Healey, Patriots Partnership Should Start Trend for NFL

By Patrick O’Rourke
BU News Service

Sport has the ability to serve as a vehicle of social change, especially in Boston given the platform beset to the its sports teams and stars. It’s why Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey went to Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, looking to spread awareness on the epidemic of relationship violence.

Game Change, a joint initiative between the New England Patriots and and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, is designed to do just that — prevent such violence through education in the state’s high schools. The $1.5 million partnership will train students, teachers, and coaches on how to work against violence, and how to properly intervene in a situation involving violence.

Along with the Northeastern University-sponsored Mentors in Violence Program, the initiative will work with 90 schools across six regions in Massachusetts. The program is expected to be a beacon for the charge to end domestic violence, and a template for other franchises and state governments to follow.

“The more you learn about domestic violence in this country,” said Kraft, “the more you want to do to help.”

Kraft calls the statistics with regards to violence against women ‘staggering’. One in three women have been abused in a relationship. One in five women are sexually assaulted, according to a report put out by the White House in Dec. 2014. Results of a BU student survey administered earlier this year were released on Thursday. Among a sample of 5,875 respondents, approximately one in six reported being sexually assaulted while at BU.

The NFL brought the matter into the spotlight in 2014, when video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice punching his then-girlfriend (now-wife) in the elevator of a New Jersey casino. Rice, who had already been suspended for two games for his role in the incident, was suspended when the video went public. He was released by his team.

In May 2014, Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy — then as a member of the Carolina Panthers — was accused of throwing his girlfriend into a bathtub, then tossed her onto a futon covered in rifles. He threatened to kill her. Ray McDonald, also a defensive end, has been released by two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears, since December as a result of multiple domestic violence incidents.

The actions of a handful of NFL players have spoken louder than the numbers. While studies dating back as far as the 1980s indicate one in four college females have been victims of rape or attempted rape, it’s never moved the needle like the bombshell video TMZ.com released last September of Rice assaulting his girlfriend.

“The fact the video finally surfaced that showed the act [was important],” said Peter Roby, director of athletics at Northeastern and the co-chair of the 2015 Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Campaign, which is sponsored by Jane Doe Inc. “[The video] disgusted people. It disgusted sponsors. It disgusted the public. It demanded to be addressed, and it took the NFL a while to get to the right place and setting in motion ways for the league to deal with educating players with regards to sexual assault and domestic violence.”

The NFL responded by teaming up with the anti-domestic violence campaign NO MORE, running public service announcements with players. The league pledged to donate $5 million to the National Domestic Violence Hotline over a five-year period. Owners endorsed new domestic violence policies in December that included a six-game suspension for first-offenders of a crime ‘involving violent conduct’. But there’s been minimal commitment made fighting the epidemic through education and advocacy.

Healey told the Boston Globe she wasn’t impressed with how the league has responded to its domestic violence scandals. Roby doesn’t disagree.

“It’s been lacking,” he said of league action. “It’s been inappropriate, it hasn’t been thoughtful and there hasn’t been enough action. It’s one thing to say you’re disgusted, it’s another thing to put your money where your mouth is.”

The Patriots, the league’s second-most valuable team with an estimated worth of $2.6 billion, according to Forbes, has decided to put its money where its mouth is. Meanwhile the NFL’s most valuable team, the Dallas Cowboys, welcomed an unemployed Hardy with open arms in March, giving him a contract worth upwards of $13.1 million.

Healey wants to use the Patriots brand, fresh off its fourth Super Bowl victory since 2002, as an engine to educate the state’s youth on the issue to prevent such acts. The larger goal at hand here isn’t hard to miss — create a model other franchises can use to partner up with their respective states.

“This is what the NFL should be replicating and doing,” Healey told the Globe. “I hope this can be a model for owners in other states.”

To see Kraft leading the way with the cause is no surprise. The 74-year-old owner has been among the most influential in sports since buying the team in 1994. He was instrumental in getting the NFL and NFL Players Association to make a deal on the collective bargaining agreement in 2011, ending a lockout that had threatened the upcoming season. He was named the third most powerful man in sports last year by the Sports Business Journal. League commissioner Roger Goodell was fifth on that list.

Kraft’s late wife, Myra Hiatt Kraft, who died in 2011, championed the cause of putting an end to domestic violence during her life. She was well-known for her objection to the team selecting defensive tackle Christian Peter in the 1996 NFL Draft. Peter, who had a lengthy rap sheet involving violent acts against women. He was eventually released.

By ridding the organization of an individual whose criminal history was opposite of what the organization stood for back in 1996, the Kraft family brought the issue of domestic violence to the forefront. Nearly two decades later, with the issue already at the forefront, they’re advancing the cause.

“Sport plays an important role in our culture,” said Roby. “If we have a chance to bring a really important issue to light by using sport, we should do that.”

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Aaron Hernandez on Patriots in 2012: ‘You can’t come here and act reckless’

By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

On August 27, 2012, the New England Patriots signed tight end Aaron Hernandez, a budding NFL star, to a five-year contract extension worth up to $40 million in value, $16 million of which was guaranteed. If all came to fruition, Hernandez, along with teammate Rob Gronkowski, could very well make up the greatest 1-2 punch at tight end in NFL history.

Hernandez was emotional following the signing, grateful for the Patriots taking a chance on him in 2010 when character concerns dropped the all-world talent from the University of Florida to the fourth round of the NFL draft.

“It changed me as a person,” said Hernandez of the Patriots experience. “You can’t come here and act reckless and do your own stuff. And I was one of those [people] that when I came here, might have acted the way I wanted to act. But you get changed by the Bill Belichick way, and you get changed by the Patriot way.”

That tight-end tandem with Gronkowski never came to fruition. An ankle injury limited Hernandez to 10 games in 2012. The next June, as the football world usually lay quiet, Hernandez awoke the sleeping giant after news broke he was involved in a murder investigation. Less than two weeks later, he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Wednesday morning, we learned Hernandez would never again be a free man, charged with first-degree murder with no possibility of parole in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, of Dorchester.

Little did we know that this 22-year-old young man had just (allegedly) been involved in a double-murder in the South End a few weeks prior, charges he will stand trial for next. Little did we know that 10 months later, he would get carried out of his North Attleborough home in handcuffs, charged with murder.

2014-15 Terriers a Team in Every Sense of the Word

The BU Terriers season ended Saturday night with a 4-3 loss to Providence in the NCAA championship game.
The BU Terriers season ended Saturday night with a 4-3 loss to Providence in the NCAA championship game.

By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

Early on in the 2014-15 season, David Quinn felt he had a team that was capable of making a national championship run.

For most of Saturday night, it looked like that hunch would become a reality. The Terriers went into the third period with a 3-2 lead over Providence, and were 19-0 when leading with 20 minutes left. BU had landed 40 shots on Providence goalie Jon Gilles, a title game record.

That all changed when Matt O’Connor misplayed the puck out of his glove, which then trickled into the back of the net. The goal tied the score, 3-3, and a few minutes later Brandon Tanev scored off the faceoff with 6:17 left to make it 4-3, proving the be all the Friars needed to seal their first national championship.

But that didn’t take away from a special season put together by a special team. The Terriers went 28-8-5, winning the Beanpot and Hockey East titles — both firsts since 2009 — while qualifying for the Frozen Four for just the second time since 1997. They became the 11th team in program history to finish the year among the nation’s top two teams.

“The things we accomplished, when nobody thought we could do any of it, are a testament to [captains Matt Grzelcyk and Cason Hohmann] and everybody else associated with our team,” said Quinn. “We were a true team.”

The Terriers won just 10 games in 2013-14, Quinn’s first as BU’s head coach. It was the first time in 40 years in which the year started without Jack Parker leading the bench.

Coming off their worst season in a half-century, not many knew what to expect from the Terriers. They had a good core coming back with a large, talented freshman class coming in. O’Connor would be a full-time goalie after splitting time in his first two seasons with Sean Maguire, who took a medical redshirt this season.

BU was picked to finish sixth in the Hockey East prior to the season, their No. 20 ranking in the USCHO.com preseason poll the lowest the Terriers had been ranked in the 18-year history of the preseason poll.

But Quinn saw something in the team early on. He saw how the group bonded, how it gelled. And he sensed something special.

“Not only did the guys believe in each other athletically but they believed in each other socially, they trusted each other athletically and socially,” said Quinn. “When you have that at this level, you can do special things.”

It helped that the Terriers were welcoming a generational talent into the program in Jack Eichel. A player touted as the best prospect to come into college hockey since Brian Leetch walked on the Boston College campus in 1986. A 17-year-old kid already being compared to the likes of Mike Modano.

It helped even more that Eichel came as advertised. In 40 games, the North Chelmsford native scored 26 goals and 71 points. It took until his 11th game for a team to keep him off the scoresheet, an occurrence that happened just six times this season.

With Eichel centering him for the second half of the season, senior Evan Rodrigues was the nation’s leading scorer. After being bumped up to the top line during the second intermission of a 3-3 tie on Jan. 3 against Wisconsin, the left winger scored 15 goals and 44 points in 24 games, finishing with 21-40–61 totals, second only to Eichel.

“We were obviously a special team,” said Rodrigues. “I care about every single guy in this room. It’s a special group.”

But it was more than just the top line of Rodrigues, Eichel, and Danny O’Regan, though that tandem gained most of the attention — rightfully so — as the nation’s premier No. 1 line. The second line flourished when Robbie Baillargeon returned from mononucleosis. Ahti Oksanen scored 25 goals while Cason Hohmann emerged as one of the team’s best players in the second half. Freshman A.J. Greer was bumped up to the line during the postseason, and added a new element to the line.

Matt Lane was a great No. 3 center. Nikolas Olsson and Nick Roberto were strong bottom six contributors.

Defensively, the Terriers elder statesman was Grzelcyk, who had a year-and-a-half of college hockey under his belt, his sophomore campaign truncated by shoulder surgery. Four freshmen headlined the group, along with sophomore Doyle Somerby.

The blueline corps was anchored by O’Connor, who was going into his first full year as a full-time starter. The junior exceeded expectations, going 25-4-4 with a 2.18 GAA and .927 save percentage, earning himself second team All-Hockey East honors.

[O’Connor] is the reason we’re in this position,” said Eichel, “without him we wouldn’t have made it here and as far as we did.”

While O’Connor was great, the youthful blueline corps in front him had a hand in his success. The unit had a combined plus-105 rating, led by Grzelcyk’s plus-34. Freshman Brandon Hickey led the Hockey East and was tied for fifth nationally with 91 blocked shots.

“Obviously we had talent,” said Quinn. “But there’s a lot more ingredients that go into a championship team than just having talent.”

Great coaching makes great teams. It’s why the Terriers have been perennial power, as their bench has been run by names like Jack Parker and Jack Kelley. Add Quinn to that list too.

The Terriers not only improved by 18 wins from 2013-14 to 2014-15, but did so with a team that rolled eight freshman in its lineup, four of whom were defensemen. A goaltender who had never been a full-time starter in Division I college hockey. While Quinn credits the team’s veteran leadership for the quick adjustment of the Terriers youth, the best came out of Quinn this past season.

Many saw Oksanen as a big, strong defenseman who was coming off a strong sophomore season. Quinn saw a player with a skillset that would make him an elite winger, a beast on the walls and a monster around the net. The second-year coach put the third-year Terrier up front — to the dismay of Oksanen at first — and the Finnish forward finished the year sixth in nation with 25 goals. Not many coaches would’ve made that call, especially after the year Oksanen had in 2013-14 playing on the back end.

Not only did the team win games, they won championships. They became the first BU team to win the Beanpot and Hockey East since 2009. They came within 10 minutes of becoming just the eighth team to win the Beanpot, conference, and national tournament titles in the same season, just the fourth from BU (1972, 1995, 2009).

A great season with a tough ending, but a tough ending that took nothing away from a great season.

Gillies on O’Connor: ‘He’s a wonderful goalie’

Providence goaltender Jon Gillies was named most outstanding player of the Frozen Four
Providence goaltender Jon Gillies was named most outstanding player of the Frozen Four

By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

Providence goaltender Jon Gillies was on the highest of highs on Saturday night. The junior made 49 saves in leading the Friars to its first NCAA title in program history, named the most outstanding player of the Frozen Four in the process. But he was aware of his counterpart and friend, BU goalie Matt O’Connor, who was riding the lowest of lows.

The Terriers junior netminder had allowed two third period goals in the Friars come-from-behind win, the first of which was on the misplay of the puck in his glove after playing the dump-in of defenseman Tom Parisi.

“As a goalie you feel bad for a bounce like that,” said Gillies. “And you’ve been there, so you know the bottomless feeling that it presents and just told him how great of a season he’s had, how great of a tournament he had, how great of a game he had. He made huge stops throughout that entire game.”

The two goaltenders know each other from playing against each other in the USHL. Gillies played for the Indiana Ice for two seasons from 2010-12. O’Connor played for the Youngstown Phantoms in that same pair of seasons.

“I know him personally,” said Gillies. “He’s a wonderful goalie. He had a great year and he was fantastic throughout the tournament to get here.”

Gillies was named the most outstanding player of the Frozen Four following the game after stopping 74 of 78 shots in two games, wins over Nebraska-Omaha and BU. He finished the season with a 24-13-2 record to go along with a 2.01 GAA and .930 save percentage, numbers that garnered second-team All-American honors.

O’Connor was the best goaltender in the Hockey East not named Jon Gillies this season, named the 2015 All-Hockey East second team after posting a 12-2-2 record in conference play with a 2.27 GAA and .924 save percentage. The Providence goaltender was named to the first team.

O’Connor Mistake Just One of Many Things to go Wrong for BU in Final Stretch

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By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

When people look back on BU’s 4-3 loss to Providence in Saturday’s national championship game at the TD Garden, Matt O’Connor’s misplay of a puck that trickled into the back of the net will be the first thing people mention, fair or not. It’s the ground ball that went through the legs of Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Like the Buckner play, it wasn’t necessarily what lost them the game. It’s just what everybody will look back on.

“I couldn’t really see it in my glove,” said O’Connor, who made 39 saves. “I thought it rolled out of it. I tried to drop and throw it to Jack [Eichel] and it was too late.”

The Terriers were 19-0 when leading after two periods going into Saturday night, outscoring opponents by a 69-29 margin in the third period. But the difference between the first 40 games of the Terriers 2014-15 slate and Game No. 41 was the latter was the national title game, where veteran teams prevail more often than not.

Of the 18 skaters who dressed for Providence along with starting netminder Jon Gilles, 14 Friars were either juniors or seniors. Meanwhile, the Terriers had eight freshmen in their lineup.

“Sometimes experience is the best remedy for situations that we were in tonight,” said Quinn. “And we don’t have a lot of it.”

The Friars gained a new life when Eichel went to the box for hooking with 15:27 to go in the game. BU had been carrying the play to that point, playing with the pace that had them leading, 3-2, with a 42-24 shot advantage.

Providence landed two shots on O’Connor on the powerplay to no avail, but it began a stretch where a good deal of play was played in the BU zone. The Terriers chased the puck more often than they possessed it. From the start of the powerplay to when the game-tying goal was scored — a stretch of 6:51 — the Terriers were outshot 13-4.

“Playing a pretty good third period, obviously we would’ve liked to spend more time in the offensive zone,” said Quinn, “but people list sight that despite all of our success, we’re the youngest team in the country. We have four 18-year-old defensemen playing in the game tonight.”

Following the game-tying goal, it took just 2:19 for the Friars to get what would be the game-winner. Kevin Rooney got the better of the draw with Eichel, with Brandon Tanev taking the loose puck to the net and beating O’Connor glove-side high, a vulnerable spot for the junior goalie. A play that was well drawn up, and executed even better.

The Terriers had no answer to the goal, and 6:17 later, PC won its first national title in hockey. But while a bad mistake by their goaltender played a hand in the loss, O’Connor’s teammates made sure he knew it wasn’t on him.

“[O’Connor’s] really been the backbone of our team all year,” said Grzelcyk. “And I think every guy in the room would agree we wouldn’t be in the [national] championship game without him.”

BU Falls to Providence in National Title Game

BU hockey lost to Providence, 4-3, Saturday night in the NCAA championship game at the TD Garden.
BU hockey lost to Providence, 4-3, Saturday night in the NCAA championship game at the TD Garden.

By Ethan Leavitt
BU News Service

As Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor let in his second self-created goal in as many games, you could sense the momentum swing toward Providence College’s way.

The Boston University men’s hockey team allowed two late third period goals as the lost a heartbreaker to Providence College in the national championship game at the TD Garden.

The Terriers, who had been 19-0 when leading after two periods, gave up two goals in the span of 2:19 after going into the final stanza with a 3-2 lead.

Senior Cason Hohmann and juniors Ahti Oksanen and Danny O’Regan scored the Terrier goals. Oksanen additionally assisted on Hohmann’s goal for a two-point night. Freshman Jack Eichel, who received the 2015 Hobey Baker Award Friday, collected his 71st point of the season with an assist on O’Regan’s goal. O’Connor made 39 saves for the Terriers.

Providence scored first with 10:35 to play in the first period. After a PC shot hit the post in the midst of a scramble at the crease, Anthony Florentino’s rocket from the left point beat O’Connor as the junior net-minder tried to get back in position.

Less than five minutes later, the Terriers took advantage of a fortunate bounce. Hohmann screened goaltender Jon Gilles and Oksanen took advantage, sending a bad-angle shot from the hash mark past the net-minder for his 25th goal of the year.

Immediately after Oksanen’s goal, Eichel won the ensuing center-ice faceoff and rushed forward into the Providence zone. He found a streaking O’Regan, who got off a backhander as he was knocked down and fired it home his 23rd goal of the season.

After Providence tied the game on a power play, the teams skated to a dead-heat until Hohmann broke the tie at the 11:36 mark of the second frame. He won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Oksanen, who skated around to the left circle and fired a shot on goal. Hohmann picked up the rebound, held the puck, created space for himself, and deposited his 11th goal of the season.

BU outshot Providence through the first two periods, 40-23, and appeared to have control of the play through the first 10 minutes of the third period.

However, everything changed at the 11:24 mark of the final stanza. Kyle McKenzie flipped the puck in on O’Connor from the red line. He initially gloved the puck, but he somehow dropped it, and it rolled over the goal line to even the score, 3-3.

PC had all the momentum after that. Less than three minutes later, Kevin Rooney won a faceoff to Brandon Tanev, who rifled a shot high glove-side to tally the game-winner.

Sophomore Nick Roberto nearly tied the game with just over a minute remaining, but his backhander was somehow stopped by Gilles, who dove over full-extension to his right to prevent the equalizer as the Terriers had an extra attacker on the ice.

After the final buzzer sounded, one could see BU players consoling O’Connor, who was hunched over and visibly upset. Numerous BU players, including Hohmann and senior Evan Rodrigues, were down on one knee.

Eichel, Oksanen and junior captain Matt Grzelcyk were all named to the NCAA All-Tournament team with Gillies earning the most outstanding player award for PC.

A.J. Greer Continues Strong Play Following Promotion to Second Line

BU freshman A.J. Greer has three points in five games since being moved up to the second line
BU freshman A.J. Greer has three points in five games since being moved up to the second line

By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

When David Quinn decided to shuffle the forward lines in the Hockey East tournament, it came as a surprise to some. The team had been rolling offensively, with all four lines chipping in, playing with pace and consistency.

But while some initially may have questioned the move, nobody is second-guessing the second-year coach, whose team clinched a spot in the NCAA championship game with Thursday’s 5-3 win over North Dakota, as the game of freshman A.J. Greer has since flourished.

Promoted to the second line after spending much of his freshman year on the fourth, Greer has added a spark to the line that features Cason Hohmann and Ahti Oksanen.

“I thought Hohmann and Ahti really could have used his speed and his strength,” said Quinn. “And he’s got a good skill set. I just thought he gave us the best-looking lineup when we made that decision, and it’s been a good line.”

Bumped up to the second line prior to the Hockey East semifinal matchup against UNH, Greer has put up 1-2–3 totals in five games. But the scoring line hasn’t told the whole story. The freshman’s uses his speed to his advantage on the forecheck, constantly keeping defensemen on their toes and coughing up pucks. He’s not afraid to shoot the puck, which opens up opportunities for his line mates. At 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, he can be a physical force.

Greer’s strength was on display again Thursday night, scoring a goal while landing two shots on net. He was on the ice for Doyle Somerby’s goal that made it 4-1, the goal that proved to be the difference in the game.

“He earned the opportunity,” said Quinn. “We didn’t just throw him a bone. We liked a lot of the things we’ve seen in games and throughout practice.”

Greer was finally rewarded on the scoresheet with his second period goal. The Terriers were leading, 2-1, and had an opportunity to pad their lead on the powerplay. As Jack Eichel broke the zone, he spotted Greer near the right point. Eichel made the pass to Greer, who one-timed the pass to give BU the 3-1 lead. It was his first goal since Jan. 3.

“[Defenseman Brien Diffley] slid me the puck and got over the blue line,” Eichel said of the play. “Saw [Greer] opened up, tried to put it in his wheelhouse where he could hammer one.”

The heavy one-timer by Greer beat UND goalie Zane McIntyre high on the right-side. The goal, scored at 11:20 of the second period, provided much-needed momentum for the Terriers.

“He works on his shot a lot,” said Eichel. “He’s got a great one-timer.”

The move has brought added energy to the top-six, with Greer’s explosiveness and creativity. It’s also put a top-six weapon in Robbie Baillargeon on the third line.

“Again, I thought it was a good combination; big, strong left winger who can skate, has good hands, can shoot the puck, can bring a physical element to that line,” said Quinn, “and he’s done a really good job.”

BU Hockey Headed Back to National Title Game

BU-UND Frozen Four Semifinals

By Ethan Leavitt
BU News Service

Terriers fans got a little more excitement than they bargained for, but they nonetheless got to witness the Boston University men’s hockey team defeat the University of North Dakota 5-3 in the Frozen Four semifinal on Thursday night at TD Garden. BU will take on Providence College in an all-Hockey East tilt in the National Championship game on Saturday.

Providence College defeated Nebraska Omaha, 4-1, in the first semifinal on Thursday. The Terriers will play for their sixth national title, having last won it in 2009.

Four different goal scorer got in the act for the Terriers, including Jack Eichel, who tallied three points.

Eichel opened the scoring with his 25th goal of the season and potted a crucial empty netter in the final seconds of the third period. He additionally assisted on freshman A.J. Greer’s second period marker. Senior Cason Hohmann recorded two assists while freshman Brien Diffley also posted a pair of helpers. Sophomore Doyle Somerby scored his first goal of the season. Ten Terriers scored at least one point tonight.

Junior Matt O’Connor stopped 36 shots, including 27 in the final two periods.

It was a wild finish, as North Dakota almost erased a three-goal third-period deficit. UND outshot BU 14-7 in the third period and 39-28 for the game, but the Terriers remained resilient and Eichel sealed the deal with a long-range empty-net goal.

The Terriers controlled play in the early going and held a 7-2 lead in shots through the first 13 minutes. They were able to get their first marker five minutes into the game. Junior Ahti Oksanen set a screen in front of UND goalie Zane McIntyre as a shot came from the point. The puck then bounced to Eichel, who deposited the rebound into the open net.

Play started to shift toward the BU end of the ice for the rest of the game. However, and O’Connor was called upon to make plenty of key saves to keep the Terriers on top.

Freshman Brandon Hickey drew a boarding call late in the opening frame and took advantage on the ensuing power play. Hohmann dished the puck back to Hickey at the left point, who blasted the shot through McIntyre’s legs for his sixth goal of the season.

UND had a power play to start the second period and capitalized when Luke Johnson rifled a snap shot just under the crossbar to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Moments later, Greer regained the two-goal advantage for the Terriers at the 11:20 mark of the second stanza. Eichel slid a perfect pass for Greer, who stepped into it in stride and one-timed the puck past McIntyre for his third goal of the season.

Somerby made it 4-1 with 6:50 to play in the middle period. He got the puck along the left half-wall and sent a bad-angle shot towards the goal. The puck found its way through two Terriers in front of McIntyre and into the back of the net.

UND nearly mounted a comeback in the third period, beginning with a rare gaffe by O’Connor. He misjudged a dump-in and allowed Troy Stecher to put the puck in the open net for a shorthanded goal at the 7:50 mark. Connor Gaarder then scored on a power play to cut the BU lead to 4-3. After senior Evan Rodrigues and Stephan Pattyn received matching minors with 1:33 to play, UND pulled McIntyre in favor of an extra attacker. It did not come to fruition for them, as Eichel got the puck just inside his own blue line and calmly sent it the length of the ice into the empty net.

BU is playing in its 11th NCAA Championship game. Saturday’s Championship game will be the first all-Hockey East final since 1999.





Transition to Forward Pays Dividends for Oksanen, BU

Ahti Oksanen scored 24 goals for BU in the 2014-15 season, his first as a forward.
Ahti Oksanen scored 24 goals for BU in the 2014-15 season, his first as a forward.

By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

Ahti Oksanen hadn’t skated at the forward position since he 10 years old. And when David Quinn decided to move the Finnish defenseman up to left wing, it was initially met with resistance.

“He didn’t react with a huge smile,” said Quinn. “There was definitely some reluctance on his part. I had to do some convincing and arm twisting.”

Oksanen was coming off a strong sophomore season for a BU team that won just 10 games. Putting up 24 points in 35 games, he tied for the team lead with 17 assists while ranking third on the team with 55 blocked shots.

“It was a huge change for me,” said Oksanen. “It practiced the whole summer as a [defenseman]. I still believed I’d play defense here at BU.”

But Quinn knew reinforcements needed to be made up front. Only two forwards had 20 or more points for the Terriers in 2013-14, when they finished 49th out of 59 Division I programs with 2.31 goals per game. Oksanen (24 points), Garrett Noonan (20), and Matt Grzelcyk (11) — all defensemen — accounted for more than one-quarter of BU’s scoring output.

“We had a glaring need up front,” said Quinn, “and after coaching Ahti for a year, I thought all his strengths were going to be up front.”

The move up front paid dividends quickly. Placed on BU’s top line alongside Jack Eichel and Danny O’Regan, Oksanen scored four goals in a 12-1 drubbing of St. Thomas in an Oct. 4 exhibition game.

“I proceeded to just practice after that, just focus on playing forward,” said Oksanen. “Maybe the first five, 10 games I didn’t feel as comfortable, but then it started coming back.”

The turning point came on Jan. 9 in Wisconsin. With BU trailing, 2-1, after two periods, Quinn bumped Oksanen down to the second line in favor of Evan Rodrigues.

While Rodrigues has led the nation in scoring since joining Eichel and O’Regan, Oksanen’s season has taken off as well. Down 3-1 with two minutes to play, the junior scored two goals in the final 1:52 to force the tie. In 21 games since, Oksanen has 14-6–20 totals.

“I wasn’t too happy about [being bumped up to forward] in the beginning,” said Oksanen. “But thank God coach moved me to forward.”

As Quinn said, the move to left wing has allowed the 6-foot-3, 207-pound winger to play to his strengths. A strong, rugged player, Oksanen is ferocious on the walls, strong on the stick, and creates offense with his bull-in-a-china-shop mentality.

His wall work wasn’t more evident than in overtime of the Beanpot final against Northeastern, winning a puck battle off the half-wall to set up Rodrigues, who made the quick pass over to Grzelcyk, who then scored the game-winner to bring the silver chalice back to BU.

“I don’t know if anyone has a stronger set of hands or a stronger stick in college hockey,” said Quinn.

With Oksanen in the lineup, the Terriers have scored nearly four goals per game in 2014-15, an uptick of nearly two goals from last season. The Fin has been a key part of that attack, scoring 24 goals to tie Eichel for the team lead. In the first half of the season, he played a lead role on the left side of the nation’s best first line. In the second half he provided secondary scoring that has been an overlooked aspect of this team.

All transition that’s been so smooth despite such pushback.

“[Oksanen] went home to Finland and he called me again and said, ‘I’ve been practicing on defense all summer and I’d really like to play defense’,” said Quinn. “I said,  well, Athi, you’re never going to play another second of defense at BU.”

“Twenty minutes into his forward career, he had four goals and he’s never looked back.”

Attacks Remain Fresh in Mind for BU Hockey Members

Boston. April 8, 2015. Media await a verdict outside the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  (Haiyun Jiang/BU News Service)
Boston. April 8, 2015. Media await a verdict outside the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Haiyun Jiang/BU News Service)

By Pat O’Rourke
BU News Service

BU men’s hockey coach David Quinn wasn’t in Boston when the Boston Marathon bombings happened on Apr. 15, 2013. But that’s not to say the attack didn’t hit home for the second-year coach.

“I was in Colorado at the time so I wasn’t here when it happened,” said Quinn, who was an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche at the time, “but I certainly felt it being in Denver, Colo., with all the family and friends here.”

When the court verdict was delivered on Wednesday afternoon during BU’s practice session, finding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 counts, it created a “lighthearted moment.”

“I think it’s starting to give people some closure,” said Quinn. “Now that the verdict has been rendered, and no one will ever move on from it totally, but hopefully events like this help the healing process.”

Ahti Oksanen and Matt Grzelcyk were wrapping up their freshman years at BU when the attacks happened. The two come from opposite backgrounds; Grzelcyk is a lifelong Bostonian, who grew up in Charlestown, just a few miles from where the bombs went off. Oksanen is from a rural community in Finland. But both felt similar emotion.

“I think the positive impact it’s had has kind of brought the city together,” said Grzelcyk. “Especially growing up here, it’s nice to see how people have responded and kind of rallied around each other.”

Oksanen was nearby the scene at the finish line and saw the panic in the aftermath. He also saw how the city responded in the following days.

“I remember watching the Bruins game against [the Buffalo Sabres] on TV, how everyone sang the National Anthem,” said Oksanen. “For me it was just an unbelievable experience to see how people responded to it.”