Pluses and Minuses: Terriers use late comeback to tie Cornell at Red Hot Hockey

PHOTO BY JUDY COHEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
PHOTO BY JUDY COHEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

NEW YORK — It doesn’t count as more than a tie in the standings, but David Quinn and his bunch might be feeling as if they were winners in this one.

Trailing by two goals after two periods, the No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team rallied for three goals in the third period to finish with a 3-3 draw against No. 16 Cornell University at Red Hot Hockey.

The Terriers (7-4-3, 3-2-2 Hockey East) did win in a subsequent shootout after a scoreless overtime, and thus won the Kelley-Harkness Trophy for the second consecutive time. BU remains unbeaten in the biannual game with Cornell (6-1-2) at Madison Square Garden with a 3-0-2 record.

We’ll take a look at what went right and wrong for BU in this Manhattan edition of Pluses and Minuses.

Pluses

Greer and Greenway break out

Sophomore forward A.J. Greer hadn’t scored a goal in a game in seven months. Freshman winger Jordan Greenway was scoreless with BU before Saturday night.

Both came through for for the Terriers on the big stage.

Greer and Greenway scored their first goals of the season in a frantic three-goal third period, helping BU earn a point for the eighth time in nine games.

Judy has more of a breakdown of their success in her sidebar.

Olsson returns, third line looks strong

Exiting after the first period of a Nov. 14 game against No. 1 Providence College, sophomore forward Nikolas Olsson sat out the last four games with what the team called an upper-body injury.

He returned to the lineup Saturday and made an impact with the third line, especially in the third period.

Olsson skated along the right-wing boards and made a crisp pass to center ice that helped set up Bobo Carpenter‘s goal at 5:36 of the third. The goal started a swing of momentum in BU’s favor, as the Terriers scored three minutes later on Greer’s goal, one that was also set up by Olsson.

The third line, as a whole, totaled five points and nine shots on goal during Saturday night’s contest.

“I think it’s a collective effort,” Greer said of his line. “The defensemen moved the puck up quick, and the first couple of shifts, we thought we held our stick too tight so we were kind of nervous, but then as the game went on we started working down low and just doing our job and using the back of the net.

“We got bodies out front, and they rewarded us in the third period. Those goals were big.”

Moving in right direction

It’s been a long stretch of tough games in November for BU, which has now played a top-20 opponent in three consecutive weekends. The Terriers came away with five points in those five games, earning one win and three ties in the process.

Though he would’ve liked to see his team take more wins out of these recent games, Quinn said after Saturday’s tie that he is pleased with where the team is headed as it moves to the second half of the year.

“I like where we’re going,” Quinn said. “I like the direction we’re going. Obviously we still have to get better, we have to get off to better starts. Though like I said, statistically, we didn’t score a goal, but I thought we were playing well.”

Still undefeated 

They didn’t win this time, but the Terriers still haven’t lost a Red Hot Hockey game since its inception in 2007.

BU has earned eight of 10 possible points in the five games played against Cornell, and has now won the Kelley-Harkness Trophy both times since it was created in 2013.

Minuses 

Power Play

A 20 percent success rate on the power play is usually about average, and that holds true for the Terriers, who are sixth in Hockey East in that category.

Average, however, hasn’t been good enough, and Quinn acknowledged this postgame.

“Our power play was disappointing, weren’t able to capitalize in overtime,” Quinn said. “Statistically our power play looks okay, but we’ve really got to get better on the power play. I think we’re just a little bit too slow, too methodical, we’re stick handling too much, and there’s just too much thinking going on out there.”

BU went 0-for-4 with the extra man against Cornell, but did garner 14 shots on goal. But the problem wasn’t getting the puck to the net, it was about finishing, or lack thereof.

There were power-play opportunities for BU  in the second period after each Big Red goal, but neither were converted. The same went for the man advantages in the third period and overtime.

Slow Start

It wasn’t as if BU was completely outplayed in the first period, but the game just felt slow, and the Terriers never really got in a rhythm in the first 20 minutes.

BU did actually lead in shots at 10-9 after one, but there were few high-percentage opportunities. The same could be said for the initial minutes of the second, where Cornell broke through with two goals.

Tonight’s beginning could’ve had to do with nerves, as Quinn admitted even he was battling with “heart palpitations” on the bench.

“I thought early on, they were controlling the play for the first 10 minutes,” Quinn said, “and then I thought we started getting our legs under us a little bit and started playing much better, playing the way we need to play if we’re going to have success.”

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: Terriers hang on, advance to national title game

Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Following his team’s 5-3 win over the University of North Dakota, Boston University men’s hockey head coach David Quinn was more than breathing a sigh of relief. With North Dakota making a last-minute surge, overtime looked like more of a reality with each passing second.

“Hopefully we’re going to learn some lessons tonight,” Quinn said. “We dodged some bullets, but we’re living another day.”

The Terriers (28-7-5) did indeed dodge some major bullets during that late stretch, which propelled BU to its first berth in the NCAA Tournament championship since 2009, and 11th overall.

Freshman center Jack Eichel finished with three points (two goals, one assist), including the all-important empty-net goal in the waning seconds of the game. But it wasn’t just Eichel, as some other unsung heroes came up huge.

Here’s a look at some of went right and wrong from the Frozen Four semifinal:

Pluses

Eichelmania rolls on

The North Chelmsford product pretty much has a permanent spot in this section of the blog, and for good reason. You don’t have the year he’s having and not get some positive recognition. Thursday night just added to what has been the best freshman season in Division I college hockey since Paul Kariya’s rookie campaign in 1992-93.

He scored BU’s first goal 4:59 into the game on a backhander down low and set up a game-changing goal (more on that a bit lower down) midway through the second period. But his goal with 18.5 seconds left in the third period from the defensive zone all but ended any chance of a North Dakota comeback.

According to Eichel, though, the credit for the goal shouldn’t go to him, but to the weathered playing surface.

“I just tried to put it on net. To be honest, I thought it was going wide,” Eichel said. “I think it hit a divot in the ice and rolled in. It was a lucky play but Grizzy [junior captain Matt Grzelyck] and [senior assistant captain Cason] Hohmann made a spectacular play in the corner to ice the game.”

Rut in the ice or not, Eichel had a goal and his 70th point in the season. That hasn’t been accomplished at BU since forward Shawn McEachern had 84 in the 1990-91 season.

A special year for the freshman has a chance to end with a championship and a Hobey Baker Award. There were obviously high expectations coming in, but it’s fair to say his performance probably has exceeded whatever people pegged him for at the beginning of the season.

Greer turns the tables

Without the play of junior goaltender Matt O’Connor and some help from the goal posts, North Dakota (29-10-3) could have very well scored three or four times in the second period.

For the first 10 minutes in the middle frame, the puck essentially never left the BU zone.  UND already had one goal in the period, and continued to search for one more. Momentum was swinging and it sure looked like someone was bound to score.

A goal was scored, but it wasn’t from North Dakota. It was from freshman forward A.J. Greer.

Off a bad UND change, Eichel jumped on the ice and passed the puck over to a wide-open Greer just to the right of the slot. Greer unleashed a powerful one-timer that snuck under goaltender Zane McIntyre’s pads for BU’s third goal. Instead of the game being tied, the Terriers went up by two. Talk about momentum swing.

“He works on his shot a lot, and I wasn’t surprised at all,” Eichel said of Greer. “He’s got a great one-timer. It was a big goal in the game. Gave us a little bit of cushion.”

Greer, who moved up to BU’s second line earlier in the postseason, scored his first goal in over three months. His play over the last few weeks, though, has been some of the best hockey he’s played since coming to BU. Sarah will have more on that in her sidebar.

An emphatic recovery 

The puck slid along the end boards and freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey went to try and coral it. As Hickey went to do this, he was slammed hard up against the wall by UND forward Tucker Poolman. Hickey was knocked down on the ice to both knees, clearly shaken up.

It took him awhile to gather himself, but he skated back to the BU bench. He wouldn’t stay put there for long, though. He made his next shift with BU’s second power-play unit, and boy did he make the most of it.

Standing at the left point, he ripped a one-timer off Hohmann’s feed to extend BU’s lead to two goals late in the first period. Give credit to not only his toughness, but the quick recovery to get back on the ice and contribute.

Uncharacteristic strong start 

How many times has the narrative been played out that BU starts slow but finishes strong? More times than one can count on one hand. But that wasn’t the story this game. Thursday, the Terriers looked ready to go from the outset and got a strong forecheck going in the first few shifts.

BU held an advantage in shots through the first 10 minutes (9-9 after 20), and eventually a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes.

“It was exciting to see the way we started playing at a pace and possessing the puck,” Quinn said on the first period. “And I think I looked up at one point, the shots were 7-0, seven minutes into the game.”

Minuses 

One that they’d like to have back

There would be no better way to take control of a game than on a power-play chance with a three-goal lead late in the third period. It was an ideal situation for BU, which looked like it had UND down and out. One fortuitous bounce later, though, and North Dakota was right back in the game.

O’Connor mishandled the puck behind his own net, and UND’s lone forechecker, Troy Stecher, tapped the puck into an open net at 12:10 of the third. The goal seemed to energize a seemingly downcast North Dakota team. BU was lucky enough to weather the storm that followed.

Penalty-kill issues

Getting into penalty trouble is never a good thing, and against a quality team like UND, it could very well change the outcome of a game. North Dakota seemingly had the puck deep each time it went to a power-play, which ended up leading to two goals and a 50-percent success rate.

Even when BU would find a way to clear the puck, there was little pressure at the defensive blue line to stop another entry into the zone.

Pluses and Minuses: O’Connor’s strong play in net helps Terriers advance to Hockey East title game

Matt O'Connor. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Matt O’Connor. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

For the second time in three seasons, the Boston University men’s hockey team will play for the Hockey East championship.

Facing off against a red-hot University of New Hampshire squad that had won nine of its last 10 contests, the Terriers (24-7-5) ricocheted from yet another slow start to best the Wildcats (19-19-2), 4-1, Friday night at TD Garden.

The Terriers will have little time to rest following their victory, as they will face off against two-time defending conference champion University of Massachusetts Lowell Saturday night.

As with every hockey game, there were a good amount of positive and negative takeaways Friday night. Here they are.

Pluses:

O’Connor stabilizes Terriers in uneven first period

Fresh off of earning Hockey East Second Team All-Star honors Thursday night, junior goaltender Matt O’Connor lived up to newly awarded accolade against the Wildcats, standing tall in the Terrier crease to the tune of 32 saves — his highest save total since stopped 32 shots against the University of Vermont on Jan. 23.

The Toronto native especially came up big over the first 20 minutes of play, negating a multitude of sloppy plays from the blueliners in front of him by holding an opportunistic and aggressive Wildcat offense to just one goal.

A pivotal moment came in the closing minutes of the stanza, with UNH holding onto a 1-0 advantage. As the Wildcats vied for yet another tally, forward Andrew Poturalski fired a puck on net that a sprawling O’Connor deflected at the last second with his pads, keeping it a one-goal game. Less than 20 seconds later, the Terriers capitalized, with senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann lighting the lamp at 17:38 to knot the score at one goal apiece.

O’Connor is now 21-3-4 on the year with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.

MacLeod impresses in return

Despite sitting out the past three games due to an upper-body injury, freshman defenseman John MacLeod failed to show any rust in his return to action Friday night.

The blueliner was steady out on the ice, tying defensive partner Matt Grzelcyk with a game-high plus-four rating on the night while also earning his seventh assist of the season on Hohmann’s first-period score.

The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect also paid dividends on defense, stopping a potential Wildcat goal in the third period. With the Terriers clinging to a 2-1 lead, sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby sent a shot from the blue line that was blocked by a UNH skater, generating a breakaway opportunity for New Hampshire.

As the UNH skater coasted into the Terriers’ zone, MacLeod hustled back and swooped into the skater’s lane, disrupting his easy look on net.

Good timing from Chase Phelps

Freshman forward Chase Phelps picked an awful good time to score his second goal of the season.

With Friday’s match locked in a 1-1 draw, the Terriers’ fourth line buzzed around the UNH net, attempting to generate some semblance of an opportunity against New Hampshire goaltender Danny Tirone.

Junior forward Mike Moran coasted the puck along the end boards to sophomore forward Nick Roberto, who motioned from behind the UNH cage and put the puck on net. As the puck settled near the crease, Phelps quickly flipped it over Tirone, handing BU its first lead of the night.

It was the Shattuck St. Mary’s product’s first goal since Nov. 29 against Colgate University.

Eichel keeps doing Eichel things

While BU’s formidable first line was mostly held in check over the first 40 minutes of play, freshman center Jack Eichel could not be muted for long.

The young forward capped the Terriers’ scoring on the night with two goals in the final 10 minutes of play, both off of rebound offerings off the stick of senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues.

With his two strikes, Eichel has extended his point streak to 11 games, notching 23 points during that stretch. Now standing at 63 points on the season, Eichel needs just one more to stand as the second-highest scoring freshman in NCAA history.

Minuses:

New day at the garden, same slow start

For the third time this season, the Terriers dropped the puck at TD Garden. And for the third time in this arena, the Terriers underwhelmed with their performance in the first period.

BU appeared sluggish and indecisive both in terms of defense and offense over the first 20 minutes, with the Wildcats outshooting the Terriers by an 11-8 margin.

While it appeared that the Wildcats consistently outplayed their opponent throughout the period, O’Connor’s strong play and Hohmann’s goal were able to help the Terriers escape the stanza still locked in a 1-1 tie.

“After the first period we all knew we didn’t play well. I’m careful to say that, because I think a big part of that had to do with the way UNH was playing,” said BU coach David Quinn. “For us to come out of that period 1-1 I thought it bode well for us moving forward because I knew we couldn’t play much worse than that. Hopefully we get off to a better start tomorrow night because I don’t think we’re going to be able to get away with it with Lowell.”

Freshman blueliners struggle in opening frame

Throughout the first period of play Friday night, BU’s four freshman defensemen sure looked like … Well, freshmen.

A key factor in the team’s lackluster performance in opening frame can be attributed to a few choice plays from its rookie defensemen. In particular, Brandon Fortunato and Brandon Hickey coughed up a costly turnover in BU’s own zone, directly leading to a goal from UNH forward Tyler Kelleher at 14:34.

For more on the Terriers’ sluggish defensive play (and subsequent redemption), check out Andrew’s sider.

Pluses and Minuses: Terriers crush Northeastern, clinch conference regular-season title

Jack Eichel. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Jack Eichel. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

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:

Pluses

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.

Love Moccia 

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.

Minuses 

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.

Pluses and Minuses: BU settles for tie after late Notre Dame goal

Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Brandon Hickey. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

It wasn’t a win, but it got the job done.

Well, sort of.

The No. 2/3 Boston University men’s hockey team tied, 2-2, with the University of Notre Dame on Friday night at Agganis Arena. With the point in hand, the Terriers (19-5-5, 13-3-3 Hockey East) clinched a share of the Hockey East title and gained a first-round bye in the conference playoffs.

Sophomore forward Nick Roberto scored halfway through the second to tie the score at one, and senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues netted his 14th goal of the year early in the third to give BU its first lead of the evening. However, on the strength of a late goal, the Fighting Irish (13-15-5, 8-6-5 Hockey East) forced overtime and eventually a draw.

A bounce here or a rebound there and this game could’ve swung in a different direction. As always, there were positives and negatives, so here’s a closer look at the pluses and minuses:

Pluses

Defensive corps stands out

When you have five underclassmen manning the blue line, there might the be expectation that there will be a lapse at some point in the game. But for the most part of the season, this young group has risen to the occasion. That didn’t change Friday night.

Just looking at the numbers, it’s fair to say the defense kept BU in the game from start to finish. The blue liners kept the Fighting Irish outside of prime real estate and forced outside shots. By the time the game ended, Notre Dame finished with 19 shots on goal, the second-fewest BU has allowed in a single game this season.

What stood out most for BU head coach David Quinn was the play of freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey. The first-year defenseman again showed his prowess with the stick and body.

“He can really close on people,” Quinn said. “He’s got a great stick, he’s strong. He plays through people not to people, which is important at this level. For a kid 18 years old he certainly has a great grasp of that. But again, I thought in general, I thought we did a good job defending. I thought we did a nice job keeping them on the perimeter.”

Everyone deserves a second chance

We’ve seen some highlight-reel goals this season, mainly from BU’s top line, but when it came down to it tonight, it was plays in the gritty areas that got the Terriers on the board.

Down a goal in the second, freshman center Jack Eichel pushed through near the crease, jamming at a few chances in front of netminder Cal Peterson. Not before long, Roberto came down through the left side of the crease and gave a whack at a loose puck. On a second attempt on the backhand, Roberto drove home just his third goal of the year.

Thirty-one seconds into the third, Rodrigues got his own chance at a second opportunity. Junior winger Danny O’Regan failed to put his shot past Peterson, but a trailing Rodrigues deposited the puck into the the twine.

Fourth line quietly produces chances

Roberto had his name appear on the scoresheet, although his linemates didn’t play all that bad either. Centered by junior Mike Moran and flanked by freshman wing Chase Phelps, the unit hemmed the puck in deep and created some turnovers with a good forecheck.

The line had six shots combined for the night — double the total BU’s first line had. Moran and Phelps had a few good chances in the first period, but Peterson stood tall.

Kudos to this trio. The three of them don’t get the most ice time by a long shot, but they played well when given the chance.

Minuses 

Late goal re-writes ending

With four minutes and 43 seconds to go, the Terriers held a 2-1 lead that appeared pretty safe. The defense had held its own and didn’t give Notre Dame many chances.

It wouldn’t have been much longer until the Fighting Irish would most likely look to pull Peterson for an extra attacker. Sole possession of Hockey East appeared imminent.

But what looked as a benign rush ended up as a game-changer. Freshman Anders Bjork skated the puck through the slot, wristing the puck toward junior goaltender Matt O’Connor. The shot beat him clean, and instead of celebrating with a trophy, the Terriers settled for a tie and share, at least for the night, of the Hockey East Crown.

The ceremony will have to wait another night.

“[Notre Dame gets] a big goal towards the end of the third period there to tie it,” Quinn said. “Give them a lot of credit, I thought they made life difficult for us as coach Jeff’s [Jackson] teams usually do — they got good skill.”

Missed Opportunities 

It wasn’t like the Terriers didn’t have chances two points Friday night. BU garnered 36 shots on goal, yet also had chances that either missed the net entirely or were blocked.

The clock dwindled in the third period and BU looked to break the tie. Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk fired a shot from the point that careened perfectly for O’Regan to tap in. Instead, he couldn’t get a clean handle of the puck and shot it a mile high of net.

BU’s power play, which has been a strength of this team, also failed to come through, going 0-for-3. Playing a man up in the third, the Terriers recorded only one shot on the advantage and had trouble entering the zone.

“Space was hard to come by, I thought both teams well defensively,” Quinn said. “Both power plays unable to capitalize on their opportunities.”

Pluses and Minuses: Impressive start propels No. 2/3 Terriers past No. 11/12 River Hawks

Matt Lane. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Matt Lane. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

LOWELL — Heading into BU’s showdown with UMass Lowell Friday night, Terrier head coach David Quinn stressed that his team was not looking past the River Hawks on the way to an appearance in the appearance in the Beanpot Tournament title game Monday.

“We look at it as if we have two Beanpot Finals coming up,” Quinn noted. “We have one Friday and one Monday. When you’re playing a team that’s right on your heels and is the two-time defending league champion and had all the success they’ve had, I don’t think there’s anybody that’s looking past anybody.”

It seems like the Terriers agreed with their coach’s words, with BU handily beating Lowell by a score of 5-2 to win its sixth contest in a row and earn the season sweep over the River Hawks.

While the Terriers now turn their focus back to TD Garden, here’s a quick look at what went right and wrong for BU on Friday at Tsongas Center.

Pluses

Off to a quick start

It’s been a recurring trend all season long, but the Terriers have had trouble in terms of generating leads over the first 20 minutes of play. In fact, heading into Friday night, BU was dead last in Hockey East with just 12 first-period goals.

In what served as a refreshing change of pace, the Terriers were able to seize the advantage early against UMass, lighting the lamp three times over the first nine minutes of play in what was the team’s first three-goal opening period this season.

Just 38 seconds were eclipsed on the game clock when junior forward Ahti Oksanen fired the puck past Lowell goalie Kevin Boyle to help BU jump out to the 1-0 lead.

Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues would take care of the rest, besting Boyle both at 3:01 and 8:16 in the first period to help build a comfortable cushion against a challenging conference foe

“To get off to the start that we had, considering the way our season’s gone in the first period, was certainly a surprise to me,” Quinn said. “We did think we were ready to play as a staff, but you never envision getting out to a lead that early and then building on it. I think it really changed the complexion of the game.”

Rodrigues keeps on going. And going. And going. And going….

Another win for BU and another impressive stat line for senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues. Ho hum.

The reigning Hockey East Player of the Month feasted on the River Hawks defense, securing his first career hat trick en route to a four-point night. It may come as no surprise at this point, but Rodrigues has been scoring hot as of late, scoring 27 points over his last 11 games.

Lowell had few answers for BU’s first line of Rodrigues, freshman center Jack Eichel and junior winger Danny O’Regan, with the triumvirate totaling nine points on the night.

For more on Rodrigues’ hat-trick showing against Lowell, be sure to check out Sarah’s sider.

Lane comes up clutch … again

His numbers might not rival those of some of teammates, but junior forward Matt Lane certainly has shown a knack for stepping up in big situations.

The Rochester, New York, product made his presence felt at a critical point in Friday’s match. BU’s comfortable four-goal lead had quickly been carved down to two during the opening minutes of the third — with the River Hawks looking for more.

However, BU’s fourth power-play bid on the night swung the momentum back into the Terriers’ favor, with Lane serving as the benefactor.

A wrist shot from Eichel slammed off of Boyle and created a loose-puck chance in front of the UMass crease that Lane pounced on, forcing it past the goal line to put the nail in the coffin for the River Hawks.

Minuses

Poor penalties give Lowell life

Through the first 39 minutes of play, it appeared that the Terriers could do no wrong up in The Mill City, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and holding a potent River Hawks offense at bay as the second period drew to a close.

Unfortunately for the Terriers, struggles with staying out of the sin pin proved costly — as Eichel was whistled for tripping at 19:55 while freshman defenseman John MacLeod was later sent away for the same infraction just four seconds later, giving Lowell nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey entering the third.

Lowell would make good on the extra-man advantage, with freshman C.J. Smith firing the puck past BU netminder Matt O’Connor at 1:22 in the final period to get the River Hawks on the board.

Smith’s wrister goal appeared to give the River Hawks the jolt that they needed. A little over four minutes later, another puck found BU netting, this time coming from sophomore Evan Campbell at 5:41 to cut BU’s lead down to two.

Lane’s power-play score less than three minutes later helped stem the tide, but Quinn acknowledged that crucial momentum swing that both penalties could have contributed to during the game.

“I thought we played a really good first 39:47 and then all of a sudden we take two ridiculous penalties at the end of the second period — just ridiculous penalties,” Quinn said. “Then they get the 5-on-3 goal, then they get another one and they got life. And then fortunately we were able to get a power-play goal.”

Penalty on Winter Storm “Linus”, two minutes for interference

As if the brutal snowfall hitting Massachusetts for the past few weeks hadn’t already made most of our commutes/lives miserable over the last few weeks, it even found a way to put a damper on the start of Friday’s game.

Originally scheduled for a 7:15 start time, Friday’s match was delayed until 7:40, as some of the officials were still stuck in traffic in the minutes leading up to the opening faceoff.

With more snow slated in the near future, this “minus” might be a recurring trend over the next week or so. I certainly hope not.

Rodrigues, strong blueliner play helps BU secure 4-point weekend over Catamounts

BURLINGTON, Vermont — Don’t call it a comeback. The Terriers have been there all season long.

Matt O'Connor. PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA WIMLEY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Matt O’Connor. PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA WIMLEY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Horrendous LL Cool J references aside, the No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team was able to manufacture another impressive late-game turnaround Saturday night, besting No. 12 University of Vermont to earn a series sweep against its Hockey East foe.

Starting at a 1-0 defeat for most of the contest, the Terriers were able to net the equalizer by way of a tally from senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues with a little over two minutes remaining on the clock.

The Gutterson Fieldhouse crowd would ultimately vacate the rink on a sour note, as freshman center redirected a shot from Rodrigues past Catamounts’ netminder Steve Santaguida to hand the Terriers a vital four points for the weekend.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for BU on Saturday night up in The Green Mountain State.

Pluses

“Ice in our veins”

After BU’s 4-2 victory over Vermont Friday night — in which the Terriers held off a late-game UVM comeback to hold on for the two points — BU coach David Quinn admitted that his team “has a little ice in our veins” when it comes to late-game situations.

The Terriers exemplified that trend again Saturday night, albeit in a different fashion.

Instead of shutting down a third-period surge, the Terriers were the ones orchestrating it, as Rodrigues and Eichel’s goals in the third period and overtime, respectively, handed BU its third win a row.

For the ninth time this season, the Terriers faced a deficit in the third period and managed to come away with either a win or a tie.

For Quinn, the key to his team’s success in high-pressure scenarios lies in his players’ mutual respect and trust in one another.

“I think our guys have confidence, respectful confidence,” Quinn said. “And they just trust each other. They look around the locker room and I think they think every guy in there is pretty good. That’s where you get some confidence, not only within yourself but throughout the lineup.”

Defensemen

Just hours before the game, the Terriers blueliner corps was dealt a significant blow, as sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby was suspended for one game by Hockey East after being called for an interference penalty during Friday’s match against UVM.

Despite only dressing five defenseman Saturday night, Quinn praised the play of his defensemen, who excelled at both limiting Vermont’s chances in front of BU netminder Matt O’Connor and moving the puck up the ice.

Junior captain Matt Grzelcyk in particular was impressive, as the Charlestown native was active on the backcheck, breaking up a UVM odd-man rush at one point while later poke checking the puck off the stick of Vermont winger Mario Puskarich on a prime scoring bid in the second period.

“I loved our D corps tonight, I thought they did a great job breaking the puck out,” Quinn said. “I thought the poise with the puck was a lot better than it was last night. I thought we defended well.

You beat a team on Friday, they’re a lot more desperate on Saturday and that’s what we were very happy with, with the first period because I thought weathered the storm a little bit and just really did a lot of good things. Our D corps was huge tonight.”

Red-hot Rodrigues

Once again, Rodrigues made his presence on the box score Saturday night, scoring his ninth goal of the season while later tallying the assist on Eichel’s overtime winner to tie him with linemate Danny O’Regan for second in conference scoring with 28 points in 23 games.

Rodrigues has registered a point in BU’s last eight games, compiling 15 points during that stretch.

For more on Rodrigues’ performance, check out Andrew’s sider.

OC

While Eichel and Rodrigues might have stolen most of the headlines following Saturday’s game, the play of O’Connor helped keep the Terriers within one goal throughout the contest.

After relinquishing a goal to Vermont captain Mike Paliotta with 18 minutes left on the clock in the second period, O’Connor did not let another puck enter BU netting, finishing with 31 saves en route to his 13th win of the season.

O’Connor is second in Hockey East in both goals-against average (1.91) and save percentage (.937).

Minuses

Penalties prove costly

While even Quinn admitted that the Terriers performed better in their second game of the weekend, the team was sullied by a few costly penalties.

The game was still locked in a 0-0 stalemate when freshman forward Nikolas Olsson was whistled for elbowing, handing Vermont its third power-play opportunity of the contest.

UVM’s extra-man unit would make Olsson and Terriers pay, as Paliotta fired a quick wrister from the top of the point, beating O’Connor glove side to put Vermont on the board at 2:00 in the second period.

Pluses and Minuses: Oksanen, Eichel shine in OT victory over UMass Lowell

That was a pretty fun one for BU fans, wasn’t it?

I got to see two pretty cool comebacks today — BU’s 4-3 overtime victory over UMass Lowell, and the Seahawks’ comeback against Green Bay later, oh my! — so all in all, not too shabby of a sports day. But as was the case in Seattle, there was some ugliness on top of all the greatness.

Ahti Oksanen. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DFP STAFF
Ahti Oksanen. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DFP STAFF

Here’s a breakdown of the good and bad from Sunday’s game at Agganis:

Pluses

Eichel’s OT magic

Freshman forward Jack Eichel’s game-winning goal was the shot heard ’round college hockey. His one-timer 1:18 into overtime secured the victory for the Terriers, and moved them into a tie for first place in Hockey East.

In BU’s seven overtime games this season, they’ve been able to etch out a goal for a win just twice. Eichel had the winner in both of those games.

Eichel continues to lead Hockey East and the nation in scoring, with 34 total points (1.70 points per game).

The Ahti factor

Junior forward Ahti Oksanen notched two goals in Sunday’s contest — his third multi-goal game of the season, and his second in the past four games.

Oksanen is one of four players on the team with a multi-goal game under his belt, and currently ranks fourth on the team in scoring (18 points on 12 goals and six assists).

Shuffled lines

Quinn has been mixing up his lines a bit the past few games, and it has been paying dividends.

That experiment started with moving senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues to the first line to replace Oksanen. Oksanen replaced Rodrigues’ spot on the second line at left wing.

Rodrigues has six points (1g, 5a) in the three games since the switch, which has propelled him to 18th place in the nation in points per game. Oksanen has three points (2g, 1a) in the past three games.

“We didn’t play as well — me and Eichel and [junior forward Danny] O’Regan — as we played in the beginning of the year,” Oksanen said. “It was good coach kind of recognized that and switched the lines. Right now I feel really good playing with [sophomore forward] Robbie [Baillargeon], and today [freshman forward Nikolas] Olsson was on the right wing, and that worked really good.”

Senior assistant captain Cason Hohmann, who has played on the second line all year, moved to the third line for Sunday’s game, and was replaced by Olsson on the second line, but neither scored in the contest.

Power Play

BU has had a lot of luck on the power play as of late, including going 3-for-4 on Sunday. Conor has more on that in his sider today.

Minuses

Defensive lapses

After striking first on the scoreboard, BU allowed three straight goals to the River Hawks, from getting out-hustled and leaving too many open opportunities.

BU head coach David Quinn mentioned this as an issue in Friday’s game against Boston College — he said his team clearly appeared as if it had four freshmen on defense. Following the game against Lowell, though, Quinn said he appreciated the effort, but noted the team’s errors.

“Our D played well,” Quinn said. “Again, at times we turned it over. Sometimes people forget we do have four 18-year-old defensemen back there. A lot of their [Lowell’s] chances were off turnovers. We gotta get better below the top of the circles, possessing the puck and holding on to it. We have given up too many shots for my liking.”

Pluses and Minuses: Freshman defensemen show inexperience in loss to No. 17 Eagles

PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Losses have been hard to come by for both No. 2/3 Boston University and No. 17 Boston College entering into Friday night’s tilt between the archrivals at Agganis Arena.

With both squads posting a combined record of 8-0-5 since the start of December, something had to give.

Unfortunately for the Terriers, a seven-game unbeaten streak was not in the cards against their Chestnut Hill foe, as the Eagles skated off the ice at Jack Parker Rink with a 4-2 victory.

As with any game, there were both positives and negatives to take away from the 267th meeting between the Terriers and Eagles.

Minuses:

BU’s blueliners reveal their youth

For perhaps the first time all season, BU’s young defenseman corps — which have supplied the Terriers with sound play, keen decision making and a consistent output of offense from the blue line — proved to be the team’s Achilles’ heel.

Throughout the game, BC’s forwards used their size and skill to consistently put BU’s defensemen on their heels, specifically the Terriers’ four freshman blueliners in John MacLeod, Brandon Hickey, Brandon Fortunato and Brien Diffley.

For BU coach David Quinn, it was his team’s inability to challenge the Eagles on transition proved to be the prime culprit for his team’s struggles, as maroon and gold skaters were constantly left unchecked before breaking into the Terriers’ zone.

“Our gap was horrific,” Quinn said. “It was the number-one problem for us all night long. Our D just did not hold the offensive blue line long enough. BC’s fast, we made them look a lot faster by just backing off.

“Like I said, we looked like we had four freshmen D tonight, and that hasn’t happened very often this year, so frustrating, because it’s not how we’ve been playing, but it was the case tonight.”

Penalties prove costly

Before Friday night’s contest got underway, the opening faceoff was disrupted for a few fleeting moments after BU senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues became tangled up with a BC skater and tumbled down near center ice.

It was a telling sign for what was set to transpire.

As has been the case throughout the almost century-long discord between BU and BC, Friday night’s game was marked by physical play, post-whistle extracurricular activities and penalties abound.

Both teams combined for 17 penalties in the match — including 12 in the first period — paving the way for multiple special-team chances throughout.

In the end, the Eagles were able to capitalize off of the Terrier’s undisciplined slip-ups, notching two 5-on-3 goals and one 4-on-4 tally to jump out to a commanding 3-0 lead after two periods.

While BU managed to light the lamp with an extra skater in the third — the fifth straight game in which the Terriers have scored on the man advantage — it was “too little, too late” for the scarlet and white.

“Dumb penalties in the first period set us back, Quinn said. “We had a power play and we take an offensive-zone penalty which you just can’t have and then we take two stupid penalties right after that which we really haven’t done all year. They get a 5-on-3 goal, they get a 4-on-4 goal and then they get another 5-on-3 goal and we’re down 3-0.”

Pluses

A quick start …. And a strong finish

The Eagles might have entered into the first intermission with a 2-0 advantage, but based off of the opening five minutes of play, it seemed as if the Terriers were primed to establish themselves on the scoresheet thanks to a few scoring chances generated against BC netminder Thatcher Demko.

Ultimately, BU’s undisciplined play ended up putting an end to the team’s impressive opening display.

“I thought that we actually got off to a pretty good start,” Quinn said. “I liked our first five minutes and then the penalties.”

BU only managed to compile nine shots against Demko over the final 20 minutes of play, but made its chances count, finding the back of the net twice — thanks to goals from junior forwards Danny O’Regan and Matt Lane — to give the Terriers new life after entering the period staring at a 3-0 BC lead.

The Sasquatch Effect

Down by two goals with a little over five minutes remaining in the game, the Terriers and Agganis Arena crowd seemed to receive a shot in the arm with the arrival of BU superfan “Sasquatch.”

No more than 20 seconds after the bewhiskered BU backer made his presence felt in the BU student section, Lane tipped a rebound offering past Demko to cut the Terriers’ deficit to one and send Agganis into a frenzy.

Was there a direct correlation? Likely not. But a Sasquatch sighting is always a plus in my book.