Two Wins, More Questions for Terriers
BU not quite right despite win streak
by Joe Meloni/CHN Staff Writer
BOSTON Last Sunday, Boston University made the short bus ride back to campus aware, maybe for the first time, it possessed all it needed to play for whichever trophies it cares to this season. The Terriers rolled rival Boston College, 5-0, and viewed the subsequent weekend pair with Vermont and New Hampshire — both at Agganis Arena — as a fantastic opportunity to make some moves up the Hockey East standings.
Four points later, BU has made its move, jumping to third, three points behind BC and and two short of Merrimack. Spirits are up at Agganis. To an extent, they should be. The Terriers have won three in a row after a turbulent October and rough start to November.
Slow down for a second, though.
While those four points were the ends of the weekend, the means used to pick up the wins hardly showed a team capable of playing for a league or national championship.
Following Friday night's game — a 4-3 win over Vermont — Terrier coach Jack Parker said words like "stupid" and "selfish" to describe his team that looked more interested in impressing fans and TV cameras than it did closing out a game.
Twenty-four hours later, the exact opposite. BU defeated UNH, 4-1, buoyed largely by a strong third period. Now, a quick perusal of the scoresheet will say Saturday finished just like Friday — UNH outshot BU, 23-8, and the Terriers put the Wildcats on the power play twice. Both of those things were issues on Saturday night, but the causes changed drastically.
UNH dominated shots, because it had to. The Terriers entered the period with a 1-0 lead before UNH's Trevor vanRiemsdyk snuck the equalizer past Kieran Millan at 5 minutes, 5 seconds. A little more than 2 minutes following that, the Terriers scored twice in a 36-second span to build a two-goal lead. From there, the parts of the game drawing such negative feedback from Parker on Friday became points of pride from the coach on Saturday.
"I think it was everybody. We didn't see any of the turnovers. We didn't see any of the bad reads at the blue line. We didn't see guys hanging back behind people. We didn't see guys playing on the offensive side of the puck instead of the defensive side of the puck," Parker said. "There were a whole bunch of guys who drifted into [the bad habits Friday] night."
Some of the most frequent guests in Parker's dog house played complete games, excelling in parts of the rink they may not have visited this season.
Late in third, UNH defenseman Eric Knodel wound a shot from the point with a perfectly developed screen before BU goaltender Kieran Millan. Out of nowhere, junior winger Alex Chiasson dove and extended his stick, altering Knodel's shot just enough to send it wide.
During that same shift, some strong work along the half-wall from Chiasson and linemate Charlie Coyle prevented a UNH forward from finding a teammate wide open in the slot. Earlier in the game, while killing a penalty, Chiasson made a similarly smart play, dumping the puck into the UNH zone and heading off for a change, rather than forcing a scoring chance. Two weeks ago, Chiasson may have turned it on and headed for the blue line trying to weave around the UNH defenseman for a scoring chance — the type a play he can make with greater frequency than most. Opting for the change is the type of play BU didn't make Friday night.
These decisions prevented goals — or quality scoring chances at the absolute least. However, they don't require the superior skill littering the BU roster. They simply demand a deviation from those adjectives Parker used on Friday to those he found on Saturday.
"We were really thorough with and without the puck," Parker said. "We weren't puck watching. We were covering guys instead of just staring at each other. We made some pretty good passes, and I thought we did a real good job of controlling the speed of the game and where the puck was going to go."
According to junior Wade Megan, the marked improvement from Saturday to Friday didn't require any major changes. They played responsibly and transitioned from defense to offense, rather than forcing rushes up ice in hopes of scoring a goal every time they touched the puck. It was pretty simple, Megan said. They just played smarter.
The issue, though, is that playing smart requires a choice between right and wrong. Smart and stupid. Selfish and thorough.
All tests BU failed 50 percent of the time this weekend.