Call it the curse of being ranked No. 1 nationally, place all the blame on head coach David Quinn, fault a player or line – whatever suits your boat, honestly.
The fact remains, though: the Boston University men’s hockey team was just handedly swept by Merrimack College.
Friday night’s 4-1 loss at Agganis Arena came just three days after the Warriors earned a 3-1 win at their place, giving Merrimack its first-ever sweep of BU. The sky isn’t quite falling around the scarlet and white, but it’s fair to sum the series up as disheartening and concerning.
While issues persisted, one of the most concerning parts was how few Grade-A chances came Collin Delia’s way. The Merrimack netminder is by no means a bad goalie, but BU made him look like an All-Star all week.
For one, I also thought this quote from Quinn was pretty telling about how the weekend went:
The No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team hosts Merrimack College tonight at Agganis Arena, with puck drop set for 7:35 p.m.
These two sides met back on Tuesday, with the Warriors upsetting the Terriers, 3-1, at Lawler Rink. Head coach David Quinn has shuffled up the lines a bit, too, with the hopes of jumpstarting his squad.
We’ll be live at Agganis all night, though, so follow along below!
Live Blog BU vs. Merrimack @ Agganis Arena
Very little looks the same as the last game. Tons of line changes for the Terriers second go against Merrimack tonight. pic.twitter.com/shV4QMsb9u
When the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team takes to the ice at Agganis Arena this weekend, it will be in a somewhat foreign spot: looking to recover from a loss.
In fact, when Merrimack College snapped the Terriers’ eight-game win streak on Tuesday, 46 days had passed since the scarlet and white left the rink with anything less than a full two points.
“I think it’s an eye-opener,” said sophomore forward Bobo Carpenter. “[The loss] didn’t need to happen, but now that it happened, I think everyone is that much more focused. You never want to lose. I think everyone is just ready to get going again and get another streak going.”
Unfamiliar feelings aside, BU (16-6-2, 9-3-2 Hockey East) made it crystal clear that Friday night’s rematch with Merrimack (9-13-3, 3-7-3 Hockey East) and Saturday evening’s clash with No. 7 University of Massachusetts Lowell are about getting back to business.
Tuesday night was a dour one if you’re a fan of the Boston University men’s hockey team.
Fresh off being ranked the nation’s newest No. 1 team, the Terriers traveled to Merrimack College and fell, 3-1. In head coach David Quinn’s four years at the helm, BU is now 0-3-1 at Lawler Rink.
There are myriad excuses that can be made – tired legs, the small neutral zone at Lawler, an aura of pompousness – but the Terriers were simply outplayed against Merrimack. The compete wasn’t there. For more thoughts on this, check out Jonathan’s sider over on The Daily Free Press.
As poor as the game was from a BU perspective, the night started off bright, with freshman defenseman Chad Krys netting on the team’s first shot of the game. It all went downhill from there on out, and junior netminder Connor LaCouvee was bested three times, all unanswered. For a full account of the game, check out Shelby’s recap over on The Daily Free Press.
Fresh off its eighth consecutive win, the Boston University men’s hockey team will travel to Merrimack College on Tuesday night for a rare midweek clash.
Ahead of the game, however, a larger bit of news surfaced surrounding the program: the Terriers are college hockey’s newest No. 1 team.
BU (16-5-2, 9-2-2 Hockey East) last earned this distinction on Dec. 15, 2014, but head coach David Quinn scoffed at the recognition, especially with another two conference points at stake against the Warriors (8-13-3, 2-7-3 Hockey East).
“I pay zero attention to it,” Quinn added. “The only thing that matters is the PairWise [Rankings.]”
Doyle Somerby, BU’s captain and a senior defenseman, said the ranking is exciting, but also struck a similar chord with Quinn.
“We’re just chugging ahead,” Somerby said. “We were No. 1 a couple different times throughout my sophomore year, that national championship run, and we always seemed to slip up. A lot of the older guys here are saying, ‘Don’t even worry about it. Look ahead.’”
The No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team handily advanced to the Hockey East Tournament semifinals with a 5-0 win over Merrimack College on Saturday, sealing the quarterfinal series sweep and a trip to TD Garden next weekend.
There was plenty to like from BU this weekend, but since we’re us, we found some things to complain about, too. Here are some of both:
Junior goaltender Matt O’Connor has been solid in net all season for BU, and had yet another stellar performance on Saturday. He turned away 26 Merrimack shots, including 15 saves in the second period, playing 58:58 of shutout hockey.
He even recorded an assist in the game, passing the puck up to freshman forward Jack Eichel during a penalty kill on senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann’s shorthanded goal at 4:11 in the second period.
“It’s usually off of Eichel,” O’Connor joked. “If I can just get it back the forecheckers, maybe I‘ll get lucky. … I’ve really been working on playing the puck, moving it quicker this game, because they have more of a dump style and it really helped us.”
O’Connor was pulled with 1:02 remaining in the game on the brink of the second shutout of his career, however, because there were more important matters to tend to.
When BU held a 4-0 advantage with a little more than a minute remaining, it was clear that it would be the last game of the season at Agganis Arena. A third game to determine the series winner between BU and Merrimack wouldn’t be necessary, so all games would be played at a neutral site from there on out.
For several Terriers, it would be their last time ever touching the Agganis Arena ice for a game — including graduate student goaltender Anthony Moccia. BU head coach David Quinn acknowledged that and gave Moccia some time in net for his final game at Agganis.
“At the end of the day, Moccia’s going to remember that for the rest of his life,” Quinn said. “OC I’m sure would’ve loved to have the shutout, but that moment’s going to mean a lot to Moccia than O’Connor finishing the last minute and a half of that game.
“I talked to OC about it, I’m sure initially he was a little bit frustrated, but by the end of it, by the time we were in the locker room, he was beaming and happy as heck for Moccia.”
Was O’Connor fine with the decision?
“Absolutely,” O’Connor said. “It’s not for the stats, it’s playoff hockey and it’s a full-team sport.”
Moccia entered the game when Merrimack had a 6-on-4 man advantage, but stood on his head, even recording a save — the third of his career in just more than 10 total career minutes — to hold Merrimack scoreless in the game.
Like Friday night, BU played shorthanded on defense, with just five players available due to upper-body injuries to freshman John MacLeod and sophomore T.J. Ryan. But that posed no trouble for BU’s blue liners.
Sophomore Doyle Somerby and freshman Brandon Hickey each had five blocked shots. The team had 16 total in the game.
In addition to holding Merrimack to just two shots on goal during the second period, BU got some work in on offense during the game. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk scored an empty-netter with 4:21 remaining in the game, and freshmen Brandon Fortunato and Brien Diffley each had an assist apiece.
“I thought all of our D played all weekend,” Quinn said. “All five of them had real good weekends.”
At the end of the second period, with BU holding a 3-0 lead over Merrimack, tempers began to fly and a post-whistle scrum broke out.
For Merrimack, defenseman Jonathan Lashyn received a roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct, and forward Brett Seney received penalties for roughing and cross-checking in addition to a 10-minute misconduct.
Hohmann also received a cross-checking penalty and 10-minute misconduct. Sophomore forward Nick Roberto had a roughing call against him in addition to a 10-minute misconduct of his own.
In all, each team received 38 penalty minutes in the game – a season-high for BU. The Terriers played a very good game, but it’s a major concern when things start to get so chippy — a suspension or injury caused by fighting or a temper tantrum would be the last thing BU needed entering the Hockey East semifinals.
In its first game in two weeks and its first of the Hockey East Tournament, the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team beat Merrimack College soundly on Friday night, pushing the Warriors aside to the tune of a 6-2 score at Agganis Arena.
With the win, the Terriers put themselves in a position to advance to the conference semifinals if they can grab another victory on Saturday afternoon. And if BU pieces together another performance like the one in the opening game, it’s not unreasonable to think that’s a likely possibility.
Here’s a look into what went right and wrong tonight in this edition of Pluses and Minuses:
Larrys and Joes
When a team has the most prolific top line in the country, you can expect a lot of highlight reel goals. And while that was the case for at least one of BU’s tallies on the evening, three of its markers came off second chances near the netmouth.
About 14 minutes into the second period, senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues let a shot fly on goalie Rasmus Tirronen. The netminder made the initial stop, but the puck slid behind him in the crease and sat stationary before freshman center Jack Eichel knocked it in for his first of two goals.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Rodrigues picked up a puck near on the doorstep as well that had come off a rebound and roofed it from in close under the bar. Junior forward Matt Lane gave the Terriers even more insurance as he batted in a second-chance shot as well to extend the lead to 5-1.
“For the most part, it was just roll your sleeves up and win a battle along the wall and stay with rebounds at the net front and don’t be denied,” said BU head coach David Quinn.
Quinn also noted that he felt his team displayed the grit and toughness required to beat a defensively strong Merrimack team.
“At the end of the day, it comes to, when you throw a puck into the corner, who’s willing to win the battle and the grit and determination,” he said. “I know as coaches, we get caught up in the video and the X’s and the O’s, but it’s more about the Larrys and the Joes and not the X’s and the O’s.”
Offense from defense
For much of the year, the Terrier defense’s proclivity for generating shots and making plays has helped power the second-best team offense in the country. Friday night was no different, as four of the five defensemen dressed for BU tallied at least a point. For more on this, read Sarah’s sider.
Offense against good defense
The Terriers looked locked in from the drop of the puck, outshooting Merrimack 18-4 in the first period and out-attempting the Warriors 29-8. By night’s end, BU would post a 46-shot performance and held Merrimack to just 19.
The victory also marked the Terriers’ third straight game with at least five goals and second consecutive with six. The half dozen pucks that BU put past Tirronen is even more impressive when you take his .928 save percentage into account. And when Merrimack was outshot in both games it played against Northeastern University last weekend, Tirronen stopped 99 of 102 shots faced, good for a .971 sv%.
Before Friday’s game, the Warriors allowed 2.28 goals per game on average, a total that placed them at 13th in the nation.
“Six goals is a lot, especially against that team and that goalie,” Quinn said. “They do a great job defending, and you got to have a physical aspect to your game offensively if you’re going to create chances for yourself and I thought we did that.”
Eichel also pointed out that, with a goalie and defense as stalwart as Merrimack’s, every shot is a good one.
Netting six goals isn’t too shabby, either.
The power play (sort of)
Although it’s tough to really harp on this considering the Terriers converted on two of their eight chances with the man advantage, Quinn said there was still room for improvement, despite firing 20 shots on Tirronen on the power play.
“I didn’t love our power play tonight,” he said. “I know I sound like the grumpy coach, but I thought we kind of slowed it up a little bit. I thought we allowed them to get in shooting lanes, and I was surprised we had 20 shots on the power play, but I think we need to be better. I thought we got a little bit away from doing the things we’ve been doing for the most part all year, thought our pace kind of slowed down a little bit.
Talked to junior forward Matt Lane, who scored BU’s only goal against Merrimack on Friday, on his way to the buses. Here’s all of what he had to say:
On his goal:
“It was just a power-play goal. We were trying to get pucks to the net, and luckily I got to the net and jammed home the rebound.”
Big-time goals this season:
“Just getting to the net. I guess if you look at all my goals, they’re all in tight. The bounces have gone my way at an opportune time. But basically just getting to the net, being a net-front presence and that’s how I’ve been creating my scoring opportunities.”
How to clean up penalties?
“We’ve definitely got to move our feet. It’s a small ice surface out there, a pretty chippy game. We’ve just got to move our feet more, keep our sticks down, not take stick penalties and stay out of the box more.”
Smaller ice detrimental?
“I don’t think it plays in our hands, but I also don’t think it’s an excuse. But you’ve got to give them credit. They play a jam-packed style, they lock it down and I’d say a 1-1 game is their ideal goal.”
Young team, how can you be a leader?
“Just that. Just be a leader. Be vocal, help these guys when they need it. It’s a long season, and as we move into the second half here, they’re not really freshmen anymore. And if we’re going to have a good team, we’re going to need all of them, especially since there’s so many, and they’re all in the lineup. I’d say as an upperclassman, just being a vocal presence and being there for whatever those guys need.”
Personal improvements needed?
“Just working every day in practice. Working on my shot, working on moving my feet, playing on my advantages. I think I’ll be alright.”
How to win tomorrow?
“We’ve got to stick to the game plan. We’ve got to get to the net, we’ve got to win our one-on-one battles, and we’re back on our home ice. If we do that, we should be okay.”