Thirteen current members of the Boston University men’s hockey team have their rights owned by National Hockey League clubs, with senior co-captain Matt Gilroy likely the 14th to don a top-tier professional sweater one day.
While what lies beyond their time at BU has yet to be scripted, coach Jack Parker’s Terriers are starting to string together efforts suited for the next level.
After Saturday night’s 7-2 throttling of the No. 14 University of Vermont (2-2-1, 0-2-0 Hockey East) at Gutterson Fieldhouse, No. 3 BU (5-1-0, 2-1-0) now has a conference-best 27 goals on the season.
The main catalyst for its offensive outbreak this year has been BU’s play on special teams.
‘I liked our power play, and we did well on special teams,’ Parker said. ‘The guys are a little more poised. The guys down low are moving well, moving to the right spot. The biggest change is we’re spending much less time in our zone.’
Through the first four games this year, BU’s fortunes on the man-advantage were just the opposite.
Going three-for-30 on the power play before hosting the then-No. 5 University of Michigan on Oct. 25, the Terriers put five power-play goals on the board against the Wolverines as part of a 7-2 romp.
Saturday, exactly one week removed from the outbreak, BU improved its power play efficiency rate to 26.1 percent as the special teams group scored four goals on seven chances.
While each of the Terriers’ man-up goals contributed to the offensive progression, senior forward Jason Lawrence’s fifth goal of the season 28 seconds into the third period put the game out of reach.’
‘That wasn’t a 7-2 game,’ Parker said. ‘We got a couple of breaks offensively that blew the game open. Halfway through it was a very even game. It was even when it was 3-2, and even when it was 4-2. But our power-play goal off the bat in the third ended the game.’
Behind Lawrence and rest of the Terrier forwards, Gilroy and sophomores Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen have provided an offensive push running the point on the man-advantage.
Gilroy, Shattenkirk and Cohen, all of whom are among the team’s top-five scorers this year, are responsible for two of 12 power-play goals and 30 percent of power-play points for the Terriers.
‘The defense is much more mature,’ Parker said. ‘I think it’s a group that has more offensive instincts. They do a good job at recognizing what they need to do to take care of business in both zones. The defense really has to work at being good offensively.’
Shattenkirk and Cohen each boast a plus-9 goal differential, the largest margin for a Terrier this year.
Freshman goaltender Grant Rollheiser, who has rotated in net with classmate Kieran Millan, put forth a strong effort in net away from Agganis Arena, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced.
Rollheiser’s 1.68 goals-against average has been overshadowed only by his poise in net.
‘I thought [Rollheiser] played well,’ Parker said. ‘He’s played two tough road games in front of two raucous crowds. But he has been poised ‘-‘- very poised.’
Despite yielding two tallies in one game for the first time all year, Rollheiser showed a veteran-like disposition by buckling down to stop all 12 shots he faced in the third period.
‘They make it 3-2, and he immediately came back and stopped some tough shots,’ Parker said. ‘The house was getting excited, but he kept his poise.’
Sophomore forward Colin Wilson opened the scoring for BU with a pair of goals three minutes apart in the first period.
Wilson, the beneficiary of assists from Lawrence and senior forward Chris Higgins on his first goal, redirected a pass from Higgins at 6:16 to double the lead.
Freshman forward Chris Connolly notched the game-winning goal for the Terriers later in the third, and sophomore forward Nick Bonino ran his team-leading point tally to 11 with a goal and two assists.
BU is now 13-8-4 at Gutterson and 33-16-6 all-time against the Catamounts.