Thursday, April 16, 2015

Season in Review

Instead of writing a full season recap with a bunch of games that I wasn't even at, I created this video. It includes highlights from the regular season and every playoff goal, starting with the Hockey East series with Merrimack.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Broken

Providence wins the National Championship 4-3
Photo by Matt Dresens

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Terriers, Friars Play For National Title

So it all comes down to tonight. BU and Providence play in an all Hockey East showdown in the National Championship game. It's the first time since 1999 that Hockey East had two teams in the final and that year, Maine topped UNH in overtime out in Anaheim.
BU-Miami in the 2009 National Championship Game
(Photo by Matt Dresens) 
Providence, after losing two out of three at home in the Hockey East playoffs to New Hampshire, just barely snuck into the NCCA tournament. In fact, they were the last at-large team to make the field. Clearly that means nothing. Just ask Yale in 2013. They were in a very similar position and ran the table in the NCAA tournament and won the National Championship. If Providence wins tonight, it will be the second time in three years that the last team in won the tournament.

In the regionals, the Friars dropped Miami in the tournament's craziest game so far. PC was up 6-2 with around 11 minutes left when Miami pulled their goalie and scored three extra attacker goals, before Providence eventually sealed the deal with an empty netter in the closing minute.

In the regional final vs Denver, PC was aided when they were handed a five minute power play with inside ten minutes to play. DU's Joey LaLeggia came across the middle and blew up play and caught a Friar with his head down. LaLeggia made contact with his head and was shown the gate. Late in the power play and with only 5:00 left in the game, Tom Parisi scored to put PC up 2-1. The Friars would add two empty net goals to round out the scoring.

Two nights ago, PC dropped Nebraska Omaha in decisive fashion 4-1 to advance to their first championship game since 1985.

Scouting the Friars 
Nick Saracino leads the team in scoring with 38 points, 14 goals and 24 assists in 39 games played. Noel Acciari, who scored the first PC goals against Omaha on Thursday and Shane Luke both have 31 points on the year. Acciari leads the team in goals scored at 15 and has also added 16 assists. Luke has 13 goals and 18 assists. Other players to watch are are Mark Jankowski, Ross Mauermann and Trevor Mingoia.

Goaltending is easily Providence's best asset. John Gillies, a South Portland, Maine native has a 23-13-3 record on the year. Gillies is a big reason Providence has the 4th best defense in the nation, allowing just 2.02 goals a game. For personal stats, Gillies boasts a .930 save percentage (7th in the country) and a 1.98 goals against average.

PC is not nearly as fast at Duluth and North Dakota and instead opt to play a much grittier and grinding type of game. This and their stingy defense was on display the last time these two teams met, way back in October. BU won the first game 4-1 going away at Schneider Arena, but the next night, BU got down 2-0 and could not come all the way back as PC's defense bowed their neck and held on to win 2-1 at Agganis.

History
BU and Providence have an extensive history in the Hockey East tournament, but only have met once in the NCAA tournament. That was 1978. BU won 5-3 in the opening round of the tournament at Schneider on their way to the program's 3rd National Championship. Earlier, Providence handed BU one of only two losses that season, a 5-1 drubbing in the ECAC semis. A strange quirk in the NCAA tournament selection allowed BU to even get in. Generally, the four league winners would play in the final four, but since BU had such a strong record compared to the field, six teams made it and BU was the lowest seed having to play at Providence.        

Friday, April 10, 2015

Looking at Last Night, Eichel Wins Hobey

Eichel Takes Home Hobey

This afternoon at Matthews Arena,
Jack Eichel was awarded the 35th
Annual Hobey Backer Memorial 
Trophy. He led the nation in scoring
this season with 70 points (26g, 44a).
Eichel was the first freshman 
nominated in 12 years and only the
second ever to win it. Maine's Paul
Kariya was the other in 1993.

Jack joins Chris Drury ('98) and 
Matt Gilroy ('09) as the only
Terriers to ever win the award.

Matthews Arena is the last rink still 
standing that Hobey Baker played in.

(Photo by Matt Dresens)

A night ago, BU advanced to the National Championship Game with a 5-3 win over the University of North Dakota. By now, everyone should probably know that already, so instead of just recapping the game, I'll try and break it down a bit.

What Caught My Eye
The first period was about as well as BU has played all year and is the main reason they won that game. Instead of coming out timid like they did in the regionals vs Yale, and somewhat against Duluth, BU clicked right away. They had North Dakota back on their heals a bit early and it led to a power play and eventually Jack Eichel's first of two on the night.

The second goal is, undoubtably, one UND goalie Zane McIntyre would like back. It was one of two very questionable goals the Hobey Hat Trick finalist allowed in the game. Granted, Hickey's shot was well placed and through a screen, but it was right on the ice and went right through his legs before it made a tremendous thud as it hit the padding on the inside of the net.

Then there is the Doyle Somerby goal... How that went in, I still don't know. It was a shot from the near-side boards that somehow made its way through four players, under McIntyre's blocker that was down covering the five-hole and into the bottom of the net. It was a one of the those "what the hell, why not" types of shots that if it doesn't make it on net, is generally considered a bad play because it more than likely will end in a turnover. The puck literally missed Oksanen's skate by centimeters and if it had, the puck would have been in the corner. I don't think McIntyre ever saw the puck through the traffic.

Sticking with the theme of poor goaltending... Matt O'Connor had his shaky moments, too. The first UND goal was an extremely high-skilled shot from Luke Johnson that was placed off the bottom of the crossbar and in, just over O'Connor's shoulder. It seemed that after that goal, all North Dakota shot for was high glove. It worked, to a point. Two, maybe three shots cleanly beat the Terrier netminder, but clanged off the crossbar and out.

Then there was the second Sioux goal... This one was a real head scratcher. O'Connor went to play the puck behind his own goal in an attempt to set up a power play rush. From there, he fumbled with the puck and seemed to take his eye off the play. Meanwhile, the puck was in his feet as he tried to get back in his crease, all while he had no idea where the puck was. Troy Stecher was there all alone to tap in the easiest goal you could ask for.

Who Played Well
A.J. Greer... The Montreal native scored on an absolute missile of a onetimer that helped stem the tide back in the BU direction. Before the goal that was masterfully set up by Jack Eichel, BU was getting severely outplayed. Greer got everything, and I mean absolutely everything on this onetime bomb and just blew it past McIntyre.

Casson Hohmann... Hohmann not only set up Brandon Hickey on the power play goal in the first, but was exceptional in the last three minutes, as BU held on. He won a huge battle on the far side boards that eventually freed up the puck for Eichel to ice the game on a 140ft empty net goal.

Ahti Oksanen... He only had one point, an assist on the first BU goal, but also made some critical defensive plays and was strong on the forecheck. It's hard to describe, but he really stood out as having a strong game fundamentally.

Bring on the Friars 
BU will face Hockey East foe Providence College tomorrow night for the right to be crowned National Champions. It's BU first appearance in the title game since '09, and 11th overall. For PC, it's their first trip since 1985 and the second time they have ever reached championship Saturday.

More to come on that game tomorrow morning.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Showdown With The Sioux

Tomorrow night at 8:30*, BU and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux will face off in the late game of the 2015 Frozen Four at Boston Garden. Providence and Nebraska Omaha open the games at 5:30. 

Matt Grzelyck pulls up to make a pass in the last game
BU and North Dakota played against each other back in
November of 2013. That game ended in a 3-3 tie.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)

* There's no way it actually starts at 8:30.

The Terriers are undefeated in the Garden this year with four wins. No other team in the FF have played a game in the building yet this year, although all four schools had practice there today.

In the regionals, North Dakota made quick work of Quinnipiac winning 4-1 in round one and then took out St. Cloud by the same score to advance to Boston. Overall, NoDak is 29-9-3.

Scouting the Sioux
North Dakota is led offensively by Drake Caggulia, who has 18 goals, 18 assists for 36 points in 41 games. Four points behind him is senior Michael Parks with a 12-20-32 line. The Schmaltz (Jordan and Nick) are next on the scoring chart with 27 and 26 points respectively. Nick was a standout member of the US World Junior Team this past December. Then we get to Mark MacMillan, who is arguably the best forward North Dakota has, but he has been out since early March. MacMillian suffered a "lower body injury" after blocking a shot in a 3-1 win over St. Cloud State and had surgery the following week. At the time of his injury, he led North Dakota with 16 goals in 29 games.

In goal UND has one of the best in Zane McIntyre, a Hobey Hat-Trick Finalist and Bruins prospect. McIntyre comes into this game with a .931 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average. He has faced BU twice before, once in 2013 and one time last year. He has never beat BU and has allowed 7 goals vs the Terriers.
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Keeping with the goalie theme, Matt O'Connor has suited up vs the Sioux three times and has a 2-0-1 record. In those three games, O'Connor has allowed 6 goals and stopped 118 shots, including 55 in one game alone.

A lot has been said this week about the depth of North Dakota. The Sioux have 16 players who have amassed at least 10 points this year. BU has 12 and two guys at 9pts.

History
BU and North Dakota last met in the NCAA tournament in 2005 in the opening round of the last regional BU hosted in Worcester. UND skated away with a decisive 4-0 win, before beating BC the next night, dropping Minnesota in the Frozen Four Semi and eventually falling 4-1 to Denver in the title game.

The 1997 National Championship Game is the last Frozen Four meeting between the two schools. BU jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals from Peter Donatelli and Chris Drury, but they were over matched in the second period, as North Dakota scored five goals in the frame. BU scored once with the goalie pulled, but ND also picked up an empty net goal, winning 6-4.

You have to go all the way back to 1990 to find the last BU win vs UND in the NCAA tournament. BU won a three game series at Walter Brown two games to one (5-8, 5-3, 5-0) in the opening round. They went on to beat Michigan State in East Lancing two games to one as well, before bowing to Colgate 3-2. 'Gate lost 7-3 to Wisconsin in the championship game.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Going Home, A Look Back at the Weekend

Usually when a team is "sent home" in a tournament, it is a bad thing. Not quite for the 2015 BU hockey team, who advanced to the Frozen Four in Boston after claiming the Northeast Regional Championship Saturday afternoon.

To say that was one of the most exciting (and/or stressful, whatever way you want to look at it) weekends in my time of watching BU hockey would be a complete understatement. Obviously, the 2009 Frozen Four is up there, but I can't remember two games that were more compelling and with that much at stake that top this past weekend.

Looking past the memorable plays, the O'Regan goal Friday and Rodrigues' unreal curl and shoot goal Saturday, there is a lot that needs to be cleaned up if the Terriers are to get past North Dakota next Thursday.

Too many times this weekend the Terriers were hemmed into their own end for long stretches of time. That's two fold, though. Minnesota Duluth played a great possession game for the first half and didn't really even score in their best chances. Lets be honest, O'Connor should have stopped their second goal and he was completely lost on their first. After getting out shot 13-6 in the second, BU, like they have all year, turned their game around in the third and flipped the script, outshooting the Bulldogs 13-5.

If there's one thing that BU really needs to improve on, it's getting pucks out of their own zone. I'll say it again, Duluth, and to some extent Yale, trapped the Terriers in the defensive zone for long stretches of that game Saturday. Simple chips off the glass instead of cross ice and homerun passes will be a must against the Sioux.

UMD and and Yale didn't have the most potent offenses in the world, nor did they have a standout goal-scorer. North Dakota does and they also have a wall in their own net in Zane McIntyre. Goals may come at a premium against the Sioux.

Anyway, more on that as the game approaches in the coming days.

How The Field Was Narrowed
If you don't know who won these games already, you live under a rock, but here ya go anyway:

Friday: In the West Regional in Fargo, North Dakota topped Quinnipiac 4-1... St. Cloud State came back and in heartbreaking fashion, eliminated Michigan Tech 3-2 in overtime... In the only other game to go to OT, BU dropped Yale 3-2 in Manchester... Lastly, Minnesota Duluth rolled past in-state rival Minnesota 4-1.

Saturday: Down in Providence, Denver knocked out Boston College with a 5-2 win... Later that night at the 'Dunk, Providence upset Miami 7-5 in the tournament's craziest game thus far... Moving to the Midwest Regional in South Bend, where Nebraska Omaha bounced Harvard with a 4-1 victory... In the upset of year, RIT took out number-one overall seed Minnesota Mankato 2-1... North Dakota punched their ticket to the Frozen Four with a decisive 4-1 win over NCHC foe St. Cloud... Finally, BU survived a 3-2 decision over Minnesota Duluth to head to the Frozen Four.

Sunday: Two more tickets needed punching to Boston and in the first game, Providence skated past Denver 4-1... Rounding out the Frozen Four, Nebraska Omaha advanced after blanking RIT 4-0.

So it's Omaha vs Providence at 5:00 and BU vs North Dakota at 8:30 on April 9th at the Garden.

Hey Wait A Second...
That date sound familiar to anyone?

Oh that's right... BU beat Vermont 5-4 on that same date six years ago in the Frozen Four in Washington DC. And yes, this year's National Championship game falls on the sixth anniversary of BU's 5th National Title, the 4-3 overtime win against Miami.

Much more to come on the North Dakota game... 10 days away.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Back To The Garden

Late Rodrigues goal sends BU to Frozen Four

From the outset this game was a war. There was never a dull moment, regardless of who you were rooting for. This game had everything from big hits, timely saves and clutch goals.

Minnesota Duluth killed off an early BU penalty, only one of two power plays in the entire game, despite being a very chippy contest. Matt Grzelcyk and Jack Eichel both got into scrums with UMD's Dominic Toninato. After the second little altercation, Eichel and Toninato were both given two minutes for roughing and that pretty much ended that, even though both were still jawing at each other from inside the box.

BU broke the scoreless tie on one of the strangest goals of the year. Brandon Fortunato and Evan Rodrigues where the only two Terriers left in the attacking zone as the Bulldogs looked to breakout. Fortunato made a play on the puck near the blue line to keep it in and the puck popped into the high slot. From the Rodrigues turned around an swatted at the puck and made great contact, enough to send it through UMD goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo leg's and into the back of the net. It was the first of two huge goals for Rodgigues on the afternoon.

BU hung on to that 1-0 lead and took it to the dressing room headed to the second period.

It took just 37 seconds for Duluth to tie things up in period number two. Willie Raskob fired home a shot from the point into essentially an empty net, as Matt O'Connor (27 saves) was stuck on the far post. It looked like he had no idea where the puck was and just never made a move over to get in front of the Raskob shot.

Less than three minutes later, BU regained the lead. Chase Phelps won a battle along the near wall allowing J.J. Piccinich to pick up the puck in the corner. Piccinich then took it behind the net and made a slick centering pass to Matt Lane who was stationed at the top of the crease. Lane corralled the puck and in a diving motion across the crease was able to tuck the puck in past a sprawling Kaskisuo. Lane just snuck the puck past the post and Kaskisuo's leg to make it 2-1.

Following the goal, Duluth took advantage of some sloppy play by the Terriers and hemmed them into their own zone for long portions of the period. Breakouts were tough and UMD did a great job of slowing down the Terries. BU was also very sloppy at times in their own end that lead to Bulldog chances.

The Bulldogs struck even again at the 7:31 marker. Kyle Osterberg raced in on the far side an let go an uncontested wrister from about the top of the circle. O'Connor got his glove on it, but didn't catch it and the puck went up over his shoulder and in slow motion rolled over the goal line to tie the game. It was Osterberg's seventh goal of the year, unassisted.

O'Connor bounced back from his two soft goals and stood tall on all of the grade-A Duluth scoring chances. Minnesota Duluth would not score again.

Momentum was certainly in UMD's favor in the second period, despite the tie score. Doyle Somberby helped change that trend with a massive open ice hit on Tony Cameranesi. It was a brutal check, but it was clean.

The Terries seemed to gain their legs in the third period, a common occurrence this year, but thats not to say Duluth didn't have chances. One shot actually corralled off O'Connor and landed on top of the net where Matt Grzelcyk froze the play. That send everyone in the stands into a nervous wreck, which was pretty much the case throughout the game.

At the 15:37 mark of the third, Evan Rodrigues drew a holding call behind the Duluth net as he was basically form tackled to the ice.

After a couple strong setups, Jack Eichel and Danny O'Regan fought for the puck along the near boards. Eventually, O'Regan came away with it, made a quick pass to Grzelcyk, who then found Rodrigues in the slot. From the top of the circle, he was pressured by Kyle Osterberg who attempted to block with a sprawling dive. Rodrigues pulled off his classic curl, drag and shoot, avoiding Osterberg's sliding body and stick. Rodrigues' shot ripped past Kaskisuo and Ahti Oksanen who was a screen in front and clanged off the center bar inside the goal. It was Rodrigues' 21st goal of the year, coming with just 2:24 left.

BU survived that last 2:24 in very large part to a huge save by O'Connor with just
37 seconds left. BU finally cleared after both teams took timeouts in the dying seconds with a face-off deep in the BU end.

With the win, BU advanced to their first Frozen Four since 2009. There, they will face the number two overall seed, North Dakota at 8:30pm on April 9th at Boston Garden.