The No. 11 Boston University men’s hockey team didn’t handle getting scored on very well Friday night.
The Terriers (4-3, 2-2 Hockey East) played an impressive first 30 minutes of hockey on their way to a 5-4 win over Northeastern University, gaining a 2-0 advantage on goals from senior captain Matt Grzelcyk and sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato.
Halfway through the first frame at Agganis Arena, freshman defenseman Charlie McAvoy fed the puck from one point to the other to Grzelcyk, who was waiting on the left. He collected the pass and fired a wrister at netminder Ryan Ruck, picking the top right corner for his first goal of the season in his first game back after recovering from offseason surgery.
Just under six minutes into the second period, and fresh off the penalty kill, the Terriers took the puck into Northeastern’s (1-6-1, 0-2-1 Hockey East) zone. Senior forward Ahti Oksanen passed from the corner to freshman center Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, who drew Ruck to him at the right post and slipped the puck across the crease for Fortunato. The second-year blue liner, stationed at the left post, elevated the puck over Ruck for BU’s second tally.
What happened following those goals wasn’t ideal.
The Huskies got on the board 1:45 later as freshman Adam Gaudette redirected a shot from defenseman Matt Benning past sophomore netminder Connor LaCouvee, and the Terriers lost their focus. They played back on their heels and, 13:50 into the second when Northeastern tied things up on the power play, BU had trouble reining it in.
The Huskies scored with just four seconds remaining on the too many men penalty that led to the opportunity for them, but the infraction was one of nine the Terriers took on the night. The eight power plays BU gave Northeastern left them shorthanded for a little under 16 minutes.
The discrepancy in numbers shows up in the difference in shots and overall shot attempts as well as with players who had to log significant time on the penalty kill. They get tired, and it can show up in other aspects of play.
“We have to get smarter and we have to stay out of the penalty box,” Quinn said. “That was a problem for us early last year, and then I think we straightened it out.”
The Terriers did answer with a goal of their own in 34 seconds when freshman winger Ryan Cloonan plucked the puck from a Husky by the BU blue line and broke out for a one-on-none with Ruck. He took the puck down low, forced the goalie to go down and tucked it past his left skate.
On the ensuing faceoff, however, BU gave it right back. The team allowed Northeastern to come into its zone, and though the guys had recovered pretty well, the puck from forward Dylan Sikura’s stick was batted in accidentally by Grzelcyk to knot the score again a dozen seconds after Cloonan’s tally.
“People are going to score goals,” Quinn said. “It just happens, and we didn’t do a great job, obviously, responding.”
Twenty-nine seconds later, the Huskies struck again. Freshman Eric Williams rifled one from the top of the right circle and pushed Northeastern ahead for the final marker in a six-goal frame.
Shortly after, Quinn called a time out.
“Just get back to doing your job and focus on your shift,” he told his players. “Don’t worry about the score and the reaction and the ebb and flows of the game. You’ve got to be mentally tough and you’ve got to live in the moment.”
Early in the third period, BU regained some of its composure. With 3:52 down in the final 20 minutes, Oksanen found senior assistant captain Danny O’Regan streaking up the left wing. He took it down the left wing and brought it low to the left slot, getting a shot off. Ruck made the initial stop but sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey was there on the right to put the rebound in the net.
Oksanen then scored his third goal in two games at 6:28. He had the puck on the right wing boards and passed it over to Grzelcyk at the left point, who dished it back to Oksanen for the forward to finish down low on the right.
In the waning minutes of the third period, Northeastern hemmed the Terriers in their own zone and put the pressure on. Throughout the frame, LaCouvee stood tall, turning aside all 19 shots he faced.
“Some of them bell-ringers,” Quinn said. “Some of them I’m sure [Northeastern’s] wondering how they didn’t go in because I know I am.”
BU had a bit of a scare with about half a minute left as the Huskies almost forced the puck over the goal line, but after a lengthy review, it was deemed to have stayed out. The Terriers kept their conference rival at bay for the remainder of the game and earned the win.
And while Quinn was proud of his team for earning “two really hard points,” he noted that BU’s youth showed and it needs to clean up the defensive aspects of its game going forward.
”We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 10 days,” Quinn said, “but we certainly have a long way to go.”