If there is one player who has been asked to do it all this season for the Boston University men’s hockey team, it is senior defenseman and captain Garrett Noonan. In every situation, whether it is a power play, penalty kill or key moment at the end of the game, Noonan has been called upon to do the job.
With sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk injured and a thin group of defensemen left over, Noonan has logged significant minutes this season. He is a minus-12 on the season, but 11 of those goals have come in situations when BU (10-20-4, 5-12-3 Hockey East) has pulled the goalie.
“He has been relied on a lot,” said BU coach David Quinn before his team’s weekend sweep over Northeastern University. “I think the thing that’s happened is he has really improved his play without the puck.”
With Noonan’s improvement off the puck though, Quinn said the captain may have taken a small step back in terms of his play with the puck because he is trying to do too much with it.
“Usually his strength is with the puck and I think it has kind of flipped a little bit because he is asked to do a lot,” Quinn said. “One of the things that he and I are going to talk about here is that he has got to keep it simple over and over and over again. Don’t look for the great play. It will happen.
“When you don’t score, better players sometimes tend to force things and I think that is what has happened on the power play.”
If there is one area Noonan has improved under Quinn though, it is at keeping himself out of the sin bin. The Nashville Predators draft pick has only compiled 21 penalties for 42 minutes this season, which is the fewest penalty minutes he has taken in a season since arriving at BU. The number is a significant decrease from the 36 penalties for 94 minutes he served last season and even the 28 penalties for 89 minutes he served his freshman year.
“Noonan has done a good job staying out of the box,” Quinn said. “It has been night and day. Every referee has said something to me about it. They literally have. They can’t believe the difference in Garrett Noonan.”
On the road again
The Terriers avoided going winless on the road with their victory on Saturday over Northeastern (18-12-4, 10-8-2 Hockey East), but they will need to keep the road victories coming if they want to keep their season alive. BU will have to travel to the University of Notre Dame for the second time in three weeks and win a single-elimination game to advance to the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Tournament.
Winning at Notre Dame (20-12-2, 9-9-2 Hockey East) will not be an easy task, as BU still has not scored at the Compton Family Ice Arena in its two games there this season. Not only are there scoring issues, but Notre Dame is among the top-10 teams in the country with a 73.8 percent winning percentage at home this season.
On the other hand, BU is the second-worst team on the road this year, only winning more on the road than the University of Alabama-Huntsville. The Terriers have an 11.5 percent winning percentage away from home this season, only beating Northeastern this past weekend and tying the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on Jan. 31.
Strong first impression from Robbie Baillargeon
When sophomore center Danny O’Regan led the Terriers in points as a freshman last season, he became the first freshman to do so since Tony Amonte did it in the 1989-90 season. However, that milestone is likely to occur once again this season, as freshman center Robbie Baillargeon enters the Hockey East Tournament leading the team with 25 points.
The Ottawa Senator draft pick has scored nine goals on the season, which puts him only behind O’Regan (10 goals) for the team lead. His two points on Friday night against Northeastern inched him past sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen for the team lead in points.
Baillargeon has spent most of the season as a top-six forward, which has given him the opportunity to play with the Terriers’ most talented forwards like O’Regan and junior forward Evan Rodrigues. On a BU team that struggled to pick up wins this season, Baillargeon represents one of the most talented youngsters on a team that is getting more valuable college hockey experience heading into next season.