Weekend Roundup: Lowell series, end of semester thoughts

The Boston University men’s hockey team finished 2017 with two matchups against the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This was the first time the two teams had faced each other unranked since Dec. 7, 2007.

Jordan Greenway recorded three goals and one assist on Saturday. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Jordan Greenway recorded three goals and one assist on Saturday. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Friday night at Tsongas Center, the Terriers had a 2-1 lead going into the final period of the game after freshman forward Brady Tkachuk and graduate transfer forward Drew Melanson struck less than a minute into the first and second period respectively.

However, BU couldn’t maintain the lead as the River Hawks found the back of the net twice in the third and the Terriers couldn’t get the puck past Lowell junior goaltender Christoffer Hernberg.

Saturday ensued much differently. BU notched three goals in each period for a 9-3 win to end the semester. Junior forward Jordan Greenway tallied a hat-trick, which included a short-handed goal.

Sophomore forward Patrick Harper scored twice on the power play, freshman defenseman Cam Crotty got his first collegiate goal and sophomore defenseman Chad Krys notched a goal the following shift after being hit hard in the leg by a shot from River Hawks senior defenseman Chris Forney.

Chad Krys was helped off the ice, but returned back to the BU bench quickly. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Chad Krys was helped off the ice, but returned back to the BU bench quickly. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

While the Terriers will go into the winter break on a high note and the team appears optimistic about the next half of their season, the Lowell series continued to highlight an ever so familiar sequence of events.

Over BU’s past three Hockey East series, the squad has been limited to two goals or less on one night then puts up seven or more goals the next. This was seen specifically in the Terriers’ splits with the University of Maine, then-No. 15 Boston College and this past weekend.

BU is currently tied for No. 3 in the conference with No. 9 Providence College and in the upcoming half of the season, it will face many opponents again and play Hockey East series against Merrimack College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Vermont.

This latter portion of the season will certainly provide a challenge to the Terriers who have proven they can play against a top team like BC, but they have yet to see a full sweep and take home four points.

BU’s next game will be an exhibition game against the United States National Team Development Program on Jan. 5 where many of the Terriers will see their former teammates. Following that game will be another matchup against Maine at Agganis Arena.

Another note before the articles and media below: I (Nikki) will be assuming the role of the sports editor of The Daily Free Press during the spring semester so Liam O’Brien and Matt Martin will be the main writers for men’s hockey and the Boston Hockey Blog. I may come back to cover a couple games, but I’d like to thank everyone for a great semester, hanging in with us through the technical difficulties and keeping along with the blog.

What are you thoughts on the Lowell series and the first half of the 2017-18 season?

Read our articles from the weekend below:

Friday’s Articles

Recap – “Men’s hockey unable to sustain lead in 3-2 loss to UMass Lowell

Sider on Melanson – “Drew Melanson finds success on men’s hockey top line

Saturday’s Articles

Recap – “Men’s hockey trumps UMass-Lowell, 9-3, behind hat trick from Jordan Greenway

Sider on players that benefitted BU’s lineup – “Addition of Fabbro, Chabot and Curry help men’s hockey beat UMass Lowell 9-3

Here are some Twitter posts, highlights and post-game press conferences from the weekend:

Weekend Roundup: Maine Series

The No. 18 Boston University men’s hockey team picked up another two points this weekend in its road series against the University of Maine. The Terriers are currently tied for fourth place in Hockey East alongside No. 10 Providence College.

Sophomore forward Patrick Harper picks up three assists this weekend. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Sophomore forward Patrick Harper picks up three assists this weekend. PHOTO BY MADDIE MALHOTRA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

On Friday night at the Alfond Arena, redshirt sophomore goaltender Max Prawdzik made his second collegiate start in net. Despite putting up 42 shots, with 18 in the final period, BU was only able to get two past Maine’s sophomore goaltender Jeremy Swayman for a final score of 5-2 in favor of the Black Bears. 

The following evening at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, the Terriers were able to convert their opportunities for a season-high seven goals. Sophomore goaltender Jake Oettinger made 30 saves to shutdown any goals for Maine and recorded his sixth career shutout. 

For freshman Terriers – Kasper Kotkansalo, Logan Cockerill, Hank Crone and Brady Tkachuk – also scored their first goals as Terriers. Kotkansalo finished the series with one goal and one assist, Cockerill had two goals and two assists and Crone picked up an assist in addition to his goal.

Freshman forward Shane Bowers registered two goals and one assist over the series. Freshman forward Jake Witkowski and freshman defenseman Cam Crotty each tallied their first collegiate points. 

BU will play in the 6th biannual Red Hot Hockey game at Madison Square Garden this upcoming Saturday. Be sure to follow along on the live blog and Twitter as Boston Hockey Blog travels to New York City.

Read our articles from the weekend below:

Friday night’s recap – “Men’s hockey falls in first game of series to Maine at Alfond Arena

Saturday night’s recap – “Men’s hockey capitalizes on its opportunities for 7-0 win against Maine” 

Here are some Twitter posts and the post-game press conference on Saturday with Nikki on the side:

Live Blog: BU at Maine (Game 2)

The No. 18 Boston University men’s hockey team will take on the University of Maine tonight at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Last night the Terriers fell to the Black Bears 5-2 in Orono after Maine’s freshman goaltender stopped 42 of BU’s shots. Follow along on tonight’s live blog here:

Live Blog BU at Maine (Game 2)

Pluses and Minuses: Fourth, second lines shine, penalty kill continues to struggle against Maine

ORONO, Maine — The No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team got back in the win column with a 5-2 victory over the University of Maine on Friday evening at Alfond Arena.

Two goals and two assists from senior forward Ahti Oksanen and three assists from freshman forward Jordan Greenway stole the show for BU, but there were quite a few more things we took away from the game. Behold, another edition of pluses and minuses:

Pluses

Fourth line

It was mostly cool tonight to see the team’s fourth line — comprised tonight of sophomore Chase Phelps, senior Mike Moran and junior Tommy Kelley — really get in the action tonight. Moran finally notched his first goal of the season at the 12:16 mark of the second period. They were one of the most active lines early, especially.

“I thought they played very well,” said BU head coach David Quinn. “They were physical, they possessed the puck, they kept simple, they got some scoring chances, there was a lot of good things with that line tonight.”

With an injury to sophomore forward Nikolas Olsson, that gave a chance to Kelley to work his way into the lineup, and we’re consistently wowed with his effort. We’ve compared him to former Terrier forward Cason Hohmann before, and we saw that again tonight, in terms of just putting his head down and using his speed to keep up with the play and keep Maine fooled.

“Just play hard, play fast,” Kelley said about how he’s trying to make his way into this lineup. “Take the body, move the puck quick, get it to the net, take pucks to the net. Just stand out in any way I can.”

Second line, too
Everyone had a lot of nice things to say about the second line tonight, too, with Oksanen, senior assistant captain Matt Lane and Greenway taking charge offensively. Judy has more about that in her sidebar tonight.

Settling down

Maine might have hands down the best fans I’ve seen all season. I missed the trip to Orono last season, so this was my first time witnessing the Maine student section in all its glory. And full props to them, they’re certainly something between their chants and antics. It could have been an intimidating environment, but BU quieted things early with a goal from senior captain Matt Grzelcyk 14:19 into the first period.

“I guess you kind of expect that, coming into a building like this, with the students they have, pretty loud, pretty crazy,” Kelley said. “So I think we fended that off pretty well, and then turned it up pretty quick, which is good. Grizzy got that goal, which was huge. So I think that really helped.”

Red Gendron

Maine head coach Red Gendron might be one of our favorite coaches in Hockey East, because he loves to tell it how it is in his postgame press conferences. And basically, this was such a great quote we felt the need to highlight it specifically. In response to whether he was concerned about the quick turnaround of the home-and-home, he said:

“No, because the other team has the same situation as us. If we had to travel and they could be warped to Boston, like Star Trek stuff, then I’d be concerned, but it seems to me we’re both going to be riding down I-95.”

(I grew up in a bit of a “Star Trek”-obsessed household, so I’m a bit sentimental here more than anything.)

Minuses

Penalty kill
Both of Maine’s goals tonight were power-play goals. BU entered the game ranked just 33rd in penalty-kill percentage (.818), and Friday’s showing wasn’t much more encouraging in that regard.

“Obviously we’ve got to tighten things up on the penalty kill,” Quinn said. “We can’t be giving up two power-play goals, unfortunate from that perspective.”

Defense: Still a giant question mark
Sophomore defenseman John MacLeod, by our unofficial tally, missed a good portion of the second period and all of the third period because he was benched by Quinn.

When I asked him about that reasoning, he responded, “I just liked the way the other five guys were going. And just…” then he was cut off by an unrelated question from another reporter.

The benching happened after MacLeod let up way too easy of a chance for Maine while on the penalty kill, and didn’t stick with the play, giving forward Cam Brown all the room in the world to score.

As a side note before we get going: I haven’t really given senior goaltender Sean Maguire his due in this post. He certainly bailed out his team yet again with his 32 saves.

We’ve talked about this a bit previously, but it looks like that sixth defenseman spot is really just being switched off between MacLeod and sophomore Brien Diffley, while freshman defenseman Shane Switzer — who, again, is a sufficient option on the blue line, as we’ve defended many times on this blog — is stuck in no man’s land. I wouldn’t even go as far to say the other five regulars have been stellar, either, as there were some ugly, ugly turnovers throughout the game Friday.

But it seems pretty much based on the pattern to this point that those five core guys will play, unless there’s injury, and MacLeod or Diffley will be the sixth guy. I also asked Quinn about the sixth spot being switched off between subpar play from MacLeod and Diffley, and whether he thinks that’s a tangible solution going forward.

“I don’t think about that,” he said. “I don’t know, whoever plays well is going to play.”

I can possibly understand the reasoning behind not playing Switzer, to the extent that MacLeod and Diffley are older and have played more at BU. As in, I understand that that’s a possible thought. It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s defensible reasoning. Of course, I don’t see practice on a daily basis, and I don’t know what Quinn’s standards are for “playing well.” But there’s absolutely nothing we’ve seen from his limited game play that indicates Switzer is a worse option.

At this point, there’s no way Switzer isn’t a better option than benching a guy midway through a game and overexerting five defensemen that have already taken a bit of a step back this season. It’s mostly just frustrating, overall, to see what was supposed to be this team’s absolute biggest strength this year turn into such a gigantic question mark — and to see the same patterns continue, game after game, with limited change.

Odds and Ends: Day after BU defeats Maine

The No. 3 Boston University men’s hockey team recovered from a slow to start to defeat the University of Maine, 3-1, on the road Friday night.

BU’s (6-1-1, 4-1-1 Hockey East) first line contributed all three goals and tallied five combined points. Freshman forward Jack Eichel extended his point streak to eight games when he assisted on junior forward Danny O’Regan’s shorthanded goal at the end of the second period.

In case you missed it, here are a few links from  our coverage of the game :

— Here’s the game recap from Friday’s win over the Black Bears

— Conor took a deeper look into what went right and wrong for the Terriers in Pluses and Minuses.

— Coach David Quinn’s postgame remarks.

Other Notes From Around College Hockey

— No. 8 Boston College held off Michigan State University, 3-2.

— No. 10 Vermont was shut out by goaltender Jon Gillies and No. 16 Providence College.

— Northeastern University fell to 0-8-1 with a loss to the University of New Hampshire.

— No. 1 University of Minnesota lost to rival University of Minnesota-Duluth Friday night.

Pluses and Minuses: No. 3 BU rallies from early deficit to defeat Maine

Freshman forward Jack Eichel registered two points Friday night against Maine. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward Jack Eichel registered two points Friday night against Maine. PHOTO BY MAYA DEVEREAUX/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

ORONO, Maine — Almost exactly a year ago to the day, the Boston University men’s hockey team was manhandled by the University of Maine in Alfond Arena, dropping a 7-0 decision to the Black Bears on Nov. 15, 2013.

No. 3 BU (6-1-1, 4-1-1 Hockey East) avenged its previous drubbing Friday night, as the Terriers bested the Black Bears (3-7-1, 2-3 Hockey East) by a score of 3-1 in front of a packed rink in Orono, Maine.

After entering the first intermission facing a 1-0 deficit, the Terriers would net three goals over the game’s final 40 minutes to improve their record to 4-0 when playing away from the friendly confines of Agganis Arena.

Here’s a closer look at what went right and wrong for the Terriers Friday night up in “The Pine Tree State:”

Pluses

Terriers succeed shorthanded

Special teams play was a key component to the Terriers’ success Friday night, with the team’s penalty kill unit in particular making its presence felt against the Black Bears.

The Terriers, who entered the match ranked 27th nationally in penalty-kill percentage (.853), thwarted all three of Maine’s chances on the man advantage due to a combination of strong play from goaltender Matt O’Connor and a stout net-front presence.

“I thought they kind of exploited us down on the goal line on their power play,” Quinn said. “I thought they did a good job taking the puck to the net, that guy to the left of our goalie in particular. But I thought we recovered well, and I thought we did a much better job defending the net front.”

The Terriers penalty kill also paid dividends on the box score, as BU manufactured a shorthanded tally in the final minute of the second period.

Freshman forward Jack Eichel recovered the puck in BU’s zone and sailed by three Maine skaters before sending the biscuit across the crease of the Black Bears’ net to junior forward Danny O’Regan, who beat goalie Sean Romeo to give BU a 2-1 lead at 19:46.

The return of the OREO line

After crumbling last weekend due to an injury to junior forward Ahti Oksanen, BU’s “OREO” line returned once again and — in what has been a recurring trend this season — dominated the competition.

Oksanen, O’Regan and Eichel scored all three of BU’s goals on the night, with Oksanen getting the Terriers on the board at 8:48 in the second with a power-play tally.

“It was huge, it was huge because our power play hasn’t been great,” Quinn said of Oksanen’s goal. “We haven’t had a lot of them, but our power play hasn’t been great. And I thought that we really did a much better job getting pucks to the net.

“We had six shots on the four power plays. Going into the year, we had 24 shots on all of our power plays combined. So we had 18 power plays coming into the game and 24 shots, that’s just not going to cut it. At least we did a much better job getting pucks to the net and being ready to shoot on the power play.”

Minuses

Weathering the storm

Quinn acknowledged after the game that skating at Alfond Arena as an opposing player can be intimidating enough for any individual.

Adding in the fact that the boisterous Maine crowd was further buoyed by a pregame ceremony honoring the Black Bears’ 1999 NCAA Championship team, the Terriers were forced to hold their own against an energized Maine squad over the opening minutes of Friday’s game.

“Anytime you come up here you really need to weather the storm because sometimes I feel like we’re the New York Yankees — people love to hate us,” Quinn said. “And certainly they hate us up here, I know that because of the long rivalry and the history we’ve had with them.”

The Terriers were pushed back on their heels for most of the first five minutes of game thanks to an effective Maine forecheck, giving the Black Bears a chance to draw first blood in the game.

At just 1:13 in the first period, Maine winger Connor Leen glided into the BU defensive zone, firing a wrist shot towards O’Connor near the right circle. While the BU netminder turned the initial attempt aside, Leen potted in the resulting rebound into the BU net to dig the Terriers an early hole.

Time for a change?

While Maine did not add to its scoring column in the second period, there were chances aplenty.

Multiple times throughout the 20 minutes of play, the Black Bears were given potential gift-wrapped goals as a result of poor BU line changes. Thankfully for the Terriers, key saves from O’Connor allowed the Terriers to claw back into Friday’s contest.

“What killed us in the second period in particular early was our changes,” Quinn said. “We had two horrific changes. And they get a breakaway and they get a 3-on-1. And we have four freshmen defensemen. … changing is a skill. And they don’t realize that yet. You got to learn to lay tired. And that’s something we need to address because it’s cost us in particular in the second period. We gave up a goal to BC because of a bad change and that’s got to stop.”