The Takeaway: BU, Millan Blank UNH in Opener

Posted by: Joe Meloni

It was about as good a start to the season as Boston University could’ve hoped for. The first two periods were fairly even in terms of play, but the Terriers found the back of the net twice on goals by Wade Megan and Corey Trivino, both of which came on nice setups from Chris Connolly. Matt Nieto scored the backbreaker 1:15 into the third, Alex Chiasson and Kevin Gilroy tacked on insurance markers, and Kieran Millan stopped all 35 shots he faced as the Terriers came away with a 5-0 win over UNH.

What I saw

  • BU’s top two lines were dominant. The lines of Chris Connolly-Corey Trivino-Sahir Gill and Matt Nieto-Charlie Coyle-Alex Chiasson seemed to be buzzing around the UNH net all night.┬áParker moved Gill from center to wing and Coyle from wing to center during the week, and the changes seemed to benefit everyone involved. The Trivino line registered a goal and four assists, while the Coyle line finished with two goals and three assists. Regardless of how Parker arranges up his top two lines going forward, those are six very talented players — four of them are first- or second-round NHL picks — who could give opponents fits all season.
  • The Terriers got to the net. This applies to not just the top two lines, but the whole offense. At times last season, BU seemed incapable or unwilling to get to the dirty areas in front of the net and fight for deflections and rebounds. That wasn’t the case Saturday. UNH goalie Matt Di Girolamo rarely had a clear line of vision, and there were Terriers in the vicinity of most of his rebounds. BU wound up with 23 shot attempts from grade-A areas.

What I thought

  • The defense still has plenty of work to do. The Terriers gave up 29 shots through the first two periods, including a handful of odd-man rushes, and frequently struggled to break out of their own end. The only reason they entered the second intermission with a 2-0 lead instead of a 2-2 tie (or worse) was Millan. The defense finally tightened up in the third and allowed just six shots in the frame, but it will need to play that way for 60 minutes rather than 20 moving forward.
  • Wade Megan could be poised for a breakout season. He scored two goals in BU’s exhibition game last week and added another on Saturday. The 2009 Florida Panthers fifth-round pick registered just 25 points total in his first two seasons at BU, but he showed flashes of NHL potential last season when he wasn’t being held back by a series of nagging injuries. Through two games this season, he just looks more comfortable and confident (and healthy) than he has before. He’s been winning battles and creating chances for both himself and his freshman linemates — Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues. As Hohmann and Rodrigues continue to adjust to the college game, their rising comfort level should only help Megan even more.

What they said

“I thought we’d be much better because we were gonna get older. It was almost like all we had to do was wait for the next season to start, because all our freshmen would be sophomores and all our sophomores would be juniors, and it would really be a big boost for us.

“It’s really difficult for freshmen to come in this league and do what our freshmen had to do last year, and that was play on the first two lines, play a lot on the power play, kill all the penalties. Our freshmen this year don’t have to do that. They don’t have to be on the power play or anything like that. They don’t have to have to play against everybody else’s first line like Gill had to do and Charlie had to do and Nieto had to do.” – BU coach Jack Parker

Youth doesn’t entirely explain BU’s disappointing season last year, but it was certainly a big part of it. Parker is absolutely right that the less you have to rely on freshmen and the more you can rely on veterans, the better off you’ll be. It remains to be seen if it really will be that easy of a fix for the Terriers, but having a more experienced lineup certainly won’t hurt them.

What they didn’t say

Parker said during the week that redshirt freshman forward Yasin Cisse had been cleared to play after suffering a concussion during preseason practice, but he did not dress Saturday night. Cisse suffered a season-ending ankle injury in juniors two Decembers ago, then missed all but the season-opener last year after re-injuring the same ankle. Parker said it was a “coach’s decision” to hold him out against UNH because they wanted to give him more time to get acclimated to skating and hitting after missing so much time.

That’s certainly more than understandable given everything Cisse has been through, but at the same time, the only way he’s really going to get acclimated is by playing in games. Perhaps Parker is waiting for Friday night at Providence to get Cisse into what should be, for lack of a better word, an easier game for BU. Either way, it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on Cisse once he gets out there. He has plenty of potential — as evidenced by being a 2010 fifth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets — but how cautious and how worried will he be about his ankle?

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