Ice Hockey, Sports

Crusaders set to invade Agganis for non-league bout

It was a weekend sweep that no one saw coming.

The No. 8 Boston University men’s hockey team had just rebounded from its first true setback of the season ‘-‘- a 5-1 drubbing at the No. 17 University of Massachusetts-Amherst ‘-‘- with a shutout win over No. 4 Northeastern University two nights later. It appeared that the lackluster defense that spelled doom against the Minutemen was corrected, that the ship was righted and the Terriers would go on with their winning ways.

After all, BU had taken it to the No. 13 University of Vermont in a 7-2 rout just three weeks earlier. Riding an 11-game winning streak on the home ice of Agganis Arena, a weekend sweep appeared to be out of the question.

But appearance, especially in the ever-tumultuous Hockey East, is not reality. And after a pair of 4-3 losses in which the traditional ‘BU hockey’ that this team takes so much pride in was replaced by individual effort, the Terriers (7-4-0, 4-4-0 HE) must regroup quickly as they face the College of the Holy Cross (3-7-1, 3-6-1 Atlantic) tonight at Agganis Arena.

The losses against Vermont ‘-‘- the first time an opponent swept BU in back-to-back home games on consecutive days since 1992 ‘-‘- exposed many of the weaknesses the Terriers managed to overcome through the first nine games of the year.

Grant Rollheiser and Kieran Millan, the freshman goaltending duo that didn’t allow more than two goals in any of BU’s first six contests, are beginning to show their inexperience. Each has allowed four or more goals twice in the last three weeks. Rollheiser looked especially shaky Friday night, failing to corral loose pucks and losing the positioning strength that is so much a part of his game.

With the team’s rookie netminders in a midseason slump, all eyes turn to the blueline, where Terrier defensemen continue to glide toward the puck rather than hitting the boards hard to win one-on-one battles. Carrying the puck out of the defensive end becomes a dangerous task when careless turnovers hand the other team golden opportunities.

Millan and Rollheiser will go through stretches like this one. They are freshmen thrown right into the fire, and each has shown the ability to keep opponents off the scoreboard. The defense is in a lull, but with extra attention during practice, that will likely change. The Northeastern game showed the positive effects of a recommitment to defensive pressure.

What must concern BU most as it prepares to take on Holy Cross tonight is the tendency shown this weekend to give up on team play when the results don’t show. As Friday night wore on and another freshman goalie, Vermont’s Rob Madore, made save upon spectacular save, it became clear that Terrier skaters were taking it upon themselves to light the lamp on their own.

On numerous occasions, a BU forward could be seen carrying the puck coast to coast, attempting to dangle through waves of Catamounts on the way to the net. And each time, the danger of individual play took over, as forward momentum gave way to turnovers and missed opportunities. After the game, Parker showed displeasure with his team’s effort.

‘They weren’t putting the puck in the net because they were trying to make the perfect play. They think that there’s some judge in the stands with a card that when you get a goal it’s 9.5 or 8.5,’ Parker said after Friday’s loss. ‘They’re playing to look good instead of playing to win.’

After losing three of their last four games and slipping from the top ranking in college hockey down to No. 8 in just two weeks, the Terriers appear to be in a precarious position. Despite a pair of late comebacks, BU left four points on the ice against Vermont, and in Hockey East, four points is the difference between second and seventh place.

‘We’re back to the middle of the pack in our league and back to the middle of the pack in foolish polls that don’t mean anything,’ Parker said following Saturday’s setback. ‘The bottom line is we had a good start and now we’re in a bad strait.’

Now the onus is on the Terriers to show that reality trumps appearance, that they have the talent and concentration to be an elite team in Hockey East. A rare Tuesday game against a beatable Holy Cross team provides them a chance to bounce back quickly and head back in the right direction. It’s a chance to learn from their mistakes and turn negatives into positives. With a home-and-home against No. 5 Boston College on tap once the calendar turns to December, now is the time for the Terriers to show they have learned their lesson.

‘There’s no question in my mind that we were full of ourselves because we got the No. 1 ranking and thought, ‘We must be pretty good,” Parker said Saturday. ‘We’re not pretty good right now, so that takes care of that. We won’t be full of ourselves when we play Holy Cross.’

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One Comment

  1. You should clarify that this is an old story (I presume edited for grammar or error?) and does no reflect any recent games. We’re doing much better now!