Matt Grzelcyk signs with Bruins

BU captain and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk has signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins, the team announced Friday. He will join the Providence Bruins of the AHL on an Amateur Tryout Agreement for the remainder of the year.

Grzelcyk was a third-round, 85th overall draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2012.

Grzelcyk finished his BU career with 95 points in 125 contests. He was named a First Team All-American for the 2014-15 season, and earned Hockey East First Team All-Star honors in his junior and senior years.

In his senior season, in 27 appearances, he had 23 points and finished as a plus-17.

He is the BU second player this week to sign a pro contract, as Danny O’Regan signed with the San Jose Sharks on Friday.

Pluses and Minuses: No. 4 BC nets late goal, No. 10 Terriers settle for tie

PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

David Quinn said it was typical of a Boston University-Boston College game. Jerry York said it capped off a “good college hockey weekend.”

The standings will say it was a tie.

In about as evenly matched a game as you’ll see, No. 10 BU and No. 4 BC skated to a 1-1 tie in the second game of a home-and-home series.

The Terriers gained a lead midway through the second period with a goal from senior captain Matt Grzelcyk and looked poised to come away with a win, but BC forward Ryan Fitzgerald knotted things up with a bar-down strike with 2:05 left in the third period.

Back-and-forth action with a lot of chippy play made this one a fun and exciting one to watch. We’ll break down the 65 minutes in this Pluses and Minuses.

Pluses 

Oh captain my captain

Injuries have limited Grzelcyk to just 10 games this year — less than half of BU’s total number.

But that’s been really the only thing getting in the way of BU’s (11-7-4, 5-4-3 Hockey East) captain, because when he’s been on the ice, he’s been a solid force at the blue line.

With the game scoreless on Saturday night, Grzelcyk was in perfect position to redirect a shot from senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan past Thatcher Demko. It was Grzelcyk’s seventh goal of the season and 12th point in his 10 games played.

He played well on the defensive side, too, staying on his assignments and closing any gaps. Now that Grzelcyk’s getting healthier and more playing time, Quinn said he’ll continue to be a force on both ends of the ice.

“I think he’s the best defenseman in college hockey,” Quinn said, “and when you add that to your lineup, you have a whole different look and I don’t know what our record is with him but I bet it’s a lot better than without him so he makes everybody on that D corps better, he makes everybody up front better and we’re just glad to have him.”

Maguire stands tall

Not much separated senior goaltender Sean Maguire from a shutout, but a well-placed BC (15-4-3, 8-1-3, Hockey East) screen and shot ended any chance of that. But that’s not to say Maguire didn’t play well.

The senior was in good position all night, making a few terrific saves to stop BC odd-man rushes. In all, Maguire finished with 38 saves. Sarah will have more on his game in her sidebar.

Penalty kill comes through 

Less than 22 hours after a power-play goal decided Friday night’s fate, the Terriers got a chance to right the ship on the penalty kill.

Freshman forward Jordan Greenway and sophomore defenseman John MacLeod were called for successive penalties halfway through the first period, and BU was forced to kill of an extended 5-on-3. The penalty-unit came up big, as it did the other three times on the night, going 5-for-5.

It wasn’t as if BC didn’t have chances on goal (eight power-play shots), but the Terriers limited grade-A shots, and the ones that were good opportunities, Maguire was generally there to make the stops.

“I liked the fact that we backchecked a lot,” Quinn said, “we did a better job coming back and they didn’t get as much out of it as last night so baby steps and they’re a fast team, that’s the strength of their team, their speed up front and they work hard so we’re a work in progress and I thought we did a lot of good things tonight.”

Minuses 

Making it tough on Maguire 

As noted before, Maguire was on his game from start to finish. However, his defense didn’t make his life easy. BC had numerous odd-man rushes — like the 2-on-1 in the second period that forward Colin White nearly scored on — and 39 total shots.

There were sequences in the game, which York even said afterward, where both teams sort of lost their way and let the opposition get good shots at the net. It wasn’t as if this happened the whole game, but if Maguire hadn’t been playing so well, the score might have been different.

0-fer on the power play

BU’s penalty kill was good and BC’s matched up just as well.

Like the Eagles, BU had five opportunities with the man advantage but could not convert. The first two opportunities for the Terriers looked good, though they didn’t score. The problems came after those first two tries, as the Eagles made life tough in the neutral zone on BU entries.

The power play wasn’t awful, but a goal with a man up could have gone a long way.

Fortunato to the box… again

For 60 games, sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato never once sat in the penalty box. In back-to-back games against BC, Fortunato became much more acquainted with the sin bin.

Fortunato took his second penalty of his collegiate career on Saturday with a holding call in the second period.

“Yeah, he probably won’t dress next Friday,” Quinn said jokingly after the game. “I don’t know … the penalty he took tonight, that was a strange call, but we all make mistakes.”

Odds and Ends: 20 Questions, Grzelcyk named HE Player of Week

Hey, folks!

It was a pretty successful past week for BU, taking wins against the University of Massachusetts and then-No. 5 Harvard University (a wild one at that). The Terriers will look to build off that when they go into a two-game series against No. 4 Boston College this weekend.

We just wanted to catch everyone up on some tidbits that you might have missed.

Matt Grzelcyk was named both Hockey East Player of the Week and NCAA Hockey’s Second Star of the Week for his four goals and one assist in two games against Harvard and UMass.

-BU’s two wins moved them up one spot to No. 10 in the USCHO.com Poll. The Terriers sit at No. 9 in Pairwise.

-Get to know BU newcomers Oskar Andren and Erik Udahl a little better with the 20 Questions Sarah and Judy asked them.

-Sarah also joined WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin on his College Puckcast to discuss the upcoming games against BC. Give it a listen.

-Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy looked at BC’s newest goalie, Ian Milosz, and how he performed well in place of Thatcher Demko against No. 3 Providence College.

Tweet of the Week

Pluses and Minuses: Forsbacka Karlsson pushes Terriers to draw with Providence

Both nights, it could have ended poorly, but both nights, the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team managed to erase deficits and eke out a tie.

PHOTO BY FALON MORAN/DFP STAFF
PHOTO BY FALON MORAN/DFP STAFF

Saturday afternoon’s matchup with No. 1 Providence College at Agganis Arena was a little more intense offensively than Friday’s 1-1 tie in Providence, Rhode Island. After eliminating BU’s 2-0 deficit and jumping ahead 3-2 thanks to the heroics of freshman forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, BU (5-3-2, 3-2-2 Hockey East) eventually skated away with a 3-3 tie and two points on the weekend.

After a battle of a series, as always, it’s time to sit back, relax and pick apart what we liked and didn’t like. Here are our pluses and minuses from Saturday’s game:

Pluses

Keeping up with the best

The narrative was there all weekend — the rematch between last year’s national championship game foes, BU looking for “redemption” against the No. 1 team in the nation.

At the end of the day, BU came away with a pair of ties and two crucial Hockey East points — and impressive resilience to earn comeback ties against one of the nation’s top teams.

“We can compete with the best of ‘em,” said BU head coach David Quinn following the game. “That’s a big, strong, well-balanced team. We showed a lot of resiliency, we showed some mental toughness.”

Of course, the ties can be a tad bittersweet, but it’s hard to complain about getting points.

“It’s a little weird with ties, you don’t really know how to feel about it,” Forsbacka Karlsson said. “But obviously two points this weekend is not too bad.”

JFK for President

First of all, props to the fans at Agganis Arena with a sign that said “JFK for President 2016.” Good execution on that.

Forsbacka Karlsson certainly made a surge in his freshman campaign with his performance against the Friars (6-0-2, 0-0-2 Hockey East). His first goal, which at the time tied the game 2-2, came on an attempt to chip in the puck to his linemate, senior forward Ahti Oksanen. Forsbacka Karlsson admitted he “wasn’t really sure if” Oksanen touched the puck or not, but it took a good enough curve that it made its way in.

Less than three minutes later, Forsbacka Karlsson gave BU the lead on a high shot from the slot.

“It was a good feeling,” he said. “… It’s always fun to kind of get energy from the crowd and play off that. I think that helps us a lot.”

Third period

Forsbacka Karlsson’s goals were just part of a huge third frame from BU. Andrew talks more about the team’s third-period surge in his sidebar.

Minuses

Penalties

It was undeniably a whistle-heavy contest, with a total of 16 penalties throughout the game. Both Quinn and Providence head coach Nate Leaman could be seen yelling at the officials at several points throughout the game. The game got a bit testy at times, with Oksanen and Friar defenseman Tom Parisi both getting penalized for hitting after the whistle at 9:14 of the second period.

“I think, especially last night, and this night, it was a lot of physical play,” Forsbacka Karlsson said. “And I think that’s part of the game, that’s how it’s supposed to be. We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box a little bit more than we did these two games, but aside from that, it’s just part of hockey.”

Eventually, the penalty-laden contest hit its worst point for the Terriers about 11 minutes into the second period when sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey and junior defenseman Doyle Somerby — two of the biggest bodies on the team — went to the box and BU was forced to stave off a 5-on-3 without those players dispensable.

Despite success on the penalty kill a night ago, it didn’t work out on Saturday, and defenseman Jake Walman gave Providence a 2-0 lead just over halfway through the game.

And shortly after that goal, BU earned a bench minor.

The crowd wasn’t too pleased with the excess of calls, either. When the referees came on the ice before the third period, they heard a chorus of boos from the BU fans.

Sluggish start

BU was outshot 15-8 in the first frame, and again outshot in the second period, 10-7.

Quinn fully acknowledged the dull start after the game.

“They [Providence] came out and continued what they did last night, while I thought our intensity level fell a little bit, our physicality fell a little bit and it took us a little while to pick up where we left off last night,” Quinn said. “And obviously penalties certainly didn’t help us again.”

But true to the form of last season, BU refocused and surged in the third period.

“I think we always have the same message,” said senior captain Matt Grzelcyk of the locker room mentality between the second and third periods. “We were down a lot last year, and I think we kind of learned from that. And I think we tried not to get frustrated as best as possible.”

Pluses and Minuses: Terriers complete home-and-home sweep over Northeastern

Doyle Somerby. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Doyle Somerby. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The only last-second stress the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team had in this one was whether or not the shutout would be intact by the time the 60 minutes was up.

The shutout didn’t happen, but the win sure did, and the Terriers (5-3, 3-2 Hockey East) completed a weekend sweep over rival Northeastern University.

The Terriers controlled the play from the outset and used that early momentum to propel themselves to an end-to-end 4-1 victory over the struggling Huskies (1-7-1, 0-3-1 Hockey East).

There were a lot of things to like and some to dislike, so we’ll discuss them further in this Pluses and Minuses.

Pluses

Grzelcyk’s back… Back again

How would senior captain Matt Grzelcyk follow up in his second game back on the ice after offseason knee surgery?

A lot like his first game, actually.

Grzelcyk, just like he did on Friday night, opened up the scoring in the first period. Only this time it wasn’t from the left point. He skated up the left wing and in close on net, wristing a shot high over Northeastern goaltender Ryan Ruck’s blocker for the goal. It was an aggressive play, a lot like the rushes he would make during his first three years at BU.

The opening tally would be his only point on this night, though Grzelcyk again looked sharp both on and off the puck. He quarterbacked the top power-play unit and made a lot of smart and strong plays on the puck on the defensive zone.

By the look of it, it’s hard to tell that the captain had missed any time at all.

“He’s obviously a guy that’s an elite player at this level,” said head coach David Quinn. “And anytime you get a guy back like that, your lineup instantaneously becomes better, everybody gets better. You have a little bit more swagger and play with a little bit more confidence.”

First period dominance 

As Quinn put it, this opening period might have been the best first frame he’s seen out of BU since he’s been head coach.

The Terriers dictated pace of play before and after Grzelcyk’s goal. By the end of the first 20 minutes, BU held a commanding 18-2 shot advantage. The puck possession was boosted by three power plays (one of which was successful), but BU really did control the game even during 5-on-5 play.

The only downside? They only scored once.

“Obviously our first period is probably the best period we’ve had this year without question,” Quinn said. “And I don’t know, since I’ve been here, if we’ve had a better period from start to finish. That being said, we were only up 1-0.”

Somerby’s defense leads to offense 

Sarah talked last night about how sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby‘s tough-minded defensive play came up huge, especially in the second period.

It was déjà vu on Saturday night, except this time, Somerby was rewarded for his effort.

Along the left defensive wall, Somerby closed in on a pass and batted it out of midair. With the Huskies pinching in for a chance, Somerby saw space in the neutral zone to do some damage. So on a two-on-one opportunity, Somerby skated zone-to-zone and finished the play with a goal at the 13:54 mark of the second period.

It was just his third career goal, but for the Terriers, it was the 12th goal of the year for a defenseman. Yet, for Quinn, the scoring says more about Somerby’s effort on the defensive side of things.

“Well, that came off great defense,” Quinn said. “He and [sophomore defenseman] Johnny MacLeod did a great job down in the corner there. And [senior forward] Mike Moran as well. Our defense was really good in that sequence and it allowed us to get a two-on-one. And he buries it.

“We scored some goals this weekend off a good defense, in-zone defense, and if we’re gonna go anywhere or have any success we’ve got to defend.”

LaCouvee steps up

Sophomore netminder Connor LaCouvee admitted Friday night that he may have lost his focus during a second period in which he allowed four goals.

On Saturday night, however, LaCouvee needed all of his focus in both the second and third periods to keep BU in the game. He did just that, falling just short of his first collegiate shutout. You can read more about LaCouvee’s improved play in Judy’s sidebar.

Minuses 

Losing the shutout

LaCouvee was in good position all night and made a number of key saves during the third period to keep BU in the lead.

But after the Terriers seemingly put the game away with an empty-net goal from senior winger Ahti Oksanen, there was a momentary lapse in the defense that led to a quick NU rush, and subsequently a goal. Forward Adam Gaudette pounced on a rebound chance and got the Huskies on the board for the first and only time with 55.4 seconds to go in the game.

“We’re still learning,” Quinn said. “Disappointing we didn’t give Connor the shutout, just really ridiculous that we gave up a shorthanded goal with a minute to go, but it cost him a shutout. That’s really unfortunate.”

Losing puck possession 

The first period saw a great showing from BU on both ends of the ice. It made good plays in the offensive zone and largely kept the Huskies to the outside when Northeastern controlled.

It was a bit of a different story in the second and third periods, with Northeastern outshooting BU by a combined 32-16. There were sizable chunks of the game where the Huskies carried play and BU was back on its heels.

After an 18-2 shot advantage to start the game, both teams finished the night with 34 chances on goal.

Pluses and Minuses: Return of captain, lock-down goaltending propel BU to win

Photo Gallery

For the second straight game, the No. 11 Boston Univeristy men’s hockey team eked out a 5-4 victory — though this week, it didn’t need overtime.

Connor LaCouvee. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP STAFF
Connor LaCouvee. PHOTO BY JUSTIN HAWK/DFP STAFF

The matchup against Northeastern University was highlighted by some big goals and some stressful back-and-forth action — and an even more stressful final few minutes. But in a game with that much action, it gives us a lot to talk about in this edition of Pluses and Minuses.

Pluses

Connor La-kept-his-cool?-Vee
Forgive that terrible attempt at a joke. But man, was sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee huge in that third period. He calmly turned away 19 shots from Northeastern in the frame, preserving BU’s 5-4 lead and holding off a 6-on-4 attempt from Northeastern for the final minute-and-a-half of the game. He ended the game with a career-best 36 saves.

Despite some shakiness in the middle period — LaCouvee admits to perhaps losing some focus in the second — he was able to turn in a staunch performance in his second straight start.

In a year with some uncertainty as to who the starting goaltender will be, BU head coach David Quinn has mentioned time and time again that he doesn’t think his goaltenders’ stats this year are indicative of the performances they’ve had. LaCouvee, too, said that as he’s grown as a goaltender, he’s become less focused on individual stats and more keeping his team in the game.

“It’s a team game, and you let four goals in the second period, that’s kind of tough, just mental lapses on my behalf,” LaCouvee said. “But I think it’s more important to focus on the win at the end of the game, and just, not focus so much on individual plays … the guys battled really hard, and just take it to the end, you never know how it’s gonna end.”

Doyle Somerby
We’ve praised junior defenseman Doyle Somerby for much of this season for his increased speed and poise on the offensive end. But in Friday’s game against Northeastern, Somerby went back to his old, aggressive ways, with one of the — forgive the clichéd word — grittiest plays of the game.

In the second period, with BU attempting to limit the Huskies’ scoring attempts, Somerby blocked a shot off his leg, then collapsed to the ice in pain. He attempted to get back up probably about three or four times, falling back to the ice each time. Then he managed to stand mostly upright, and block ANOTHER shot, though it’s sort of unclear whether that he actually meant to do that — “I’m not sure if that was intentional or if he was just kind of in the way,” LaCouvee later said about the play.

Regardless, it was a “huge” play, according to Quinn.

“He was immense tonight, he was physical, he did a great job on the penalty kill [and] blocking shots,” Quinn said.

Defensemen still scoring
Quinn is pretty modest about the offensive ability of his team’s defensemen.

“Well, I think in this day and age, you need five guys involved offensively,” Quinn said. “If you’re just going to rely on three forwards, you’re gonna be really starving for goals and I don’t think we’re much different than other teams asking their D to get involved.”

Nonetheless, defensemen accounted for three of BU’s five goals on Friday, and they’ve accounted for a significant chunk of their offense this season – 10 of the Terriers’ 26 goals have come from defensemen, to be exact.

Sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey is tied with freshman forward Ryan Cloonan for the team lead in goals, as Hickey had a third-period, game-tying tally to bring his season total to four goals.

With his third goal this season, tripling his goal total from last year, sophomore Brandon Fortunato ranks second among all Hockey East defensemen in scoring with seven total points.

And, well, there was one more defenseman who was big on offense…

Captain’s back
On that same note of defensemen getting on the board, senior captain Matt Grzelcyk had a goal and an assist in his first game back after recovering from offseason surgery. Andrew has more on Grzelcyk’s triumphant return to the ice in his sidebar.

Minuses

Penalties
In his postgame comments, Quinn kept bringing the topic back to the number of penalties the team committed in the game. BU had nine penalties in the game — one matching — thus giving Northeastern 16 power-play minutes. The Huskies were able to capitalize, recording 12 shots and earning one goal from their power-play unit.

“You can’t have eight penalties, that’s just, you can’t,” Quinn said. “You really put yourself at a disadvantage when you take eight penalties and it’s just, that’s 16 minutes, almost a full period shorthanded and that’s just, that’s too much.”

Focus
It’s hard to ignore the glaring fact that BU did allow four goals in the second period. As we stated earlier, LaCouvee admitted to his lack of focus, and Quinn noticed a similar theme, which caused him to call a time out after Northeastern’s fourth goal.

“I just talked about the focus, lack of focus, we reacted, we give up a goal, it’s 2-1 and all of a sudden it’s 4-3 because we lose focus,” Quinn said. “We blow our responsibilities off the neutral zone faceoffs and we actually batted one of them in.”

“I thought we lost focus … people just not paying attention and taking on their responsibilities,” he added.