Penalties hold Terriers back in loss to Harvard

Saturday night at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center was just like the beginning of the year for the Boston University men’s hockey team. It had all of its players back, whether they were returning from injury or from the World Junior Championships in Malmö, Sweden, and it was recharged after a three-week holiday break.

Unfortunately for the Terriers (7-9-2, 2-4-1 Hockey East), however, Saturday night was like the beginning of the year in another way — they could not stay out of the penalty box. BU took nine penalties in the contest, which helped Harvard University edge the Terriers 7-4.

The nine penalties were the most BU has taken in a single game since the first game of the season against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Saturday night was a reminder of those old habits, which are ones that BU coach David Quinn said he does not want to see again.

“We’re going to get out of them fast,” Quinn said. “It’s frustrating because that hadn’t been us. And to do that in a game that finally we have a fuller lineup, a healthy lineup, it’s disappointing.”

The penalty habits stuck around for six games earlier in the season, when BU took at least four penalties in each of those games, while averaging a little more than six per game. However, the Terriers looked as if their penalty issues had subsided, as they were called for four or fewer infractions in each of the six games after that stretch.

It was clear that BU was going to break that four-penalty mark — the one Quinn had set as a ceiling for as many penalties as he was okay with his team taking in a game — pretty early on Saturday. The team took five penalties in the first frame, including two that Quinn said could have been called for five-minute majors.

The fourth penalty for BU in that frame was a charging penalty to sophomore forward Sam Kurker, which was his first of two trips to the sin bin on the night. Kurker was the only Terrier to be penalized twice on the night, and it is the second time he has taken two penalties in his 10 games played this season.

For Kurker, the layoff between games was even longer than the rest of the team’s because of a six-game absence from the lineup due to an illness. However, a two-penalty performance is not going to help his case for staying in the lineup Wednesday night against Dartmouth University, because Quinn is known to bench players for penalties.

“Nobody can take two penalties. Nobody,” Quinn said. “Especially those types of penalties. Those are just inexcusable. We had a lot of inexcusable penalties tonight.”

The penalties came back to bite BU in the end too, as Harvard (5-7-2) capitalized on two of its eight power-play chances. Harvard entered the night having capitalized on 13.5 percent of its power-play opportunities, a percentage that left it ranked 49th in the nation.

With BU defending in its own zone for much of the first half of the game, it did not have a chance to establish its offense very much. However, when it was the Crimson spending time in the penalty box in the third period instead of the Terriers, BU scored twice on the power play and pulled within one. Had the penalty differential been closer to even, perhaps the Terriers would be back at .500 instead of starting the second half with another loss.

“It was definitely, definitely frustrating,” said BU captain Patrick MacGregor. “When you’re on the penalty kill you don’t get many scoring chances because you’re in your own zone the whole time so it’s definitely frustrating for sure.”

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