Pluses and Minuses: Freshmen key in draw with Union

In the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team’s first game in 15 days, the Terriers earned a 3-3 tie against the defending national champions, Union College, at Agganis Arena.

Senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues’ goal with just more than four minutes remaining in regulation salvaged the tie for the Terriers. His goal was one of many positives for BU on Saturday.

Here’s some more of what we liked — and didn’t like — in BU’s first game of 2015:

Pluses

Reinforcements back

Freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward Nikolas Olsson. PHOTO BY DANIEL GUAN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The Terriers returned two key players who had missed nearly two months to the lineup on Saturday, and both had a positive impact on the result.

Sophomore forward Robbie Baillargeon — BU’s leading scorer last season — saw his first playing time in nine games. He recorded two shots on goal.

“I thought Robbie did pretty well,” said BU coach David Quinn. “He hasn’t played in long time. He played a lot of minutes, probably too many minutes, but I thought Robbie did a good job.”

Freshman forward Nikolas Olsson, who had also missed nine games, tallied a goal and was a plus-1 on the evening.

“I took about two months off so that was pretty rough, but I just tried to stay positive and remind myself that I’d be back soon enough,” Olsson said. “I’ve been practicing hard. I’d been skating for a while, even though it was no-contact, so I tried to keep up to speed and make contributions once I got out, and I did.”

Skilled youth
BU played without freshman forward and leading scorer Jack Eichel, whom the coaches chose to bench after he competed for the United States in the IIHF World Junior Championships during winter break. But still, three freshmen made it on the score sheet Saturday: forward A.J. Greer, who had the game-opening goal, defenseman Brien Diffley, who added an assist, and Olsson.

Greer’s goal came off a rebound to open the scoring 5:47 into the game. It was his second goal of the season, and his first since BU’s 8-1 win over the University of Massachusetts on Oct. 10. Diffley’s fourth assist of the season came on Olsson’s goal — his third of the year — at the 13:42 mark of the 1st period.

Physical presence
Union presented a physical test to the Terriers, which BU matched with a consistent tough effort. The Terriers had a number of physical challenges along the boards — in turn, accumulating five penalties on the night, but Quinn said he was pleased with the effort.

“If we’re going to be able to have success moving forward, we need to be physical for 60 minutes, we can’t pick and choose our spots,” Quinn said. “I thought we were pretty consistent with our physical play tonight.”

Olsson’s return gave BU a boost physically, and he said he was happy to come in and get a few big hits.

“The first thing I thought about was going out and getting a hit,” Olsson said. “That’s how I kind of … get more mentally into it than you can get just by prepping yourself.

“I try to maintain a physical presence when I’m out there, and remind guys on the bench on our team that you can’t let up on a hit, just to finish guys and then try to incorporate that into my game in a big way.”

Quinn noted the significance of Olsson’s return to the lineup as pivotal to the Terriers’ physicality.

“He gives us a swagger,” Quinn said. “He’s got a physical presence out there. He’s a horse. He’s looking to hurt people and hit them, and he’s got skill. Once he gets out there right from the get go and makes a big hit in his first shift and everyone kind of follows his cue.”

Minuses

Cobwebs
As previously mentioned, it was the Terriers’ first game action in 15 days, and their first regular-season matchup in three weeks. Quinn mentioned before the game that he had some concerns about the team having a bit of dust, and said that he thought BU’s effort early was a bit shaky.

He did note, however, that BU was able to settle in, save for some rough play in the second frame.

“I thought in the second period, we completely got away from supporting the puck,” Quinn said. “I thought we cheated too much, our forwards were leaving our defenseman on an island, and it showed.”

Defensive miscues
The Terriers allowed three goals in a game for the first time since Nov. 25 — just one of three times this regular season they have given up three or more scores to an opponent.

Midway through the first period, with the game tied 1-1, freshman defenseman Brandon Fortunato trailed Union forward Daniel Ciampini on a breakaway attempt. He wrapped his stick around, but was unable to stop the attempt from reaching the back of the net.

BU also left a number of wide-open chances for the Dutchmen when junior goaltender Matt O’Connor couldn’t control a few rebounds, which at one point early in the game led to a goal for forward Spencer Foo.

Pluses and Minuses: No. 1 BU shut out for first time all year

Junior forward Ahti Oksanen recorded five shots Sunday against Dartmouth. PHOTO BY MICHELLE JAY/DFP FILE PHOTO
Junior forward Ahti Oksanen recorded five shots Sunday against Dartmouth. PHOTO BY MICHELLE JAY/DFP FILE PHOTO

HANOVER, New Hampshire — The No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team recorded its second loss in three games, as Dartmouth College handed BU a 2-0 loss on Sunday at Thompson Arena. It was the first time the Terriers have been shut out this year.

There were whole lot of negatives to take out of Sunday’s game, but there were a couple of positives as well:

Minuses

Offense (or lack thereof?)
BU had a total of just 10 shots through the first period — easily a season-low, compared to the team’s previous season low of 14 through two periods, against No. 12 Boston College on Nov. 7.

The only two BU players to place more than two shots on goal were freshman forward Jack Eichel (three SOG) and junior forward Ahti Oksanen (five SOG).

The Terriers outshot the Big Green 13-7 in the third period, but recorded no goals for the first time all season.

Missed chances
BU coach David Quinn noted the team’s repeated chances in the opening and closing frames, but the Terriers couldn’t convert on the few chances they received.

“That first line had some unbelievable chances in the first period,” Quinn said about the first line of Oksanen, Eichel and junior Danny O’Regan. “So they [Dartmouth] shut them down on the scoreboard, but if you watch that tape, first period, they could’ve had three goals. It wasn’t that they didn’t get chances. We just didn’t bury them.”

Youth
BU just completed a stretch of five games in 10 days — a tough task for any team, but particularly a team with 10 freshmen. The Terriers are considerably younger than Dartmouth, a team starting just two freshmen on Sunday. BU also just came off a game against No. 9 Colgate University, a team that started only three freshmen against BU.

Quinn brought up the youth of his squad and how it could have been detrimental in the matchup.

“We’re a young team,” Quinn said. “When we’re playing six 18-year-olds and a 17-year-old against a team with that type of skill and maturity, it’s gonna be a battle.”

Pluses

Third period…sort of.

The Terriers’ third-period showing wasn’t exactly comparable to their previous comebacks, including Saturday’s four-goal effort in the third. But Quinn still indicated he was impressed by the team’s effort.

“I was really proud of our third period,” Quinn said. “I thought we had some great chances early, the penalty kill was good. We missed a wide open net in the third period, could have made it 2-1, might’ve changed the whole complexion of the period. But we battled all the way to the end.”

LaCouvee in net
Freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee got his third start of the season. He recorded 34 saves against the Big Green — the most this season for him — and was arguably the best player on the ice for the Terriers.

“I thought he played very well,” Quinn said about his freshman goalie. “I thought he was sharp, just a couple of blown coverages, puck watching. But he was very good, very good.”

Pluses and Minuses: Eichel held pointless in OT loss to Harvard

This time, in overtime, the No. 1 Boston University men’s hockey team couldn’t get it done.

Against the University of Maine on Friday, freshman forward Jack Eichel scored an overtime goal to give the Terriers a 3-2 victory. But against No. 18 Harvard University on Tuesday, BU couldn’t do it again in overtime, dropping a 3-2 contest to the Crimson by allowing a goal to captain Kyle Criscuolo.

BU freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey had seven shots against Harvard on Tuesday. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
BU freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey had seven shots against Harvard on Tuesday. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

As per usual, there’s plenty to nitpick from this game. Here’s some of the good, bad and ugly that we noticed:

Minuses

Eichelmania deflated
Time to panic, everyone — for the first time this season, Eichel didn’t end up on the score sheet. Season’s over, guys. Pack it in. Eichel’s scoreless-ness on Tuesday snapped a 10-game streak of at least one point in each game. In that stretch, Eichel tallied a total of 19 points, including 12 assists.

Harvard’s crew said it knew coming in that Eichel would pose a threat, but the team’s head coach said he was pleased with how the Crimson matched up against him.

“I had a rosary bead in my coat pocket,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “It certainly didn’t feel like he didn’t have points tonight. He’s dynamic. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jack since he was probably 12 years old. His skill level, his ability to control the tempo of the game — he’s a tough matchup, but I think our guys tried to be aggressive, tried to angle him when we could.”

Fatigue
The Terriers are in the midst of a five-game, 10-day stretch. Playing a Tuesday game after wins on Friday and Saturday is certainly a daunting task, and BU head coach David Quinn noted his team looked sluggish at times, and was unable to adapt as a result.

“They caught us a little bit tired there in overtime,” Quinn said. “I thought we had control and a chance to change. They were able to change. We couldn’t get the puck deep and get off. We’re still learning how to change, they get a breakaway early in overtime because we make a right change and our guy stumbles getting on the ice and they get a breakaway.”

Missed opportunities
BU outshot the Crimson in every period, including three shots on goal to Harvard’s two in overtime. The Terriers, in total, had a 42-24 shots-on-goal advantage.

Harvard’s defense kept BU’s offensive attempts in check, blocking 33 of the Terriers’ 87 total shots attempted. BU also sent 12 shots wide. Additionally, Crimson goaltender Steve Michalek recorded 40 saves in the matchup.

“I thought there were good chances, but a lot of loose pucks lying around at the net front,” Quinn said. “We just couldn’t get a stick on it. One of the things that we talked about, we were at the net front, but I didn’t think that we were physical enough around the net.

“A lot of times, you get at that net front and there’s a 50/50 puck and you start fishing for it instead of leaning into somebody and throw them off-balance — it gives you better chance to possess it. Obviously, you would like better chances than we did tonight, but I thought we had some good ones. That’s a good team.”

Pluses

Quality start, well-rounded effort
Quinn noted that the Terriers had their best start to a game in quite some time on Tuesday. BU has been noticeably sluggish out of the gates in many of its games this season — in its last game, against the University of Connecticut on Saturday, it took BU five minutes to record a shot on net.

Not on Tuesday. The Terriers jumped out to an early shot advantage, ending the first period with a 13-5 advantage. Quinn said he was pleased with his team’s effort not just in the first period, but also through the entire game, in which BU saw a number of shots.

“I thought that was the best game we played from start to finish in a while,” Quinn said. “I really did. Our guys were disappointed, but I really liked our effort, our focus, I thought we did a lot of good things. I thought our transition was good, I thought we defended well tonight.”

Hickey shines
Freshman defenseman Brandon Hickey has quietly become an effective player for the BU squad, and showed some of his skill against the Crimson on Tuesday. In the game, Hickey had seven shots on net and assisted on junior forward Ahti Oksanen’s game-tying goal at 6:43 in the second period.

“I thought he played very well tonight,” Quinn said about the Calgary Flames prospect. “I thought he defended well, he moves the puck quickly, he skates so well, and he’s got a cannon for a shot, he was active offensively. He’s really coming on, he’s a very good player now and he’s got a great future for us.”