February 26, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Frustration Mounts for Terriers After Tie

by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter

BOSTON — Minutes following Friday night’s 3-3 tie with Vermont, Boston University senior captain Joe Pereira made it perfectly clear that his Terriers were too good to give excuses.

Some suggested youth, and Pereira shot that down immediately.

“I don’t think it’s that we’re young,” he said. “Those freshmen have played a lot of hockey for us in a lot of big situations.

“We can’t sit here and keep making excuses that we’re young,” Pereira continued. “It’s just something we have to address and get over it.”

Others wondered whether or not BU – this edition of BU – has learned how to win yet. Nope. Pereira wasn’t buying.

“Obviously, it’s pretty disappointing. We haven’t really put up three good games together in a long time,” he said. “You’re up, 3-0, playoff hockey, we have to win those games. We keep saying we’re going to learn these lessons, but it keeps happening.”

Don’t call it an excuse for a second. There must be reason a BU didn’t win Friday night. Pereira provided that one quickly. In short, the Terriers just didn’t play well enough for long enough. For about 46 minutes, BU established itself – clearly – as the better side. Then those final 14 minutes rolled around.

The score said 3-0 at that point. Twenty-three second later, Vermont edged within a pair. Still, 13:27 stood between the Terriers and two points – two points that meant a slightly more comfortable four-point lead over fifth-place Maine, which defeated Merrimack, 4-0, Friday night. Six minutes, 51 seconds later the gamed was tied, 3-3, and it ended that way.

From a coach’s standpoint, Vermont’s late-game push resulted from missed assignments: forwards failing to backcheck, blown coverages and dreadful rebound control by the BU defensemen. Those are reasons, more than excuses, teams don’t win hockey games.

Moments before Pereira publicly demanded more effort, more commitment from his team – freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors alike – his coach, Jack Parker, seemed a little more at ease. He pointed out the flaws in his team’s third period performance, and credited junior goaltender Kieran Millan and freshman defenseman Adam Clendening for great games played.

The grizzled skipper wasn’t happy with the point after watching his team let the other slip so easily. The mental mistakes, though, those can be fixed – a little more film, a little more time on the ice between games. Parker saw the effort he wants, though. His team, rookies and old vets like Pereira, skated, and they skated hard. They fought through the overtime period, and even afterward when Garrett Noonan and a Vermont player traded a poke or two following the final buzzer.

Still, a three-goal lead with 14 minutes left should be safe – especially for a club, like BU, expecting to win games, tournaments and trophies. Parker’s answer? Well, it happens. Move on. It’s unacceptable; BU should have one more point than it did when Friday’s game ended, but BU and Vermont play again Saturday. Those teams behind BU in the Hockey East standings have games Saturday night, too, and the Catamounts, one point ahead of Massachusetts in seventh place, have a playoff spot to clinch. Friday won’t mean much to them Saturday night, so it can’t be in BU’s mind either.

Parker struggled with his players’ memories last season as well. In 2009-10, though, the issue wasn’t overcoming disappointment. It was moving on from success. Two seasons ago, BU won a national championship. They won Hockey East and a Beanpot as well. One year later, when the banner commemorating their remarkable season rose to rafters above the rink named for their coach, his players still couldn’t stop talking about it. The Terriers had reasons to confident, but that assuredness quickly morphed into cockiness, which then became complacency.

Friday night, they blew a lead. The players stopped doing their jobs, and the result resembled last year. It looked different, though. For Pereira, though, it’s all the same. Youth is no better an excuse than self-satisfaction.

Having a captain in the mold of Pereira goes a long way to demonstrate to younger players just what is expected of them every day. Pereira wasn’t drafted prior to enrolling at BU. He’s not an all-American, and doesn’t seem to want to be. He just wants to win, and he plays that way.

Friday night, Pereira and the Terriers played winning hockey for 46 minutes. When it all fell apart and an easy two points became a frustrating single, they avoided the excuses. Because they’re too good to do that. They may not know it yet, but their captain does.

And he’s not going to accept anything less their best. He’s seen what can happen when a team mixes talent, effort and commitment. But, maybe more importantly, he knows what will happen if talent becomes the only of those three the Terriers show on a nightly basis.

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