona Coyotes – First round, 7th overall in 2016
Defenseman: Lineup decisions and injuries notwithstanding, Quinn could field an entire defensive unit of NHL draft picks. Somerby, the team’s captain, leads the contingent.
Dante Fabbro – Freshman – Nashville Predators – First round, 17th overall in 2016
Brandon Hickey – Junior – Calgary Flames – Third round, 64th overall in 2014
Chad Krys – Freshman – Chicago Blackhawks – Second round, 45th overall in 2016
John MacLeod – Junior – Tampa Bay Lightning – Second round, 57th overall in 2014
Charlie McAvoy – Sophomore – Boston Bruins – First round, 14th overall in 2016
Doyle Somerby – Senior – New York Islanders – Fifth round, 125th overall in 2012
Here are some remarks from Quinn following the 2016 Draft about the NHL picks that’ll be wearing scarlet and white.
Also, be sure to read this article by Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated. He was on location in Buffalo last weekend, and has some interesting tidbits from McAvoy, Quinn and Jack Eichel.
Here’s a brief preview:
“Just talking about it and thinking about it,” said Charlie McAvoy, the only one of the quartet who skated for the Terriers last season. Not the upcoming first round of the draft, mind you, but the prospect of playing together in the fall. “It’s surreal, the class that we’re coming in with. It’s going to be special.”
The decisive goal for Lowell (22-8-5) came off the stick of forward Adam Chapie, a power-play strike with 4:38 left in the final period.
Bounces one way or the other could have changed the outcome of this one, as things tend to happen in playoff games. Puck luck remained mostly on the side of Lowell on Friday, but we’ll explore the negatives and positives a little further in this Pluses and Minuses.
Special teams fail
It’s noted early in the piece, and for good reason, as the respective power plays were the difference. To briefly summarize, BU (21-11-5) went 0-for-2 with a man up, while the River Hawks did their part on the power play, finishing at a 50 percent clip (2-for-4).
“If you’re going to have a successful power play, you’ve got to be alert, you’ve got to be ready to do a few things,” Quinn said, “and both their goals, we just blew our responsibility.”
We could probably break this down for hours, but, in short, BU’s effort on special teams was just not good enough to win a hockey game, especially one of this magnitude.
Quinn said after the game that he liked the way his team played 5-on-5, and for the majority of the game, BU did indeed play well at even strength. One mishap in the neutral zone, however, proved costly halfway through the third period.
The Terriers pressed in Lowell’s end for most of the third, but the River Hawks took advantage with space in neutral ice, converting on forward Michael Louria’s goal at 11:35.
Louria got the puck through the neutral zone and into the high slot uninhibited, allowing him to wrist a shot in the low corner of the net, under senior goaltender Sean Maguire‘s blocker. Louria said his shot hit a stick in front of him, which helped him score, but any way you put it, a well-placed shot in open space is a tough matchup for any goaltender.
Chances pile up, results don’t
The shots were there but the goals were not. BU racked up 35 shots, including 18 in the final 20 minutes of play, as compared to Lowell’s game total of 19. BU outshot Lowell by six in the first, but skated to the dressing room in a scoreless tie, which Quinn noted was frustrating.
Yet, even as BU pressured goaltender Kevin Boyle in the final minutes, he continued to make all of the necessary stops to prevail in the series opener. In two of the three games that BU has faced Lowell this season, Boyle has limited the Terriers’ to three or fewer goals.
“Sometimes shots can be deceiving but we held a team to 19 shots and we get 35, you might think you’ve got a better chance to win” Quinn said. “But again, it comes back to special teams. And you can’t go 2-for-4 on the penalty kill.”
It could very well be a product of playing good defenses (and strong goaltenders), but BU has scored more than three goals in a game only twice since February, both against last-place University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Scoring three goals should be enough to win you most hockey games, but for a team that scored at a good pace in the first half, goals have been harder to come by over the last two months.
JFK — the good streak
In such a fickle game like hockey, scoring can come and go in bunches. Example — freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.
BU’s first-line center proved early in the year to not only have adept passing skills, but he had some scoring touch, with seven goals through Jan. 22. But good streaks can lead to empty ones, and Forsbacka Karlsson felt that through much of February and into early March. The freshman had no goals and just five points in a 12-game stretch lasting from that Jan. 22 game through March 4.
Finally, in the second game of BU’s first-round series with UMass (8-24-4) he broke through with two goals. He continued that scoring against Lowell, tallying BU’s first of the night early in the second period, walking in from the left circle and beating Boyle five-hole on a quick wrister to open up the scoring at 6:22.
“Obviously when you’ve got your first-line center scoring goals, it’s certainly a great sign,” Quinn said. “He’s had a great year, and as we all know, sometimes scoring can be streaky, and he went through a stretch where he was a little bit snakebitten, but obviously two goals in the last game we played and a goal tonight — hopefully that trend continues.”
The silver lining
Moral victories mean almost nothing when it comes down to the postseason, but there is something that BU can at least take some solace in after Friday’s loss.
If there’s one thing Quinn’s bunch has done exceptionally well the past two seasons, it’s that it hasn’t lost two games in a row very often. In fact, since last year, the Terriers have only lost back-t0-back games just once, and that came early on in this campaign on Oct. 27 and 30 in games against the University of Connecticut and Merrimack College.
“It’s been a resilient group, we’re going to have to be very resilient tomorrow night, that’s for sure,” Quinn said. “I liked a lot of the things we did tonight, we’re just going to have to clean up obviously the penalty kill and a few other areas to create offense, we’ve got to go to the net more consistently.”
The University of Massachusetts Amherst struck first on Saturday evening at Agganis Arena, but the Boston University men’s hockey team quickly righted the ship en route to a 7-2 win.
Senior defenseman Matt Grzelcyk stole the show and the World Juniors contingent impressed, serving as the highlights on a nearly seamless evening. Below are several positives and negatives from two crucial Hockey East points.
The Charlestown native scored a natural hat trick, showing how big of an impact he can have on this team. Read more about his influence in Judy’s sider.
After rattling off successive wins against Quinnipiac University and Harvard University, the Minutemen admittedly were going to pose a lesser threat in Maguire’s third straight start.
Nonetheless, UMass still peppered the senior goaltender to the tune of 27 shots, and it took opportunistic finishes from Shane Walsh and Steven Iacobellis to light the lamp. There is no denying that Maguire is getting into a groove, and that bodes extremely well for the Terriers with Boston College on the horizon next weekend.
Just ask Grzelcyk, who has embarked on a collegiate journey with Maguire and rests easy knowing his classmate is between the pipes.
“Any time you get a goaltender who’s kind of hot right there, it kind of allows you to play more aggressively just knowing you have that confidence back there and he’s looked incredible in net, so we’re definitely happy to have him back,” he said.
Head coach David Quinn didn’t shy away from praise either, highlighting the rejuvenated goaltender’s gradual journey back to confidence and composure.
“He’s a guy, he can win big games,” Quinn said. “He’s proven that. We have the utmost confidence in him, and he proved that again tonight. I was so happy for him, he’s come a long way after going through a tough year last year with a concussion”
World Junior Foursome
Less than a week removed from the World Junior Championships in Finland, it’s already clear that Brandon Fortunato, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Hickey and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson have benefited from their international experience.
JFK ignited the scoring onslaught with a heads-up play behind the net, Fortunato grabbed an assist on Grzelcyk’s second tally, McAvoy nabbed two helpers of his own and Hickey maintained a solid defensive gap throughout the contest.
That’s just what stands out about their respective nights, though. As anybody close to BU hockey will echo, all four play beyond their years and their importance becomes more tangible as the Terriers round into form.
“Those are four very good players,” Quinn said. “They wouldn’t be playing in that tournament if they weren’t, so they’re gonna get some well-needed rest in the next three or four days. That tournament is a grind, and without them here, we don’t win these games without question”
“We’re talking about three of our defensemen, and our number one centerman,” Quinn said. “They were immense over the last two games.”
When a team wins by five goals, it’s easy to overlook the small details that add up over the course of a hockey game. That’s exactly what can happen with a team’s penalty kill, and the Terriers took care of business in that department on Saturday night.
UMass, which capitalizes on just 17.1 percent of its power plays, was kept off the board when it had a man advantage. To be exact, the Minutemen went 0-for-4 and were limited to only two shots on target across all eight minutes.
Another Slow Start
As mentioned above, BU fell into yet another early hole, letting their opponent grab an early lead that could’ve gotten out of hand if not for some shrewd plays in the offensive zone.
That’s a trend that becomes even more perilous when a top-ranked opponent comes to town or everything is on the line in a playoff scenario. Still, Quinn was pleased with how his team responded in adversity and grabbed ahold of the proceedings when the odds were stacked against them.
“You might get down 1-0,” Quinn said. “But how are you going to respond? You might get down 2-0 and unfortunately that’s happened a lot to us — how are you going to respond? And I like the fact that we do respond that after they did make it 2-2, we made it 3-2 relatively quickly. That’s a good sign for us.”
It took a bit of a wake-up call from head coach David Quinn, but the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team managed to salvage the second half of a home series against the University of Vermont.
After falling behind 2-0 early, and then again facing a 3-2 deficit late in the third period, goals from senior assistant captain Matt Lane and sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey, plus a last-second empty-netter from sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato, secured the 5-3 victory for the Terriers.
Initially in this game, it looked like we might have to be a bit grumpy in our pluses and minuses. But BU managed to turn it around, so we get to be cheerful first today:
We were admittedly skeptical at first about Quinn’s changes to the lines, but they worked well — at the very least, the changes helped “to wake up the whole team,” in the words of senior forward Ahti Oksanen.
Oksanen, after playing on the first line for most of the season, was bumped down to the left wing on the second line, alongside Lane and freshman forward Jordan Greenway.
“It’s nice having two big wingers like that, those guys protect the puck well, and they get me the puck,” Lane said. “Then Ahti being a shooter, it’s easy to find him, he’s gonna let it rip. He played well, and I’m happy to see him score.”
Sophomore forward A.J. Greer moved up to the first line, alongside freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and senior right wing Danny O’Regan. He recorded a secondary assist on O’Regan’s early goal.
BU recorded a season-high 51 shots on goal, behind six players who recorded four or more shots. Oksanen led the way (shocker) with eight shots, while Hickey and freshman center Bobo Carpenter had seven shots on goal apiece.
Improved power play
After going 1-for-13 on the power play in its past four games entering Saturday — and a night after Quinn called the PP unit “lazy” — BU had a much more impressive showing on the power-play unit.
“There was more urgency, we were shooting it, we looked like a power play,” Quinn said. “There was a heightened awareness…We, too often, go into power-play mode and think it’s going to be a beauty contest.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to get pucks to the net, you got to pass it quickly, you got to pay attention and you got to crash the net. There’s really no other way to go about it, so I thought we had a lot more simplicity to our power play tonight.
Just to clarify: there was a bit of confusion as to exactly how many power-play opportunities BU technically had. Because Vermont winger Brady Shaw was sent off with a game misconduct, after Hickey scored a power-play goal, the Terriers remained on the man advantage — thus, technically, giving BU a fifth power-play opportunity after that.
Then Fortunato scored the empty-netter on BU’s next man advantage. After Fortunato’s empty-netter, there was no faceoff, since the teams were already retreating to the locker room, but those remaining 0.3 seconds apparently technically counted as a new power play for BU, even though nobody touched the puck after Fortunato’s goal.
I just used “technically” a lot in that description, but…you get the idea. “2-for-6” is a bit deceiving. Regardless, it was a much improved showing from the Terriers.
Carpenter won praise from Greer against Cornell University on Nov. 28, simply for the fact that “he wins draws.”
Well, we couldn’t help but give Carpenter a shoutout for that very fact. Today, he went 6-for-6 on faceoffs, but he currently leads the conference in faceoff percentage, with a .679 mark.
Forsbacka Karlsson went 14-5 on his draws, while Lane went 12-8. As a whole, BU won 38 of 60 faceoffs.
Strong finish to first half?
In the final home game of 2015, the Terriers were able to escape with a win. It’s the final time they’ll play at Agganis until Jan. 9.
After the game, Lane stressed the importance of BU concluding the first half of Hockey East play with a win.
“We definitely could not afford to drop two,” Lane said. “Unfortunately we got a split, and obviously you’d like to win both, but it’s nice to see our resiliency especially after losing a full game and being down the whole game to come back and get a win. So obviously for Hockey East standings and just finishing out the weekend, it’s nice to end on a win.”
Quinn stressed the importance of the seniors’ leadership in this game. You can read more about that in Andrew’s sider.
That part I mentioned earlier about thinking early on that we’d have to be grumpy in these pluses and minuses? Yeah, we’re at the grumpy point now.
Two goals today came for Vermont off of bad, bad, bad turnovers on BU’s part. The first was on the goal that allowed the Catamounts to take a 2-0 lead in the opening period, when sophomore defenseman John MacLeod gave up the puck to Vermont forward Mario Puskarich behind the net and Puskarich was able to convert.
Later in the third period, with the game tied 2-2, freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy mishandled a pass from Hickey right in front of BU’s net. He left the puck up for grabs directly in front of sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee, and Catamount forward Anthony Petruzzelli took full advantage of it.
Oksanen, a former defenseman himself, noted the slip-ups in the defensive zone.
“Our D-zone coverage has to be better,” Oksanen said. “Those goals scored today were kind of easy bounces we shouldn’t give up.”
Yet again, BU fell to a 2-0 deficit early before having to put together the comeback it did. While the Terriers have been able to more or less come away with wins and ties this season, it’s certainly not a habit they want to keep falling into, as Lane noted.
“Yeah, we definitely would rather score the first goal of the game, obviously,” Lane said. “But definitely, we’ve got to start scoring the first goal, we’ve got to win first periods. That’ll help us in the long run, because parity in this league, and the difference in one-goal games is so small.”
After Lane scored the game-tying goal, it was announced that the goal counted for his 100th career point.
Agganis Arena erupted into an ovation, but soon thereafter, a correction was issued. It was actually Lane’s 50th career point.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t 100,” Lane said. “I wish.”