Friday, February 23, 2018

One Last Weekend

First published on WTBU Sports

The regular season comes to a close this weekend at Agganis Arena with Boston University looking to lock down home ice in the Hockey East Quarterfinals in a two-game set against the Vermont Catamounts.
From the Vault
Former Terrier Nick Roberto scores against the Catamounts in
the third period of a 4-0 win on December 10th 2016. BU
took just three shots in the third period that night and all
three found the back of the next.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
The Terriers bounced back nicely last Saturday night in North Andover with a 3-1 win against Merrimack after a devastating 5-4 overtime loss to Connecticut the night before. The story of the UConn game was BU’s penalty kill, as the Huskies scored twice on the man-advantage in the third period to overcome Terrier leads of 3-1 and 4-2.

Saturday at Merrimack was a different story. BU blanked the Warriors on the power play and that included a five minute major to Brandon Hickey.

“The thing I liked about the Merrimack kills was the time of it and the way we killed it,” BU Head Coach David Quinn said. “Not only were we successful killing it, I thought we gained momentum from it and I think we might have demoralized them a bit.”

Quinn said he expects Jordan Greenway to be back in the lineup Friday night but said Patrick Harper is still out for this weekend.

Scouting the Catamounts 
Much like BU, Vermont went on a serious hot streak through late January and into February, going 5-0-2 from January 20th to February 16th. In that time span, the Catamounts dug themselves out of the bottom of the league standings and are now in a position to host a first-round series in the Hockey East playoffs. Vermont currently sits in 8th place.

Last weekend, UVM was quickly cooled off at the hands of Northeastern. The Huskies swept the weekend series in Burlington, winning 4-3 in overtime Friday night before rolling to a 4-1 victory the following night.

“They are obviously playing their best hockey of the year,” Quinn said. “They were on that seven-game unbeaten streak before Northeastern and we’ve seen that movie before. This team is fighting for home ice. This team is fighting for playoff seeing just like we are. They have given everyone tough games.”

Sophomore Ross Colton has carried the torch offensively for Vermont. In 31 games, the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect has notched 15 goals and added six assists for 21 points. Freshman Alex Esposito is not far behind in the points race, amassing 19 by way of nine goals and 10 assists. Other players to watch include Matt O’Donnell and two former BU commits in Liam Coughlin and Jarrid Privitera.

In the crease, Stefanos Lekkas has had a strong sophomore campaign. In 30 appearances, he has registered a 2.88 goals against average a .912 save percentage.

BU Hockey East Seeding Scenarios
UConn’s loss to Massachusetts on Thursday night clinched the Terriers a first-round bye in the Hockey East tournament. BU can either be the fourth seed or the fifth seed and depending on this weekend’s results could host UConn, Maine or UMass-Lowell or travel to Maine for the quarterfinal round.

How BU gets the four seed:
– BU gets at least three points vs Vermont
– A BU win or two ties, coupled with one Maine loss to Boston College
– BC sweeps Maine, or Maine only gets one point

How BU gets the five seed:
– Maine earns two more points vs. BC than BU does vs. Vermont (for example, Maine sweeps BC and BU gets two points or less, or Maine gets three points while BU gets one), as Maine owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with a 2-1 record during the regular season.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Farrance Feeling More Comfortable at Forward

With several players missing time for various reasons this semester, Head Coach David Quinn has made numerous changes, tweaks and switches to his lineup card. The most obvious is plugging freshman defenseman David Farrance in at forward on the third line. 

David Farrance hounds the puck against Merrimack's Ryan Cook
last Saturday at Lawler Rink in North Andover.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Since Patrick Harper has been out sick for the majority of the semester and Jordan Greenway's temporary departure for the Olympics, the move has been a regular occurrence since BU’s 4-3 win at Merrimack on January 19th. Since that day, Farrance has started in five games, four of which have been at left wing. 

“It's been an adjustment,” mentioned Farrance. “It's still hockey. It's still the same game, you just have the puck on your stick a little bit less and you gotta forecheck and maybe hit a little bit more than on defense. It's been a bit of an adjustment, but its still hockey.”  

“We’re deep on the back end,” added Quinn. With the situation we are in with Greenway and Harper, I just want to dress our 18 best players and he’s one of them. He’s a  hockey player and he’s one of the guys who can go up front and do well. He’s creating offense, working hard and being physical."

Friday night, everything came full circle for Farrance back at Merrimack. He led a rush up ice along the far side wall and used his body to shield the puck like a veteran forward. From just below the dot, Farrance threaded a pass between two defenders and found the tape of Gabe Chabot at the edge of the crease for a redirection goal.

“It was a heck of a play he made and to me, that’s why he’s up front,”  added Quinn. 

In total, Farrance has two points, both assists in his four games up front, but they have come in his last two games. 

Farrance said the last time he played forward
was his freshman year of high school at
Victor High just outside of Rochester, NY.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
“I don’t mind it, I guess I prefer defense a little bit more,” said Farrance. “That’s what I’m more comfortable with and I feel more effective at defense, but I certainly don’t mind playing forward.”  

Last summer, he was drafted 92nd overall by Nashville in the NHL entry draft as a defenseman. As for the Predators, Farrance mentioned they were not too concerned with the move. 

“They don’t have too big of a problem with it. They think that it will help develop offensive skills and seeing the ice at a different viewpoint. I think they know I’ll be back on defense eventually,” said Farrance. 

While the move doesn’t seem to be permanent, Farrance would prefer to move back to the blue line. For now though, he seems to be staying in place at least until Greenway returns from the Olympics.  

As Quinn mentioned, there is an abundance of talent on the blue line. Skating Farrance as a forward has opened the door for Brian Diffley, who only dressed in 12 games last season. Already, Diffley has passed that number this year, appearing in 14. He has also notched two goals in his last five games, including a two on one strike at UConn last Friday. 

“Diff’s problem is that he doesn’t think he’s as good as I think he is,” said Quinn. “He fights self-confidence. When he plays with confidence, he’s a very good player at this level. He’s playing with more confidence and his decision making is better. He’s playing with conviction and when he does that, he’s a really good player.” 

For Quinn, shifting defenseman to forward is not a new idea. In 2015, Ahti Oksanen made the switch with resounding success. The former Finnish defenseman was slotted in on the top line with Danny O’Regan and Jack Eichel. Oksanan finished the year with 25 goals, just one behind the Hobey Baker winning Eichel. Just last season, stay at home defenseman Doyle Somerby even got a look on left wing. 

Prior to Quinn taking over the head coaching position, Jack Parker slid the ever-offensive David Warsofsky in at forward for a handful of games. In addition, switches have gone the other way. Current Olympian Matt Gilroy walked on to BU as a forward in 2006. In 2009, he won the Hobey as a defenseman. 

There is certainly a long line of success stories and Farrance seems to be on the right path. Whether he stays up front or not, he has certainly been serviceable as a forward thus far.  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Women's Hockey Photo Album

Today was senior day at Walter Brown Arena for the BU women's hockey team. BU topped UNH 2-0 on the afternoon behind goals from Kristina Schuler and Victoria Bach. Senior netminder Erin O'Neil turned aside all 33 shots she faced for her first win of the season.

Here's a look at this afternoon's photos:

Women's Hockey vs New Hampshire (2/18/18)
Photos by Matt Dresens

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Back On Track

After a divesting 5-4 overtime loss at UConn last night, BU used three goals from three different skaters to get back on the win train at Merrimack in front of 2,549 at Lawer Rink in North Andover.

Men's Hockey at Merrimack (2/17/18)
Photos by Matt Dresens

Following an eventless first period that saw just 14 total shots, Dante Fabbro pumped home his fourth goal of the year at Lawler Rink to give the Terriers a 1-0 lead with 5:38 left in the second.

Less than three minutes later, Gabe Chabot potted his first of the season off a spectacular centering feed from David Farrance out of the near corner.

MC’s Simon Loof cut the BU lead in half just 2:22 into the third. It was his first collegiate goal.

Logan Cockerill continued his hot streak, netting the putaway goal midway through the third. Drew Melanson won a footrace into the far corner to negate an icing then found Brandon Hickey in the high slot. From there, Hickey dished to Cockerill, who fired a shot high over MC goalie Craig Pentane’s blocker for his sixth goal of the season.

Back in the first, BU showed a lot of poise killing off a Brandon Hickey five minute major for boarding. BU actually outshot MC 2-1 in the five-minute stretch.

BU is back in action to warp up the regular season with a pair of games against Vermont at Agganis.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Familiar Foes

*Originally posted on WTBU Sports*

With just four games left in the regular season, this weekend BU will be on the road for a pair of games against Hockey East schools. First up, a trip back down to Hartford to face the University of Connecticut Huskies, before a Saturday night tilt at Merrimack College.
BU's Drew Melanson cuts across the blue line against UConn
in their October 21st meeting at the XL Center.
(Photo by Matt Dresens) 
BU has fared well against both opponents thus far. Back in November, the Terriers took three of four points in a weekend series with UConn. Patrick Curry and Bobo Carpenter combined for seven goals in two games, as the two team teams tied in game one and BU rolled to a 6-3 win the following night.

As for Merrimack, BU swept the Warriors in a home and home series back in January. Dante Fabbro notched a hat trick at Lawler Rink the first night, propelling the Terriers to a 4-3 victory. The next night, BU won 3-1 on home ice.

“There’s a familiarity,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “In preparation, you are almost reiterating the things you did in first two games that allowed us to have success.”

Despite the loss Monday night in the Beanpot final, a disappointing tie against UMass last Friday, and the temporary departure of Jordan Greenway, the team is still in good spirits.

“[The] guys feel optimistic,” said Quinn. “There’s a lot of good to take out of those two games. I think there was some uncertainty on how we were going to be without Greenway and [Patrick] Harper and I think we have proven we can play well without them. Now we just have to win without them.”  

Speaking of Harper, he is still out with an illness that has sidelined him since before the UNH game on January 12th. Quinn again said there will more information to come next week on his status.

Scouting the Huskies
This semester has been a tale of two streaks for UConn. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak entering the weekend. Prior to the hot spell, UConn had lost five consecutive games dating back to December 30th. Overall, the Huskies are 14-16-2 and 10-11-1 in Hockey East on the year.

Last weekend they managed to do what BU could not against Northeastern: slow down the NU power play. UConn shutout their fellow Husky foe on the man advantage, forcing NU to go 0-4. UConn won the game 4-2 at home.

Offensively, UConn is lead by former BU commit Max Letunov. The Moscow, Russia native has posted 24 points on 10 goals and 14 assists in 32 games. Despite missing almost all of November and only appearing in 23 games, Alexander Payusov leads the team in goals scored with 11. He has also added seven assists to put him at 19 points on the year, good for third on the roster. Sandwiched between Letunov and Payusov in the scoring race is Spencer Nass. Nass has 19 points by way of nine goals and 10 assists. Other players to watch include Benjamin Freeman, Karl El-Mir, and Kasperi Ojantakanen.

Since January 18th when Adam Huska went down with a wrist injury, senior Tanner Creel has stepped into the cage and performed admirably. Creel is 6-2-0 in 11 appearances and is the owner of a .896 save percentage to go along with a 3.14 goals against average.

Scouting the Warriors
Moving on to Merrimack. BU’s 4-3 win at Lawler rink was their first win in North Andover since January of 2013, a 4-1 decision that saw four different Terriers find the back of the net.

Merrimack comes into the weekend winner of just two of their last nine games dating back to January 6th. That includes being swept at the hands of both BU and Vermont in back-to-back weekends. The Warriors last played on Tuesday, February 6th, losing 5-2 at UMass. MC currently sits three points behind New Hampshire for last place in Hockey East.

Leading the charge in the scoring department is Brett Seney. The senior from London, Ontario potted a pair of goals against the Terriers in their first meeting of the year. In total, Seney has 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points. Ludvig Larsson has also recorded 11 goals thus far and added eight assists for 19 points. Other players to watch: Jace Hennig, Jared Kolquist and Derek Petti.

In goal, Craig Pantano has seen the majority of the action, going 7-10-2 in 20 appearances. In that time, Pantano has racked up a .914 save percentage and a 2.41 goals against average.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Gaudette's Hat-trick Powers NU to First Beanpot Title Since 1988

Propelled by three power-play goals, including two from tournament MVP Adam Gaudette, who notched a hat-trick on the evening, Northeastern claimed the Beanpot title for the first time in 30 years with a 5-2 win over BU at TD Garden Monday night.
Northeastern spills over their bench to celebrate after the final
buzzer. FULL ALBUM
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Gaudette, a Braintree, Mass native scored two monumental goals at critical times for the Huskies. First, with the game tied 1-1 late in the opening period, he ripped home his 22nd goal of the year from the left-wing circle. Dylan Sikura set the play up with a shot from the far side that caromed off of BU goalie Jake Oettinger right to Gaudette's stick. From there, Gaudette made no mistake.

That put the Huskies up 2-1 after one. The most devastating goal came with just 4.5 seconds remaining in the second stanza. While on the power play, Gaudette finished off a slick passing sequence that started with Jeremy Davies, who worked it down to Sikura in the circle. Sikura wasted little time rifling a pass through the slot, backdoor to Gaudette. He banked it off Oettinger's right skate and in from below the goal line to give NU a commanding 4-1 lead heading to the final stanza.

"The backbreaker was the fourth goal," said BU coach David Quinn. "It’s towards the end of the period. I don't know if we thought the period was going to end and that really sucked the life out of us, really."

"We've had that power play for three years now and it's just clicked," mentioned Gaudette. "We are so confident and so comfortable out there we just know where each other's going to be. We are in the right spots and we are rewarded for that. It was just all five guys out there working as a unit."

Coming into this game, the whole contest was dependent on special teams. BU's penalty kill, that is now 54th in the nation, had to find some way to slow down the potent NU power play. They flat out did not do that. NU went 3 for 3 on the man advantage, while BU went 0 for 2 on their pair of power-play opportunities.

"It’s disappointing from our end," said Quinn. "Two offensive zone penalties, which we just can't have against that team. You can't take penalties like that. You can take a penalty to prevent a goal, that's one thing, but you can't take penalties of that nature and expect to give yourself a great chance."  

BU opened the scoring back in the first period and got on the board first on Logan Cockerill’s fifth goal of the year from Hank Crone and Chad Krys midway through the frame.

NU would score the game’s next four goals. First, Nolan Stevens struck on the power play before Gaudette scored his first of the night to give the Huskies  2-1 lead after one.

The Terriers controlled a lot of the play in the second frame, outshooting NU 14-6, but the Huskies scored the only two goals of the stanza. First, Trevor Owens beat Oettinger high blocker side on a shot that clamored off the crossbar and in. Then, Gaudette scored with 4.5 seconds left in the period.

Shane Bowers scored for BU with less than three minutes to play in the third with Oettinger pulled for the extra attacker. It momentarily cut the deficit to 4-2 before Gaudette potted an empty-netter to register a hat trick and round out the scoring.

For Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan and the rest of the NU hockey community, this win was a long time coming.

"When you haven't won a tournament in 30 years and they keep asking you ‘yo, it's your turn’ and ‘how about the Beanpot?’" mentioned Madigan. "It starts playing on you mentally. These young men just stayed focused on the task at hand and blocked out the noise as much as you can and were just so driven to make sure that this came back to our university."

The NU win ends the longest drought in Beanpot history and now BU has the longest active stretch without a tournament victory. The Terriers last title was in 2015 and since then Boston College, Harvard and now Northeastern have all won the tournament in successive years.

This makes the first time since 1981-1984 that has happened. Also, Harvard beat Boston College 4-3 in overtime of the consolation game. This is the first time since 1974 and 1975 BC has finished last in consecutive Beanpots. BC has still yet to win a non conference game since November of 2016.

Up next for BU, the Terriers with travel to UConn on Friday night, before heading to Merrimack on Saturday.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Beanpot Championship -- Northeastern

By now you know the story. Tomorrow night, BU and Northeastern go head to head in the Beanpot championship game in their third meeting of the season.

Back in November, the Huskies routed BU in a two-game home and home series. First, NU dumped BU 4-1 at Agganis, before torching the Terriers 6-1 at Matthews area the following night.

Patrick Curry celebrates after scoring against NU in
November of 2016.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
“I think we have grown up a lot,” said Quinn on how the two teams have changed since their last meeting. “I think our freshman have played a lot more hockey and we are in a different mindset. I think our goalie is playing his best hockey of the season, our special teams are better. There’s a lot of things we are doing differently and thank God because if we weren’t, we would be in a lot of trouble.”  

All in all, NU is 16-8-5 on the year, but the Huskies are 2-3-2 in their last seven. That does include their 3-0 win against Boston College to advance to the Beanpot final for the first time since 2015 when they lost to BU 4-3 in overtime.

At one point this year, NU was statistically the best team in Hockey East. They allowed the least amount of goals as a team and scored the most. That’s not to say they have fallen apart. The offense that was once working at an absurd four-something goals per game clip is now at 2.95 (in conference). BU is actually the best scoring team offense now at 3.10 goals per game.

NU’s defense has been strong all year and since Cayden Primeau has taken over the net, the Huskies have really solidified their netminding situation. NU is only allowing 2.25 goals per game in Hockey East play.

Both teams failed to get a win in the always dangerous weekend game between the semis and championship game of the Beanpot. BU was up 3-1 on UMass in the third period but saw UMass score twice in the final frame to salvage a tie. NU, on the other hand, fell 4-2 at home against UConn.

A major focus for BU will be staying out of the box. NU has the sixth best power play in the country at a 25% conversion rate. The BU penalty kill ranks 44th nationally, working at 78.99%.

“Obviously they have one of the top power plays in the country,” said Quinn. "We are always trying to stay out of the box.”

Scouting the Huskies:
The potent Husky offense is lead by the top scorer in the nation in Adam Gaudette. In 29 games played, Gaudette has amassed 21 goals and 23 assists for 44 points. His linemate Dylan Sikura isn’t far behind. Sikura, who at one point seemed like a lock to make the Canadian Olympic roster, is still with the Huskies, despite notching 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points. Nolan Stevens rounds out the ever explosive top line for NU, posting 19 goals and 12 assists. Other players to watch include Matt Filipe, Jeremy Davis, and Ryan Shea.

“They are special players,” said Quinn. “They have a little bit of everything on that line. They all do a little bit something different, but they are all special. Sikura has the great vision, Gaudette has the great speed and skill, Stevens has great skill and size. They all have skill, but they all bring a different element to the table. That’s what makes them so special.”

Between the pipes, Cayden Primeau has taken over the Northeastern net, recording excellent numbers thus far. He 12-6-5 on the year and holds a .925 save percentage and a 1.97 goals against average.