A quick look at the Boston University roster would suggest they’re the kind of team that buries opponents under an avalanche of goals, like their 2015 team did. Stop me if you’ve heard this all before - four first round picks, four second round picks, etc. etc.
In reality, that’s not how it’s played out: BU is mid-pack in Hockey East in terms of generating offense - 7th in the league at 3.25 goals per game, and 7th in the league with a shade under 30 shots per game.
But they’ve become a very stingy defensive team, limiting opponents to 2.15 goals and 29 shots per game. That stinginess shined through in the third period, as BU absorbed the pressure of a trailing BC team and rarely looked in danger despite being outshot 13-5 in the third period.
BU’s third period defense allowed them to preserve a 2-1 lead and pick up a victory in the first game of the season series between the two longtime rivals.
BC came out flying to start the third period, with three or four really fast, hard shifts that generated some pressure in the attacking zone. It felt at times in the second period like BC could only create real pressure when Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald were on the ice, but in the early minutes of the third period even BC's fourth line was racking up decent attacking zone time.
BU survived the early rush and quickly went in to park-the-bus mode starting with about 15 minutes left in the game and never really looked back from that approach. The Terriers routinely stuffed the slot with 3-4 defending players, and when they’d clear the zone they’d do so cautiously, keeping players back and making sure not to get caught on the rush the other way.
It felt a little early to go in to a defensive shell, but it ultimately proved to be a fruitful strategy. Though this team isn’t quite the go-go Eagles of 2010-2013, they definitely are at their best attacking with speed on the break, and picking teams apart with speed and quick passes.
BU’s disciplined approach in the third period prevented BC from playing that strength. The Terriers challenged BC to pick them apart while camped out in their own end and the Eagles couldn’t do it, with BU’s stud blue liners keeping the slot clean and limiting BC to a lot of low-grade scoring chances. BC’s cross-ice passes were just a bit off for a lot of the night (with one notable exception on the Eagles’ game-tying goal in the second period), with somewhat choppy ice conditions at Agganis and a bit of sloppiness seeming to contribute.
At the end of the day, the 2-1 result fairly reflected the action on the ice. It was close, tense, and physical, but BU looked to have just a bit more when things got really cranked up in the second period. That said, the gap between the teams is not large.
In the first period, the two teams looked really evenly matched in the early going at 5-on-5, with both teams trading chances and BC actually generating more shots at 5-on-5 than BU.
The tide shifted toward BU at the 12 minute mark when BU agitator Patrick Curry successfully baited Casey Fitzgerald in to taking matching roughing minors, setting up two minutes of 4-on-4. That seemed to play to BU’s strengths as the Terriers absolutely dominated the 4-on-4, with energy that carried over when the two penalized players returned to the ice. A number of really stout saves by Joe Woll kept the game tied.
BC lost the game in the first 7:10 of the second period.
The Terriers' energy carried over in to the second and BU controlled play early, though BC did a pretty good job keeping chances to the outside; at 3:47, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson made a great play to tip a point shot and create the breakthrough for BU to go up 1-0.
Less than two minutes later, BC was fortunate enough to get a power play opportunity, and they cashed in QUICKLY, with Colin White scoring a goal on a cross-ice feed by Casey Fitzgerald that resembled tapping home a four foot putt in to a wide open net.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they couldn’t build on that. Clayton Keller scored at 7:10 after some great work in the attacking zone by he and fellow US WJC player Jordan Greenway. Greenway won a puck battle behind the net against Scott Savage and Keller strolled down a wide open slot, taking Greenway's feed and depositing it for the game winner.
That stretch of play, late in the first and early in the second, was the only time when BC was really outplayed. The game was otherwise mostly even, with shots on goal ending 33-33.
On Monday, BC will have to be just a tick better to pull off what would be a huge split against a rising BU team. We’ll see you Monday night at 7.