What a week it’s been for the No. 4 Boston University men’s hockey team.
From no titles in almost five years, to two titles in one week. The latter, the Hockey East regular-season championship, came Saturday night during BU’s 6-1 win over Northeastern University at Matthews Arena.
In one of the best first periods the team has played all year, BU (21-7-5, 14-5-3 Hockey East) scored four times in the first 16-plus minutes. The Terriers poured it on, yes, but they could’ve technically stopped after the first period. No. 9/10 Boston College had lost, and the conference title was all theirs.
But alas, BU scored twice more in the final 40 minutes in a memorable end to the regular season.
“Tonight, I just thought from the get go, we certainly did a much better job taking away time and space, being more physical with them, trusting each other and obviously we were opportunistic too,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “That’s a hell of a team we just played.”
Here’s a look into what went right and wrong tonight in this edition of Pluses and Minuses:
Eichel continues on the Hobey campaign trail
At this point, what hasn’t freshman forward Jack Eichel accomplished? Just about every night he does something special, and Saturday was no different.
He finished the game with three points (two goals and one assist). His first goal was most impressive, skating almost end-to-end and finishing with a shorthanded goal. It was reminiscent of a goal BU scored up at the University of Maine on Nov. 14, though Eichel finished tonight’s play with a goal rather than an assist.
All night he was faster than pretty much everyone out on the ice. Even better than two of his goals was a chance he didn’t score on in the second period. He took the puck from the defensive zone, blew by two NU (16-14-4, 12-8-2 Hockey East) skaters in the neutral zone and then toe-dragged around a third in the offensive end. Eichel backhanded a shot on goal, but it was snuffed out by goaltender Clay Witt.
Quinn noted it wasn’t just a one-man show, and Eichel’s linemates, senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues and junior forward Danny O’Regan, have played a huge role in BU’s success.
“It’s a great line. They all have a work ethic too them,” Quinn. “They all have the ingredient you’re going to need to have a great line. Number one, they’ve all got great skills. Number two, they’ve got hockey intelligence. And number three, they’ve got a great competitiveness to them — all three of them.
“And when you add that up, you get a line that’s dangerous every time they’re on the ice.”
Eichel now has 55 points this season, tying Colin Wilson’s mark from 2008-09. Wilson did it in 43 games. Eichel accomplished it in 32.
More points from Ahti
Junior winger Ahti Oksanen made the transition from the blue line to the forwards corps this season look almost seamless. He arguably has the best one-timer on the team, and just always seems to be in the right spot with just enough space to create a chance.
After tonight’s performance, Oksanen added four more points (two goals and two assists) to his season total. And as much as his shot has been his best asset, the highlight on Saturday came on an incredible pass he made.
It took just a little over 10 seconds for BU to score on its first power-play chance of the night because of the Oksanen feed. Holding the puck near the crease, Oksanen made a no-look, through-the-legs pass to a wide-openO’Regan, who potted his 19th goal of the season.
By the end of the night, Oksanen had 32 points, just adding to his career-high year.
Graduate student goaltender Anthony Moccia had played in only six minutes of regular-season game action in his college career. With 3:19 to go in the game and the Terriers up five goals, Quinn pulled junior netminder Matt O’Connor for Moccia. For more on this, read Conor’s sidebar.
Power play excels
They’re the N0. 1 power-play unit in the conference for a reason. They’re fast, they move the puck well and they generally find the open man. With the man advantage tonight, the Terriers went 3-for-6, while looking good in the process.
The real impressive shift came during BU’s 5-on-3 chance late in the second period. There were plenty of good opportunities and crisp passes made on the attack, eventually leading to Oksanen’s goal off an Eichel missed shot. Eichel, would get his chance, though, and he added a power-play goal with less than two minutes to play in the third.
BU’s man advantage percentage now sits at 27.1 percent, almost six percentage points better than the second-highest spot in the conference.
Roy strikes again
When in doubt, if BU plays Northeastern, just assume junior Kevin Roy will have at least a point. He had 10 points in eight career games against BU coming into Saturday, including a hat trick in the 2013 Beanpot semifinal. He added one more tonight in the first period.
It was Northeastern’s only goal, but he beat O’Connor clean with a nice wrist shot from the left circle. Every time he plays BU, he seems to do something that kills the Terriers.
Playing the puck behind the net
Northeastern’s game-winning goal against BU in that 2013 Beanpot semis, of course from Roy, came courtesy of a bad turnover from O’Connor behind the net. A similar play happened in the second period tonight.
O’Connor had trouble connecting on a pass with his defenseman behind the net, and then tried to make an outlet pass from the goal line. The Huskies recovered. O’Connor, however, covered up a weak shot attempt. Any better look, and it probably would’ve went into the open goal.
It didn’t hurt the Terriers, but that’s a mistake that should be cleaned up heading into playoff season.