SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Having not played in either game last weekend, junior forward Robbie Baillargeon was reinserted into the lineup for the No. 9 Boston University men’s hockey team on Friday night.
Even with his name penciled in on the line chart before BU’s game with No. 10 University of Notre Dame, one might imagine he would play a role in changing the dynamic of the roster and make some difference on the game. And indeed, Baillargeon’s presence had a positive impact on the game for the Terriers.
Yet, as BU’s third-line right winger, Baillargeon’s biggest impact in BU’s (19-9-5, 12-5-4 Hockey East) 3-2 win arguably came on a line with which he took a total of zero full shifts.
The fourth unit, with senior Mike Moran, junior Tommy Kelley and sophomore Chase Phelps had one of its best efforts of the year, combining for three points and a goal in the 3-2 win over Notre Dame (18-8-7, 14-5-2 Hockey East).
BU head coach David Quinn, who had used his fourth line sparingly in the team’s two previous games, said the bottom three skaters proved to be an important factor in why the Terriers won for the first time over Notre Dame in their last eight tries.
“I thought they set the tone in a lot of ways,” Quinn said, “I thought our other lines fed off their energy.”
Out with a lower-body injury, Baillargeon missed BU’s two games last weekend against the University of New Hampshire. Coupled with some other injuries, BU’s forward depth suddenly became thinner, which was more pronounced on the third and fourth lines.
In those two games, Moran, usually the anchor as the center on the fourth line, was forced into left wing duties on the third. For his usual linemates on the fourth unit — junior Tommy Kelley and sophomore Chase Phelps — that meant little-used junior forward Dillon Lawrence would become their center for the time being.
In the end for Phelps and Kelley, that also meant minimal, if any, ice time when Quinn essentially rolled three lines for the majority of the two nights.
But with Baillargeon back on the active roster, Moran, Phelps and Kelley were reunited on the fourth line. And together for the first time two weekends, each player on the line finished the night with one point and a plus-1 rating.
Moran, again with his normal wingers flanking him, said the chemistry that the three have developed this season paved the way for a successful night against Notre Dame.
“I love playing with Kelley and Phelps,” Moran said after the game. “I think recently, the second half of the year, we’ve been really playing pretty well, and just kind of do the simple stuff, each one of us. We work together pretty well.”
The group did work well together against Notre Dame, and that became particularly apparent in the second period. After squandering a lead late in the first frame, BU was tied with the Fighting Irish early in the middle period, which was when the fourth line’s grinding effort paid off.
Near the three-minute mark of the period, Phelps came into the offensive zone and put the puck toward net. Though a poke from Kelley and other one by Phelps did not get through Notre Dame goaltender Cal Petersen, Moran, standing on the doorstep, jammed it home after two whacks at the puck.
Moran said the goal came down to a matter of executing what the line planned to do before the game — hem the puck in the Notre Dame zone.
“We talked about it before the game, just get the puck deep and things will happen,” Moran said. “Trying to get it to the D, and on that one, Chuck [freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy] made a great play, coming across the line to Phelpsy.
“Phelpsy tapped it to TK, it just kind of came to me. I tried to just put it at his feet, and it just popped back to me and it was right there to put it in.”
BU would add a goal, the decisive one, later in the second, although the fourth line did not factor into the tally. But the ability to have Moran, Phelps and Kelly do their respective jobs all three periods allowed for Quinn to have more depth than in previous games.
And that, Quinn said, was enough to provide BU with an extra boost toward the win column.
“They get a huge goal to make it 2-1, but it was more than that,” Quinn said. “They were physical, they got, they had some zone time, they caused a little bit of a havoc from a forecheck standpoint and really proud of those guys.
“They were a big part of our win tonight.”