In a span of 18 seconds in the second period, the No. 15 Boston University men’s hockey team showed how it produces its best offense — from its defensemen. The Terriers used shots from the point to score twice during that stretch, and took control in a 7-3 win over No. 2 University of Wisconsin.
Defensemen scoring points is nothing new for the Terriers this season, as its top two scorers are sophomore defenseman Ahti Oksanen (one goal, six assists) and senior defenseman Garrett Noonan (two goals, four assists). Each of the four defensemen who have played in all four games this season have at least one point on the year.
“This day and age, you need five guys who are going to generate offense,” said BU coach David Quinn. “You can’t rely on your three forwards. We certainly are always going to ask our defensemen to get involved in the offense. It’s the only way you’re going to be able to create offense. Obviously, we have got some skill back there, and they are going to help us generate offense.”
The defense’s productivity going forward started in the first period, when Oksanen blasted a slap shot over Wisconsin goaltender Landon Peterson’s shoulder on the power play. It was Oksanen’s first goal of the season, and second goal since Nov. 16 of last season.
Oksanen was not done though, as he fed Noonan off of a faceoff for a one-timer from the point for the second BU goal of the game halfway through the second period.
Eighteen seconds later, junior center Cason Hohmann won a faceoff in the offensive zone, which led to a slap shot from sophomore defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. This time the shot from the point did not go directly in, but freshman forward Robbie Baillargeon tipped the puck to get it past Peterson.
Grzelcyk followed his assist with a goal of his own, ripping a wrist shot past Peterson on the power play. It was Grzelcyk’s first two points of the season after he led BU blueliners with 23 points last year.
Quinn said that the key to the defense’s success was moving the puck quickly and decisively, which is something Grzelcyk noted as well.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve been talking about is the five-foot pass and not going for the long bomb, which we tend to do,” Grzelcyk said. “I think all hockey players kind of tend to do that and go for that 70-foot pass — but I think we stuck to the game plan tonight and it worked for us.”
While Oksanen, Noonan and Grzelcyk are often considered the top offensive defensemen for the Terriers, senior captain Patrick MacGregor chipped in as well. With sophomore Mike Moran streaking up the boards, MacGregor hit the winger with a perfect pass off the wall for the fifth goal of the game.
The quick puck movement and decision making by the defense has been integral in the Terriers’ 3-1 start so far. Of the 14 goals BU has scored this year, a defenseman has scored or assisted on 13 of them. If the Terriers can continue this scoring trend from the back end and get increased production from their forwards like they did in the third period of Saturday’s game, offense won’t be an issue for Quinn’s team.
“We just need to keep doing those things over and over again,” Quinn said. “One of the things we talked about today was, ‘We can’t do it because the coach is telling you to do it. You need to do it because that’s who you are as a hockey player and you understand that’s the right way to play,’ and we are creeping in that direction.”