Live Blog: BU vs. North Dakota in the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional

Live Blog BU vs. North Dakota – NCAA Tournament
 

BU adopts “us against the world” mentality ahead of North Dakota, NCAA Tournament

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BU is playing in its third straight NCAA Tournament. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Doyle Somerby has heard the message loud and clear: He and his teammates are underdogs on Friday.

The senior defenseman and captain of the No. 6 Boston University men’s hockey team doesn’t like it one bit.

“In our locker room we’ve seen a lot of people picking North Dakota,” Somerby said of Friday’s West Regional semifinal against the No. 10 Fighting Hawks at Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota. “A lot of people don’t really give us the respect that we should get. Going out there, it’ll be pretty interesting and really loud. I think we’re just using that to fuel ourselves.”

Kindling the flames even further will be 5,000-plus North Dakota (21-15-3) fans, all hoping for the program’s ninth national title. The Terriers (23-11-3), however, aren’t letting the noise — Fargo is 80 miles south of North Dakota’s campus in Grand Forks — muddy their hopes for the sixth national title.

“If you’re an elite athlete and you’re an elite hockey player, this is a game you want to play in,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “ … If I’m a player, I think it’d be pretty cool to go play North Dakota in Fargo in front of a packed house with that type of atmosphere. That’s why you come to places like BU — to play in games like this.”

While the noise is guaranteed to be stifling, fans in Fargo and those watching on ESPN2 will be treated to 21 NHL draft picks — 11 from BU and 10 from the Fighting Hawks.

The player to watch from BU, the youngest team in college hockey, is freshman forward Clayton Keller. The Hockey East Rookie of the Year — also an Arizona Coyotes first-rounder — has 42 points on the year and is seventh in the nation with 1.45 points per game.

Freshman forward Tyson Jost is North Dakota's go-to man on offense. Photo courtesy of: Conor Knuteson/UND Athletics
Freshman forward Tyson Jost is North Dakota’s go-to man on offense. Photo courtesy of: Conor Knuteson/UND Athletics

He’ll be aided by other stars ranging from sophomore defenseman Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) to freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger (a likely first-rounder in 2017) to freshman forward Patrick Harper (Nashville Predators) and more. The key for BU, though, Quinn said, will be turning all its talent into a 60-minute performance.

“Right now we’re playing pretty good hockey,” Quinn said. “The last few weekends I think we’ve played well. A couple of times we haven’t gotten the results we wanted, but we’ve played a much smarter brand of hockey.”

Quinn was referring to BU’s slow starts, as the scarlet and white have allowed the first goal in each of their last nine games.

Sophomore forward Jordan Greenway, however, doesn’t feel that’ll be a problem, especially with a Frozen Four berth on the line.

“This weekend we obviously need to win,” Greenway said. “If you lose you’re done, so we’re really desperate. We want to make it to Chicago and move on forward.”

Obstructing that path will be head coach Brad Berry’s squad, one that allows the nation’s second-fewest shots per game (24.7) and can score in bunches (3.18 goals per game).

Leading their charge up top will be Brock Boeser, Tyson Jost and Shane Gersich, all of whom have surpassed the 30-point mark. Then on defense, keep an eye out for Tucker Poolman (30 points) and Gage Ausmus, as well as goaltender Cam Johnson, a finalist for the Mike Richter Award in 2016.

For junior defenseman Brandon Hickey, the myriad of challenges NoDak poses are all welcomed with open arms.

“As an athlete, you want to go into hostile buildings and be able to go there and say you beat a team on their home ice,” Hickey said. “It’s basically a home game for them being so close to where they play. It’s nothing but excitement out of me. I’m ready to go in there and play in front of a loud crowd and a packed house.”

Freshman forward Clayton Keller was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. PHOTO MY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward Clayton Keller was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. PHOTO MY MADDIE MALHOTRA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Whichever way Friday’s game is spliced, the fact remains: the winner will advance to Saturday’s West Regional final, also held at Scheels Arena. They’ll take on whoever emerges from the other semifinal between No. 3 University of Minnesota Duluth and No. 14 Ohio State University.

Before then, Somerby said BU has adopted an “us against the world” mentality, and Quinn harped on several coaching points when previewing the encounter.

He highlighted winning puck battles, creating havoc in front of Johnson and making mature decisions with the puck.

And, if all goes to plan, BU will return to Boston with a Frozen Four to prepare for, instead of the end of the 2016-17 season.

“We want to go in there and make sure that we’re going to do whatever it takes to extend the season,” Hickey said. “We don’t it to be our last weekend as a team.”

BU hockey travels to Fargo for NCAA Tournament

The Terriers are heading to Fargo, North Dakota.

Slated against the University of North Dakota, the Boston University men’s hockey team is a part of the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional. The two sides, which met in the 2015 Frozen Four, will clash on Friday night at Scheels Arena in Fargo.

UPDATE: Click here for our story over on The Daily Free Press. Upon first glance, BU isn’t all too worried about the hostile crowd out in Fargo.

What’s your reaction to BU’s destination and matchup? Feel free to share below!

 

 

Quinn: BU’s ‘season ended at Notre Dame,’ but what exactly went wrong?

Jordan Greenway. PHOTO BY JUDY COHEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Jordan Greenway. PHOTO BY JUDY COHEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Following the Boston University men’s hockey team’s season-ending loss in the NCAA Tournament to the University of Denver on Saturday, head coach David Quinn had a theory.

“It seems like our season ended at Notre Dame,” he said. “I don’t know what happened to us mentally. We were playing good hockey and we became a fragile group mentally.”

Considering BU’s lackluster postseason run — if you can even call it a run — where it barely knocked off a last-place University of Massachusetts Amherst team in the first round and then got railed by the University of Massachusetts Lowell the following week, that’s a fair assessment. BU’s last “feel good” victory probably came at the University of Notre Dame on Feb. 26, which works out to a full month of pretty disappointing playoff hockey.

But as some have mentioned in comment sections and on fan forums, it seems as if BU’s season began its downward spiral during and after the Beanpot final against Boston College. The team had just five wins in 12 games between the Beanpot and the final game of the season, with six losses and a tie mixed in.

Of course, we can’t really get into the heads of what was going on mentally during that span, but we can point to a few things in particular that we were able to see on the ice over the final weeks of the season that could possibly account for the slip-up.

Offense, defense or goaltending?
Twelve goals allowed in two games. That makes it hard to win at any level, especially in the NCAA against top teams like the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Denver.

And BU didn’t win either of those games, and none down the stretch in what became its final three games of the year. But who’s really at fault? Is it senior goaltender Sean Maguire, who didn’t look exactly like himself during the team’s postseason run? Based on a lot of the discussion on the live blogs here, some believe that to be the case.

But let’s set the record straight. Maguire was nowhere near as sharp as he had been earlier in the season during the past few games. For long stretches, like during the Beanpot, he was absolutely lockdown in the crease. He was far from it during the Hockey East Tournament and one game in St. Paul. But the onus should not fall squarely on his shoulders. Far from it, actually. Because without Maguire, BU maybe doesn’t even make it this far in the season.

Some soft goals were let in, yes, but Maguire’s defense in front of him was poor and did not play particularly well in its own zone. Especially against Denver, there were plenty of turnovers at the defensive blue line, and both he and sophomore Connor LaCouvee were hung out to dry multiple times.

This team’s defense was supposed to be the core, the big factor in why this year’s team would be in contention for another Frozen Four run. And, at times, the unit did play up to its potential. However, there were too many instances, like Saturday’s loss, where the D corps failed to show up.

Senior winger Ahti Oksanen said a lot of the talk and work in practice over the last two weeks was based on defensive zone coverage and just generally being more responsible with and without the puck. Maybe for the first 10 minutes of the game things looked better, but by the time BU failed to convert on its second power play of the first period, everything spiraled out of control.

The attention to detail and lack of control in the defensive zone allowed Denver to walk all over BU for most of the night. For the first time since Frozen Fenway in January 2014, BU gave up seven goals in one game. Defense clearly was an issue, but this argument almost becomes a moot point due to the fact the offense did next to nothing.

It wasn’t as if the offense just struggled against Denver, the issues seem to go all the way back to at least the Beanpot title game against Boston College. Consider this: BU played eight of its final 12 games against teams that made the NCAA Tournament (one of those games being in the tournament against Denver). And in those eight games, the Terriers recorded just 11 goals. That’s 1.375 goals per game against tournament-level teams. Three times in those eight games, BU was shut out. The team was not once held goal-less in its first 27 games of the season.

For a team that averaged 3.18 goals per game, and was one of the higher scoring teams in Hockey East for most of the season, the offense sputtered at a time when it was needed the most. It’s hard to have the conversation about bad defense when the offense could only muster so little. — Andrew Battifarano

Greenway move to the first line
It’s hard not to take notice, specifically, of the impact on the offense when freshman forward Jordan Greenway moved back to the first line after playing 15 games on the second line with seniors Matt Lane and Ahti Oksanen.

Greenway had seven points in his final nine games on the first line, but had 15 points in the 15 games he played alongside Lane and Oksanen.

Lane, meanwhile, had three points in the final nine games without Greenway on his line.
In the 15 games he played with Greenway on his line, he had 16 points.

Oksanen, with Greenway on his line, he had 20 points in 15 games. Without Greenway, he also had three points in his final nine games.

Furthermore, in the span that BU had that combination of players on the second line, the team had a 10-4-1 record, and averaged 3.8 goals per game. After moving Greenway, the team went 4-4-1 and averaged 2.22 goals per game.

That’s a small sample size, and obviously other factors come into play, but that’s still three one-point-per-game players when they play together, and with Greenway’s removal from that line, two of them became disappointingly unproductive as the year wound down. There was something about that line that worked, something that clicked — probably some of the best chemistry we saw from anyone this season — and it got taken apart. — SK

Lack of adjustments, lack of accountability
Save for Greenway’s move to the first line, and a brief stint from Bobo Carpenter on the second line, we seldom came to the rink this season and were shocked by any sort of move on the line charts. That goes for both forwards and defense. And there were plenty of arguments from fans about lack of depth, lack of options, but here’s the thing: The Terriers still had options. Not many, but options existed.

The most prominent example of this came on the defense, though. It was something I asked in January when we were at the University of Maine — was Quinn just going to keep rotating that sixth defenseman spot between Brien Diffley and John MacLeod? Was that a tangible solution going forward?

He said he didn’t look at it that way, and he said he’d reward whoever was playing best in practice. Yet that remained essentially the defensive situation — Diffley in sometimes, MacLeod when he wasn’t — for the remainder of the season, with the other five spots locked.

In games where he had his entire defense, all eight players, at his disposal — no injuries, suspensions or World Juniors appearances — the locked-in pairs of Matt Grzelcyk/Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Hickey/Brandon Fortunato never changed. Not once, until Saturday’s game, when he put MacLeod back with Grzelcyk.

We don’t see practice, but we see the lack of adjustments during game time — and that suggests a lack of accountability. A bad performance won’t put your spot in the lineup even remotely at stake, and it didn’t seem like players were forced to prove anything.

Something I don’t think I’ll be able to let go of about this season: The defense that was supposed to be one of the best in the nation, and ranked 30th in the nation after Saturday’s game. It regressed from last year, and didn’t do anything to get better as the season went on. I might be a bit more sympathetic if they’d tried to mix it up during the season and it still didn’t work. But that didn’t happen.

Here’s the bottom line — BU was riding a short bench, but not an empty one. And even if you want to argue that BU didn’t have any further options, there’s still a huge difference between not having enough bodies and not changing anything with those bodies at all. — SK

From the FreeP: Mike Moran scores in final game at BU, reflects on career with Terriers

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — The last seconds of the game meant virtually nothing in the final decision for the Boston University men’s hockey team, but senior forward Mike Moran skated hard to the net to try and make something happen.

Down by six goals with under 20 seconds to play, a goal, even two, would not get BU to the next game of the NCAA Tournament.

But still, in those waning ticks of the clock, Moran looked to create a play for the Terriers. Camped in front of University of Denver goaltender Tanner Jaillet with 14.7 seconds left to play, he did just that, redirecting a pass from senior assistant captain Matt Grzelyck into the back of the net for BU’s (21-13-5) second goal in a 7-2 defeat to Denver (24-9-6) at the Xcel Energy Center.

Cutting the lead from six goals to five, by the time the goal was scored, was just mere bookkeeping for most. But Moran’s classmate, assistant captain Matt Lane, said after the game that the Terriers could have trailed by even more, but the tally would never just be a simple statistic for Moran.

As Lane skated over to Moran after the goal and put his hand on Moran’s scarlet helmet, Lane realized the goal was emblematic of the way his teammate had played during his four years with BU.

“I just kind of put my hand on his head after he got it,” Lane said after the season-ending loss. “I couldn’t be happier for him. Guys like him play until the finish no matter what the score is — that’s the way you gotta do it.”

Read more on dailyfreepress.com

Best of 2014-15: Ranking the top 10 games from last season

In our next installment for the “Best of 2014-15” BU hockey season recap, the Boston Hockey Blog went through the difficult task of narrowing our favorite games from last season down to 10 picks.

Disagree with our list? Give your own rankings in the comment section below! And without further ado, here are our picks:

10. Jan. 9 — BU at Wisconsin, T 3-3 (OT)

A tie most certainly wasn’t the result BU wanted, especially given that BU on paper was a much stronger team than Wisconsin. But in a lot of ways, it exemplified what the Terriers were made of this year — even when they were buried in a hole, they managed to salvage at least a somewhat adequate result.

This is the game where that ugly, ugly own goal happened, where a puck that Matt O’Connor should have had under control ended up hitting Brien Diffley in the head and careened into BU’s net.

But Ahti Oksanen scored two goals in the final 1:51, including one with 2.2 seconds left, and BU eked out a 3-3 tie.

Also importantly, as we learned from The Season (at around 3:24), this is the game where the now-infamous move of Evan Rodrigues to the first line happened. This game, in many regards, was perhaps one of the biggest turning points of the year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDmtW2_D6as — Sarah Kirkpatrick

9. Nov. 21 — BU vs. Maine, W 3-2 (OT)

 

BU’s first of six overtime victories during the 2014-15 season was generated from freshman center Jack Eichel’s first of three OT tallies on the year.

Following along with a trend set throughout the season, BU entered the final period of play down, 2-0, against the Black Bears.

Maine could do little to keep BU’s high-powered offense in check during the third, as junior forwards Ahti Oksanen and Matt Lane scored to knot the game at 2-2 going into the extra period.

As he exhibited countless times throughout the season, Eichel then left Maine skaters in the dust, soaring into the Black Bears zone before ripping a wrister into the net to hand BU the dramatic 3-2 win.

For a team that made its bones on gritty, tenacious play in the third period and overtime, BU’s thrilling victory against their Hockey East foe from Orono proved to be one of the first signs of this Terrier squad’s resilience in the face of adversity. – Conor Ryan

8. Jan. 18 — BU vs. Lowell, W 4-3 (OT)

Getting the “W” against the River Hawks had proved to be a difficult task for the Terriers entering this January matchup at Agganis Arena.

After posting an 0-6-1 record in its last seven tilts against Lowell, BU seemed destined to add another notch in the loss in the win column, falling behind 3-1 early in the second period.

In typical Terrier fashion, however, the home team would storm back, lighting the lamp twice in the second before a missile of a one-timer off the stick of Jack Eichel ended the contest at 1:18 in overtime. — CR

7. Jan. 24 — BU at Vermont, W 2-1 (OT)

BU’s late-January road trip up to Burlington to face then-No. 12 University of Vermont in a two-game set was one of the most crucial series all season. The Terriers handily beat the Catamounts in the Friday game, 4-2, but in the second game, it looked for a while like BU might have to settle for just the two points.

Vermont clung to a 1-0 lead until the final 2:18 of regulation, when Evan Rodrigues knocked home the tying goal. He later assisted on Jack Eichel’s overtime winner.

The win gave BU a four-point lead in the Hockey East standings, and also gave the Terriers an important confidence boost, according to Rodrigues.

“You look around the room,” he said said after the game, “and from top to bottom, you believe in the guys that are sitting next to you.” — SK

6. March 28 — BU vs. Minnesota Duluth (NCAA Regional Final), W 3-2

This game had a little bit of everything — blood, nifty goals (Evan Rodrigues’ golf swing early in the game wouldn’t even be his most fun goal to watch that day) and a spot in the Frozen Four on the line.

Expectedly, the game had plenty of nail-biting moments, too. The game remained tied until the final 2:24, when Rodrigues’ beauty of a toe drag and ensuing goal pushed BU into the Frozen Four. Rodrigues was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional tournament as a result. — SK

5. Nov. 7 — BU at Boston College, W 5-3

Any rivalry game is bound to be entertaining, but this game, between then-No. 5 BU and then-No. 3 BC, remains one of the best games we watched all season.

BC controlled play for the most part, and BU was forced to rally from three deficits in the game before eventually coming out on top in the third period. Thanks to the game-winner from Evan Rodrigues and an empty-net sealer from Nikolas Olsson, the Terriers left the BC fans at Conte Forum stunned.

It was one of the biggest impact wins of the year, and it enriched the tone that BU had set in the early part of the season — you couldn’t ever count BU out, especially in the third period.

4. March 27 — BU vs. Yale (NCAA Regional Semifinal), W 3-2 (OT)

BU had its hands full in its first tilt of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, facing off against a Yale squad that boasted the nation’s best defense at 1.59 goals per game.

Things appeared bleak after 40 minutes, with a power-play goal from Yale defenseman Nate Repensky standing as the lone score of the contest.

BU’s third-period magic once again took hold at Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, with the Terriers outscoring the Bulldogs 2-1 in the period to force overtime.

With the game on the line, Danny O’Regan managed to cash in on a rebound off of Yale netminder Alex Lyon at 7:27 in overtime, sending the Terriers onto the regional final against Minnesota Duluth.

The thrilling match stood as BU’s sixth overtime victory of the season — setting a new program record. — CR

3. Feb. 23 — BU vs. Northeastern (Beanpot Final), W 4-3 (OT)

It would be a cardinal sin to leave off any Beanpot title game from this list — especially one that resulted in a BU championship.

Thankfully, this one lived up to the hype.

The conclusion to the 63rd annual Beanpot Tournament had a little bit of everything, with BU jumping out to a 3-1 advantage before a late run by the Huskies forced overtime — with both teams deadlocked at 3-3.

Under the bright lights of TD Garden, BU’s captain led the way, as Matt Grzelcyk scored twice — including the game winner on the team’s first shot in overtime — to help the Terriers secure its 30th Beanpot title and first since the 2008-09 season. — CR

2. Oct. 25 — BU vs. Michigan, W 3-2

The Michigan game, for all of us on the blog, stands as one of the earliest moments in the year where we first thought, “wow, maybe this team could actually be pretty good.” The Terriers had shown flash in games prior to that — BU’s 8-1 win over UMass was fun to watch, and of course, OC’s first career shutout against Michigan State the night before the Michigan game was a big win.

But at the time, then-No. 14 Michigan was BU’s toughest test so far. And BU found themselves in a 2-1 deficit entering the third period. But as they would become known for as the season progressed, the Terriers rallied in the final frame, with Jack Eichel scoring the tying goal and Matt Lane giving BU a 3-2 lead with 3:10 left in the game.

From our viewpoint in the press box, and for perhaps all BU fans, this was the game where we got an initial glimpse that BU could be resilient and, indeed, elite. — SK

1. Feb. 3 — BU vs. Harvard (Beanpot Semifinal), W 4-3 (2OT)

It seems rather fitting that the longest game in Beanpot history stands as our favorite game from the 2014-15 season.

In a game that featured yet another late comeback from the scarlet and white, along with both superb goaltending from both squads and over 22 minutes of nail-biting overtime drama, the Boston Hockey Blog staff were universal in picking BU’s 4-3 victory over Harvard in the first round of the Beanpot tournament.

The Terriers were on the ropes midway through this match, with the Crimson jumping out to a 3-1 lead just over eight minutes into the second period. There would be no third-period turnaround for BU on this night, however.

Rather, the Terriers made use of what time was left in the middle frame, as both Nikolas Olsson and Ahti Oksanen lit the lamp to even the score.

After Oksanen’s tying goal with 23 seconds remaining in the second, neither team managed to find netting for the next 42:42 of play. During that time, BU peppered goalie Steve Michalek — who set a Beanpot record with 63 saves.

Ultimately, there was little that Michalek could do to stop Danny O’Regan’s bid in double overtime. With just over two minutes eclipsed in the period, Evan Rodrigues intercepted a pass in the Crimson zone, holding onto the puck before feeding O’Regan in the slot.

O’Regan tipped the puck past Michalek to send BU off with the dramatic 4-3 win.

In a season filled with a bevy of incredible games and moments, BU’s double-overtime triumph against Harvard stands alone as our favorite game from 2014-15. — CR

NCAA Tournament field set, BU to play Yale in Northeast Regional

The selection show is over and the bracket is set for the 2015 NCAA Tournament. For the third time this season, the Boston University men’s hockey team will play in the state of New Hampshire.

The Terriers were given the No. 3 seed overall and the top spot in the Northeast Regional that will be played in Manchester, New Hampshire. BU will face Yale University on March 27 at 2:00 p.m. in the first game. Although they haven’t played Yale, the Terriers are 3-2-1 against ECAC opponents this season.

Along with BU, Hockey East schools Boston College and Providence College are among the 16-team field. The other No. 1 seeds include Minnesota State University Mankato (the overall top seed), Miami University and the University of North Dakota.

Here is what the full bracket looks like:

Northeast Regional (Manchester, New Hampshire) 

  • No. 1 Boston University vs. No. 4 Yale University, March 27 at 2:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 University of Minnesota Duluth vs. No. 3 University of Minnesota, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

East Regional (Providence, Rhode Island)

  • No. 1 Miami University vs. No. 4 Providence College, March 28 at 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 University of Denver vs. No. 3 Boston College, March 28 at 3:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Midwest Regional (South Bend, Indiana)

  • No. 1 Minnesota State University Mankato vs. Rochester Institute of Technology, March 28 at 4:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 University of Nebraska Omaha vs. No. 3 Harvard University, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)

West Regional (Fargo, North Dakota)

  • No. 1 University of North Dakota vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac University, March 27 at 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • No. 2 Michigan Tech University vs. No. 3 St. Cloud State University, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)