BU falls to BC in Agganis Arena Battle

It’s been more than two months since the BU mens hockey team went inside the Kelley Rink glass at BC Nov. 7 and walked out with a 5-3 victory.

Despite the length of time between installments of the Green Line rivalry, the Eagles didn’t to forget what the Terriers did in their own building in November, making the trip up Comm Ave. and winning, 4-2, Friday night at Agganis Arena.

“We lost to the better team tonight,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I thought [BC] played with a little bit more passion, a little bit more pace. For some reason we were a little bit flat. Part of that reason was the pace BC was playing with.”

No, it wasn’t a cliche closer-than-the-score-suggested game. It was more about the little things. More often than not, 50-50 battles on the boards ended with pucks on BC tape. The Eagles (13-7-2, 6-4-2 HE) played the Terriers (12-4-4, 7-2-2) tight, eliminating time and space. BU lost players too often, let maroon-and-gold sweaters get behind them too often, resulting in scoring opportunities, if not scores.

Most importantly, BC cashed in on their opportunities.

A post-whistle scrum four minutes into the game resulted in the Terriers being on the power play. It looked like the Terriers would be able to capitalize on early game momentum the team built in the opening minutes of the game. Instead it marked the start of a rough night for the BU special teams unit, who went 1-for-4 on the power play with just six shots while allowing BC to land 13 shots in seven man-up situations, with two of those shots eluding goaltender Matt O’Connor.

Going on the power-play at 4:01 in the first, Danny O’Regan found himself in the box at 4:51 for tripping. With Casey Hohmann and Nick Roberto already in the sin bin with O’Regan, A.J. Greer decided to play ‘how many people can you fit in a telephone box?’, taking an interference penalty at 5:20. All of a sudden the Eagles were on the power play.

And they capitalized. At 6:41, BC freshman defenseman Noah Hanifin opened the scoring with a laser from the point. It was the start of a standout night for Hanifin, as well as a night of to remember for Jerry York’s freshmen, countered by one to forget for Quinn’s.

“I thought it looked like we had four freshmen defensemen in our lineup for the first time all season,” Quinn said, referring to first-year players Brandon Fortunato. Brandon Hickey, John MacLeod and Brien Diffley.

Of course, when people talk about the star-studded cast of freshmen the BC-BU features this season, everything starts — and sometimes ends — with Jack Eichel and Hanifin. Eichel has been propped up as the next great American hockey player, predicted to be picked second overall in June’s NHL draft. Hanifin is as high as third in some circles.

Hanifin won the battle Friday night. The freshman blueliner from Norwood did it all, scoring the game’s first goal and setting up fellow freshman Alex Tuch’s tally at 17:43 of the first to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead. On the other end of the ice, he blocked two shots. Eichel assisted on Danny O’Regan’s third period goal that cut it to 3-1, but finished with a minus-two rating.

While Hanifin shined, it was Tuch who stole the show. The freshman who was drafted 18th overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2014 NHL Draft had his best night to date in a BC uniform, putting up a career-best 2-1-3 line. A big winger whose game resembles past BC stars Brian Boyle and Chris Kreider, Tuch saw the game as a springboard from what he felt was a rough first half of the season.

“I wasn’t content on my first half of the season,” said Tuch. “I wanted to step my game up even higher than I did during World Juniors and I think I showed a little bit tonight.”

The Terriers were able to mount a comeback in the third, with O’Regan’s goal at 1:17 of the third before Matt Lane made it a one-goal game with 3:23 remaining in the game. Timely saves by O’Connor, who made 37 saves for BU, allowed the game to come down to the final minute.

But the late effort proved too little, too late for BU, as Zach Sanford blocked an Evan Rodrigues shot from the high slot with the goalie pulled. Sanford gained control of the puck and threw it down ice and into the Terriers net with 33 seconds to go.

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Posted by: Patrick O'Rourke on