BU's Problems Continue as Season Winds Down
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
BOSTON There was a time, not too long ago, when Boston University was a realistic contender for everything.
Hockey East tournament.
The NCAA tournament.
All seemed like realistic goals for this BU team. The emergence of solid young contributors along with the presence of talented upperclassmen made the Terriers a team no one wanted to see in any of these tournaments. That was about three months ago. Before something happened.
No one, not even BU coach Jack Parker, can point to the exact issue. Or, more likely, there isn't just one problem. Identifying one shortcoming only meant another was coming shortly.
For a while, Parker looked at the locker room. Something, he said, after a loss to Harvard in the Beanpot consolation game, "was wrong" among the players. A lack of trust or divide on the roster that made it difficult for an already struggling team to come together.
"I think the team has come together," Parker said on Friday. "We're past that."
Depth is a concern, too. For the second consecutive year, the Terriers lost multiple players during the season. Yasin Cisse left after the first semester for Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL. Wesley Myron signed a professional contract after moving in and out of the lineup. Most recently, sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera and his temper were suspended for the remainder of the season by Parker.
But, depth, no, depth isn't the reason the Terriers have lost eight of 13 in the second half. Most recently, Massachusetts-Lowell came into Agganis Arena and handled BU, 3-0, without much protest from the 21 players in scarlett and white Friday night. The compete-level satisfied their coach. The adjustments never came, though. UML was content to sit back after building a 2-0 lead in the second period. The Terriers didn't shift from their doomed breakouts, trying to pass their way through layers of UML defensemen.
"I thought it was a pretty good game for us tonight," Parker said. "I know it was a good game for us effort-wise. ... We just couldn't execute at times. We had some chances. There were some instances where we expected them to give us a certain type of defense, but they had four men back once they got the two-goal lead. I'm disappointed that we didn't create more offense."
Perhaps it's been the plainly boneheaded defensive problems that have undone the Terriers in all eight of those losses since returning from winter break. Breakouts quickly become turnovers that morph into multi-goal deficits even faster. The Terriers avoided these mistakes for most of the evening on Friday. Call it progress, but the result was the same.
The Terriers still found ways to hurt themselves on Friday and tilt an even game into a decided Lowell victory. A dreadful line change led to Scott Wilson's goal at 5 minutes, 35 seconds of the second period. A shade more than two minutes later, a turnover at the blue line led to an odd-man rush and a puck kicked off Sean Escobedo's skate into the BU goal.
The problems for BU aren't the same from night to night. The lone consistency is that there will be one element of the game the Terriers do just poorly enough to cost themselves the game. Saturday night, BU travels north to finish the season series with the River Hawks. After Friday's debacle, BU and UML are tied for fifth in Hockey East — each trailing Providence and Boston College by two points for the final home ice spot in the Hockey East tournament. BU needs those two points to make a late push for Hockey East quarterfinal series at home.
"There's six teams vying for home ice, and any one of them could get home ice," Parker said. "We didn't help ourselves tonight. ... It's a very long haul to get that home ice. Two teams currently in it aren't going to get it.
Furthermore, the Terriers' current slide has made an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament a reach. BU ended the night 18th in the Pairwise.
"(Friday night) was even more important in regard to the NCAA tournament," Parker said. "Not getting points (Friday) was a step back for us for sure."
There is still time, of course. The Terriers have six Hockey East games remaining on the year. A strong finish would position the Terriers well for a run in the Hockey East tournament.
They're confident they can fix it. They watched the Beanpot fall through their grasp. They know they've turned an NCAA tournament appearance into a pipe dream.
"Of course," Parker quipped when asked if his players were aware of their chances for an at-large bid, "they've got computers."
Despite that, there is still time to turn the Hockey East tournament into a success and sneak into the NCAA tournament. If the last 13 games are any indication, though, BU will find a way to waste that chance, too.