When Boston University men’s hockey team coach David Quinn walked into his team’s dressing room after the second period Saturday night, the Terriers were down 27-8 in shots to Merrimack College and had barely controlled the puck through the majority of the contest. He sensed his team was feeling down on itself after two consecutive games in which its offense did not even muster 20 shots.
So instead of yelling at his players for their poor performance, he lightened the mood by making a joke.
“I just said, ‘Hey, we poured it on that period. We got five,’” Quinn said. “It’s the pink elephant in the room … What are you going to do, not talk about it? Sometimes things are so bad, you have to make light of it.”
The joke seemed to do the trick — at least a little bit — as the Terriers (7-7-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East) doubled their shot total from the first two periods over the next frame and five-minute overtime period, finishing the contest in a 1-1 tie at Agganis Arena Saturday night. Still, the low shot total through the first two periods is representative of a recent trend for BU, which cannot seem to get the puck on goal.
Up until the third period of Saturday night’s game, BU had not totaled 10 shots in a single frame since the third period of its tie against the University of North Dakota on Nov. 23.
Through the first half of the game Saturday night, was down 27-4 in shots on goal. That meant BU was on pace to get eight shots through the entire game against Merrimack (4-9-2, 1-5-2 Hockey East).
Part of the reason Quinn’s team has struggled to put the puck on goal is because it does not possess the puck much in the offensive zone. BU’s lineup is a lot smaller than that of Merrimack or Cornell University in general, so things have not come easy in terms of winning battles for the puck.
So how can Quinn improve on his team’s low shot totals?
“Steroids,” Quinn said with a laugh. “We just, we’re a young, small team right now. We just have to find a way to win battles. You see it — it’s not because we’re not trying.
“We were playing nine freshmen. Half of your lineup is freshmen. Look at the birthdates. We have guys seven years younger than some of the guys out there.”
Of the top six forwards BU had in its lineup Saturday, none of them weigh more than 190 pounds and the only one who is at least six feet tall is freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon. Sure, BU has some size in its depth forwards like freshmen Kevin Duane (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) and Dillon Lawrence (6-foot-3, 187 pounds), but the point-producers in BU’s lineup have struggled to win puck possession against bigger teams due to their size disadvantage.
Five out of six Merrimack defensemen stood at 6-feet tall or taller, and five of them were at least 190 pounds. Even on the offensive side, four out of the Warriors’ top six forwards were at least six feet tall.
“Sometimes you just have to make the most of how you can play and how you can have success, and we’re still trying to find a way to do it,” Quinn said. “We’re not a big, strong team, and that’s a big, strong, older team, and we’re going to have problems with those teams.”
Through the first 16 games of the season, BU boasts the third-worst shots on goal margin in the country at minus-163. The only teams worse than BU in shot differential are American International College (minus-195) and the University of Alabama-Huntsville (minus-296), which are two teams that combine for four wins through 29 games. The closest Hockey East team to BU’s low shot differential is the University of Massachusetts, which is at a minus-50 margin.
The Terriers only have one more game before entering the winter break, and it is against a team from the Atlantic Hockey Association in Bentley University. If the Terriers do not begin to get more shots on goal though, its offense will continue to struggle — even against a team that allows 29.9 shots per game.
“The shot total thing, I think it’s kind of getting pretty old,” said senior captain Garrett Noonan. “We’re trying to get shots to the net; we’re trying to do good things. It’s going to take time and we’re in all these games, if we can get some more shots, we’ll win some.”