In case you missed it, Thursday night was a special one at Agganis Arena.
With seven Terriers off competing in the gold medal game of the World Junior Championships, the No. 5 Boston University men’s hockey team hosted No. 10 Union in a high-stakes clash. The game would have massive implications on the Pairwise Rankings, and it was hard not to wonder if BU truly stood a chance without so many of it’s top players – Clayton Keller, Jordan Greenway, Charlie McAvoy, Dante Fabbro, Jake Oettinger, Patrick Harper and Kieffer Bellows.
However, doubters were proved wrong, as BU stormed back from two different deficits to win, 5-4, in overtime. Now that the dust has settled, we offer several thoughts on the crucial victory.
1.) History – It’s hard to think of a more satisfying regular season win in the last two years that this one for head coach David Quinn’s side. The 2016-17 season has brought about some great ones, including ones on Nov. 22 over now-No. 4 Harvard University and on Oct. 22 over now-No. 15 Quinnipiac University. Stretch back to the 2015-16 campaign, and the only ones that come to mind are an overtime win over Denver and an away stomping of Quinnipiac that snapped its unbeaten run. Sure, the debate can rage on either side here, but every player and coach had an ear-to-ear grin after this one vs. Union. Quinn even went as far as to say it felt like a playoff game, and that speaks volumes to the collective belief in the locker room.
“It feels like a playoff win in a lot of ways. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. They believed, all week in practice you could kind of feel it, it was an excitement to play. I don’t want to say [we] shocked the world, but it was more, not only the coaches but I’m sure the players were being asked, ‘How are you going to play a game with all these guys gone?’ I think they felt a little bit slighted, and it was a great win. A great, great win for us.” – Quinn
2.) JFK – Wow. What a night it was from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, BU’s first-line center and sophomore assistant captain. He figuratively carried the Terriers on his back throughout the contest, doing so many of the little things right. It’s sometimes jaw-dropping how fast he crosses the blueline, using his body to protect the puck and create space for himself to operate. He even won 17 of his 27 draws and logged crucial minutes on the penalty kill. Oh yeah, the Swede netted a hat trick, too, with one tally in the first period, another to tie it up late in the third and then an overtime game-winner. It was a performance for the ages.
His first goal:
His second goal:
His third goal:
3.) LaCouvee – It got lost in the shuffle a bit last night, but Connor LaCouvee had another solid outing in what marked his third start of the 2016-17 season. He of course let up four goals, but that was with a depleted defensive corps in front of him, with two strikes coming on broken plays and two more on power plays for Union. By the night’s end, he stopped 35 of the Dutchmen’s 39 shots, and did his part in largely quieting Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo, the nation’s top two scorers.
The Small Five
a.) Switzer – Shane Switzer, BU’s sophomore defenseman who’s honestly been lost in the thicket of immense talent on the blueline, had himself another positive outing. He scored BU’s opener on the power play, giving him three goals in his last two games. Then he spent the better part of the game in the locker room, with Quinn saying he suffered a concussion. He’ll likely be out for a couple weeks.
Quinn said Shane Switzer got a concussion in tonight’s win. Will be out for a while.
— Nick Frazier (@Nikfraz14) January 6, 2017
b.) Hickey – Another game, another outing in which Brandon Hickey keeps doing so much right for BU. The junior defenseman snagged an assist on JFK’s second goal of the night, but he was everywhere from start to finish. Due to Switzer’s concussion, the Terriers spent most of the game with five blueliners, and Hickey filled the gap and then some.
c.) PK – For long stretches of the 2016-17 season, BU has thrived itself on its penalty kill. Union seemed to finally crack the code so to speak, as it beat LaCouvee on two of its four extra-man opportunities. Quinn said in his post-game press conference that the problem will be remedied, but it goes to show that even one of the nation’s best units isn’t always perfect.
d.) JFK part 2 – When JFK walked in for his post-game interview, he was wearing a walking boot and linemate Bobo Carpenter helped him along at some points. JFK gave us the thumbs up and said he’ll be OK, so I wouldn’t take too much stock into it for the time being. After all, he played the whole game, so it’s likely a precautionary measure.
e.) Role players – Guys like a Gabriel Chabot or a Brien Diffley logged far more ice time than they normally would, as the aforementioned seven missing players normally eat up minutes for BU. In other words, role players stepped up and the Terriers are showing they’re a selfless bunch. These quotes from my 1-on-1 interview last with Doyle Somerby speak volumes to that phenomenon.
“There was some guys that weren’t used to playing in roles that they were about to play in, so you never know how someone is going to step up. We kind of did something like this my freshman year when guys had to sit, and we battled. That’s something you can come together with and use it as a positive.” – Somerby
“I think everyone has accepted their roles at this point. Everyone wants to be scoring goals and do big things, but it shows a lot of maturity and a lot of positives that guys are willing to sacrifice their own benefit for the better success of the team.” – Somerby