Ice Hockey, Sports

1st-line play helps No. 2 Terriers demolish Badgers

Freshman forward Jack Eichel scored four points in a game for the third time this season Saturday against Wisconsin. PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA WIMLEY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Freshman forward Jack Eichel scored four points in a game for the third time this season Saturday against Wisconsin. PHOTO BY ALEXANDRA WIMLEY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

MADISON, Wisconsin — There would be no dramatics in store for the No. 2 Boston University men’s hockey team Saturday night.

Just a day after BU (12-3-4, 7-1-2 Hockey East) needed a miraculous late-game comeback to salvage a 3-3 draw against the University of Wisconsin, the Terriers — namely their first line — flexed their muscles on offense.

Six unanswered goals later, the Terriers skated off the ice at the Kohl Center with a convincing 6-1 trouncing in hand against the Badgers (2-12-2), capping off BU’s non-conference schedule with an imposing statement.

For junior forward Danny O’Regan, who registered two goals and added an assist in the contest, Saturday’s victory was a much-needed reprieve following the team’s poor showing in its previous outing.

“It was really important,” O’Regan said. “We just didn’t play our game yesterday. We were sluggish and just not really into it physically, and I think tonight it was huge to get a bounce-back win like that, because moving forward, we’ve got a big weekend ahead.”

A Wisconsin roster that managed to draw a point Friday night against the Terriers had little in terms of answers for BU’s first-line unit of O’Regan, freshman center Jack Eichel and senior assistant captain Evan Rodrigues, as the trio recorded five of the team’s six goals while combining for a total of 10 points on the night.

After being held off the score sheet for just the fourth time this season on Friday, Eichel made his presence felt the following night, pacing the scarlet and white with four points off two goals and two assists.

“He’s a game-changer, obviously,” Quinn said. “And tonight he had his legs moving. He was a threat every time he was out there … We were very opportunistic tonight more than anything, and he obviously led the charge in that department.”

A goal from forward Jedd Soleway just 2:04 into the second period gave Wisconsin the first tally of the game, but Eichel would help the Terriers net the equalizer just under three minutes later.

The North Chelmsford native gathered the puck just outside Wisconsin’s zone and proceeded to skate toward Badgers goaltender Joel Rumpel.

Eichel quickly maneuvered past one Wisconsin skater thanks to a few quick dangles, drew the Badgers’ netminder out of position with a broad toe drag and wristed the puck into the Badgers’ cage to notch the score at 1-1.

Eichel would not let up in the second stanza, lighting the lamp again — this time on the man advantage — with a little less than four minutes to play in the middle period.

A hooking penalty called against Wisconsin forward Grant Besse at 15:35 awarded the Terriers their third power play of the contest, giving BU an opportunity to cycle the puck around the Badgers’ net.

Rumpel remained stout in the crease until Eichel — with 30 seconds eclipsed on the power play — zipped a wrister into a screen of skaters entrenched in front of the Badgers’ net. Rumpel was unable to grasp the searing puck in the midst of the traffic in front of him, giving the Terriers a comfortable two-goal cushion at the time.

Entering into the final 20 minutes of play with a 3-1 lead, the duo of O’Regan and Rodrigues netted the Terriers some insurance.

O’Regan scored both of his goals over a four-minute span, with both marks coming off special-teams play.

The San Jose Sharks prospect secured his first goal of the contest off yet another power-play opportunity for the Terriers, as Eichel careened a shot from the right circle that O’Regan was able to deflect past Rumpel to make it a 4-1 game at 7:45 in the third.

It was the first time that BU was able to compile two power-play goals in a game since the Terriers’ 5-2 win over Colgate University on Nov. 29.

“After last night, and the past few games, we’ve been working on our power play a lot, and I think it really started to click a little bit tonight,” O’Regan said. “We had some good movement there in the third, and Jack had already scored a goal earlier in the game, and he got another puck to the net, and I was lucky enough to get a piece of it and redirect it in.”

A shorthanded score from O’Regan at 11:32 and a nifty dangle goal from Rodrigues at 17:41 capped the Terriers’ scoring on the night, as BU secured the convincing victory over its Big 10 foe.

The Terriers received additional contributions on the night from their third line in freshman forward Nikolas Olsson, who scored his second goal in the past three games off a 2-on-1 rush with sophomore linemate Nick Roberto at 12:48 in the second period – giving the Terriers a lead for good.

While the Terrier’s scoring outburst might stand as the main takeaway from Saturday’s action, the play of freshman goaltender Connor LaCouvee also proved to be a major factor.

Making his fourth career start, LaCouvee was solid between the pipes for BU, recording 32 saves in the victory.

Quinn acknowledged that despite the Badgers’ lackluster record, leaving the Midwest with three out of four points in hand was a satisfying result. For BU’s bench boss, the margin between success and failure in college hockey relies on capitalizing on the opportunities that present themselves.

Thankfully for Quinn, his team ended up making its chances count Saturday night.

“This was an opportunity to play well and continue to win and have success,” Quinn said. “I know what [Wisconsin’s] record is, but both nights were very difficult games, and they’re such a fine line between winning and losing.

“We were opportunistic, and they had trouble taking advantage of their chances, and they had some great chances — that was the difference tonight.”

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I spend my days serving as Sports Editor of The Daily Free Press, covering BU Hockey and finding more ways to worship Tom Brady. Previous experience includes covering the Red Sox and Bruins for and writing for South Boston Today. Follow me on Twitter: @ConorRyan_93

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