In the second period of the No. 4 Boston University men’s hockey team’s 5-4 overtime loss to Northeastern University, sophomore defenseman Adam Clendening attempted to set up a play on the power play from the right point of the offensive zone.
Without much developing in front of him, Clendening looked to his left for a blue-line pass. Although nobody – no Terriers or Huskies – were open to his left, Clendening passed there anyway, causing the puck to dribble out of the zone and forcing BU to regroup in order to carry the puck back in cleanly.
The play did not prove costly at the time, as Northeastern did not recover the puck, but it was reflective of an overall lack of focus and thorough effort from the entire BU team. It began in practice during the week and culminated in the overtime loss Saturday night.
“There were many opportunities where we looked brain dead,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “There were many opportunities where we didn’t look aware of what we should be doing.”
Clendening’s play was not the only moment BU visibly proved its lack of focus and thorough play. The Terriers had an opportunity to win the game at the very end of the third period, as two poorly timed Northeastern penalties gave BU a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:11 with under two minutes remaining in the contest. The Terriers were on the power play all the way through the first 16 seconds of overtime.
But BU never capitalized on the extended man-advantage, and instead allowed Northeastern the inevitable momentum in overtime that an important penalty kill typically generates.
“I thought we had chances to win the game, and we had the 5-on-3 and we didn’t get that done,” Parker said. “We had more than enough chances to control the course of this game, but we let them back in the game too many times.”
BU lost an inordinate amount of puck battles along the boards all night long. The Terriers struggled to enter into the attacking zone cleanly, and consistently let Northeastern right back into the game any time BU took a lead.
This was especially true in the second period, when BU scored twice but allowed three Northeastern goals to finish the period facing a 4-3 deficit. BU put 15 shots on net in the period, but allowed 17 shots by Northeastern.
The lack of effort from BU was even more obvious from the blocked shots total. In the second period, Northeastern blocked eight shots. BU blocked two.
“We didn’t have enough guys [blocking shots] tonight,” said senior captain Chris Connolly. “Playoffs are coming around the block and . . . [come playoff games] none of that hockey is going to be like that.”
BU, which clinched a home-ice seed in the Hockey East playoffs last weekend, entered this weekend controlling its own destiny as far as finishing at least in the top-two of Hockey East. If the Terriers could have taken three of four points from ninth-place Northeastern, BU was assured of finishing no lower than second in the league seedings, ensuring a Hockey East quarterfinals matchup against one of the two lowest seeds.
But BU could not put together the 60-minute effort necessary on either night in order to assure itself of that spot, and because of a University of Massachusetts-Lowell victory on Saturday night, BU fell to the third seed in the Hockey East tournament.
Now, the Terriers will host the six-seeded University of New Hampshire in the quarterfinals next weekend.
BU also needed a win to help it remain high in the PairWise Rankings, which determines the seeding for the NCAA tournament. By virtue of the loss, it fell from fourth place in the PairWise, which could have resulted in BU being a one-seed in the tournament, to sixth place.
BU’s loss Saturday night came in front of many team members’ families as well as one of the largest away venue showings by BU students in recent history. The group of BU students filled four full sections of Matthews Arena and was loud all game, which, according Connolly, made the loss sting a bit more.
“It means a lot to the players and it’s absolutely tougher to lose in front of them,” Connolly said of the amount of BU supporters at the game. “They come back to see a good hockey game and I don’t think we played very well to be honest.”
Although BU’s lack of effort over the weekend came back to bite the team in terms of its different rankings for the Hockey East and NCAA postseason, Connolly said the mistakes made this weekend are all something the team can remedy in time for the playoffs.
“There were physical mistakes because of mental errors, because guys weren’t mentally prepared to play,” Connolly said. “It’s nothing that’s not correctable – it’s actually very easily correctable if we are doing the right things and we are focused and ready to play. I think it starts with a thorough week of practice [this coming week].”