In its first game of 2014, the Boston University men’s hockey team looked as though it had everything it needed. It had a small break during winter intercession. It had a full squad with players coming back from injury and the World Junior Championships.
Then it had far too many penalties and gave up seven goals in a loss to Harvard University at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
Nearly six weeks later, things have changed. After a two-month long skid, the Terriers (8-15-4, 3-8-3 Hockey East) have slowly bounced back mentally and physically with hard-fought games against some of the top teams in the nation. When BU takes on Harvard (7-12-3) in the Beanpot consolation game Monday afternoon at TD Garden, it will look to add another win to that late-season transformation.
“I think we are getting a little bit of stability,” said BU coach David Quinn. “We have changed … and we haven’t done anything earth-shattering.”
Those changes include a less aggressive forecheck — something that has allowed the Terriers to conserve some of their energy on the ice — and changes to the top two lines, with sophomore forward Danny O’Regan moving from center to right wing.
“I just like the chemistry on the lines and the fact that they have been able to play together for two weeks now gives them some familiarity and some stability,” Quinn said.
With that change in chemistry in tow, the Terriers continued their recent trend of successful games that did not add anything to their win column over the past week. During last Monday’s Beanpot opener, BU came within inches of tying No. 2 Boston College before giving up an empty-net goal and falling 3-1.
Instead of wallowing in another senior class graduating without a Beanpot title, the team came back out Friday evening and tied the No. 7 University of Massachusetts-Lowell — the same team that held BU to just 12 shots a few weeks earlier.
“Nobody is hanging their head,” Quinn said. “I think guys feel good about the way we perform and what you put into it, what we’ve put into it. You want people to be pissed that you’re 8-15, but you don’t want it to get in the way of playing better.
“I think we’re pissed off with our record, but I don’t think we’ve allowed it to get in the way of focusing on having a good practice then having a good game. That’s the key. I think we’ve done a good job of that.”
Monday afternoon, that desire to pick up the team’s second win since the end of November will combine with the Terriers’ inability to defeat Harvard in the past two years. Before falling to the Crimson 7-4 on Jan. 4, BU lost to Harvard by the same score in the Beanpot consolation game last season. The Terriers also fell to Harvard 6-5 in overtime during the 2012-13 season.
While the Crimson shut out Dartmouth College 3-0 Friday evening, Harvard struggled during the opening round of the Beanpot, losing to Northeastern University 6-0. Last Monday’s game marked the first time all season the Crimson were shut out in a game.
With less than a month left to the regular season, Quinn said he still believes the team can rescue a year that looked all but lost a few weeks ago.
“We are starting to salvage our season,” Quinn said. “It’s crazy – you look at our record and it sounds crazy. But it doesn’t matter what your record is right now. It’s how you’re playing. If we can go and be better than Harvard on Monday night, who cares what your record is.
“I think that we are a different team than we were three weeks ago. We have got to focus on playing a team we haven’t beaten in two years, building on the momentum we have built. … And eventually you will get rewarded.”