The Takeaway: BU Rallies, Beats Providence, 4-2 in Opener

Posted by: Joe Meloni

BOSTON — A goal and two assists from Cason Hohmann helped Boston University defeat Providence, 4-2, at Agganis Arena Saturday night. Hohmann, a sophomore, scored the game-winning goal at 18 minutes, 57 seconds of the second period, fewer than 3 minutes after setting up Garrett Noonan’s game-tying goal.

BU goaltender Matt O’Connor, making his collegiate debut, stopped 26 shots, while PC’s Jon Gillies made 30 saves in the loss. PC defeated Sacred Heart, 8-2, on Friday night to open its season, but Saturday’s defeat makes the Friars 0-1-0 in Hockey East play.

What I Saw

  • The improvements Nate Leaman has made to Providence’s talent level in fewer than two years are visible at every position. The Friars don’t sit back, waiting for opponents to make mistakes. They dictate long portions of games and make teams play PC hockey. Throughout Saturday’s game, PC carried extended stretches, and only some quality blocked shots and saves kept them from more goals. When BU turned it on, Jon Gillies bailed them out frequently. The presence of Gillies in the Friars’ lineup is just one example of improved talent. Freshmen like Mark Jankowski, Paul de Jersey and John Gilmour all have diverse skill sets.
  • BU’s intentions were pretty clear throughout Saturday’s game. Their forwards rushed the net, looking for rebounds after shots from the point, high slot and the circles. Providence succeeded in keeping Gillies’ eyes clear for lengthy stretches of the game, but all three of the Terriers’ goals came when they created traffic. Ryan Ruikka scored from just beyond the high slot, Garrett Noonan from the mid-point and Cason Hohmann from the bottom of the circle. In each instance, at least one BU player was harrying Gillies. As always, BU has an abundance of skill at all positions, but showing they can win with grit will help in the tighter games to come this season.
  • Freshman goalies for both Providence and BU played well. Gillies finished with 30 saves, and only the third BU goal should he have saved. Matt O’Connor, who BU coach Jack Parker said will split time with fellow freshman Sean Maguire to start the season, enjoyed a successful debut as well stopping 26 of 28. The Friars created a lot of chances with good passes into grade-A, and O’Connor made a series of impressive reaction saves. Gillies and O’Connor are in different situations. Gillies, a third round pick of the Calgary Flames, seems like the No. 1 for Leaman, and O’Connor and Maguire will fight for time. Regardless, it’s clear both have immense talent and are already capable of winning games at this level. As the season progresses, their development and consistency will likely dictate the success their clubs have in Hockey East.

What I Thought

  • Every BU sophomore looks like a completely different player. There’s obviously an advantage to having played a full year of college hockey. Cason Hohmann, Evan Rodrigues and Alexx Privitera each showed their season of experience. Hohmann scored once and assisted on two others, Privitera calmly led the Terrier breakout and defended, and Rodrigues picked up two assists on key passes to create the scoring chances. The BU junior class receives most attention due its level of skill, while it’s freshman group is among the nation’s biggest. However, its group of sophomores won this game. All three are obviously talented, but the experience to use that talent most effectively shown through the win over PC.
  • Garrett Noonan’s best contributions to the BU win didn’t include his goal. Noonan finished his sophomore with 16 goals – a plainly staggering amount for a collegiate defenseman. He also emerged as a shutdown defender as well. His first game of 2012-13 was strong on both fronts. His goal wasn’t anything marvelous, as he one-timed a pass from Hohmann through a throng and past Gillies. Still, moving well, getting open and making the simple play are the habits that make talented players great ones. Beyond that, he was especially effective in the third period. BU entered the period protecting a 3-2 lead, and it never really seemed in doubt. Noonan wasn’t alone in a strong game on the blue line. He just stood out the most.
  • Providence could’ve won this game if not for a few key saves from O’Connor. Midway through the second period, a Matt Grzelcyk cross-checking minor led to a PC 4 on 3 for 1 minute, 12 seconds. The Friars’ best chance on the power play came with Tim Schaller attempting to jam a rebound past O’Connor. The net was open, but O’Connor flashed his right pad to keep it out. At that point, PC led, 2-1, and had established control over the game. O’Connor’s save quickly shifted momentum, and BU ended the period with a 3-2 after goals from Noonan and Hohmman in 2:59 of each other.

What They Said

“We’re up 2-1 on the road, and we had a 2 on 1 then we had the 4-on-3 power play. We had a chance to separate ourselves a little bit, and we didn’t. Then they came back and got two goals in three minutes and got the building back in the game. Credit (BU), I thought their goaltender came up big on those two saves. He had  a really big save on Schaller there and made a big save on the 2 on 1. It was a tight game and that was the difference. We had a chance to separate ourselves, and we didn’t. In the third period, they had more jump than we did.” – Providence coach Nate Leaman

The swing that came on the final 10 minutes of the second period hit Providence hard. The Friars didn’t recover. BU’s team defense was strong and stifled the PC comeback attempt in the third. The Friars managed just seven shots in search of a game-tying goal. Neither a timeout from Leaman, which came with about three minutes remaining in regulation, nor pulling Gillies helped PC find its rhythm.

What They Didn’t Say

Parker didn’t say that O’Connor’s strong performance earned him the start in BU’s next game. Next Saturday, the Terriers head to the Whittemore Center for their first game with New Hampshire. Prior to the season, Parker said he planned to rotate O’Connor and Maguire indefinitely. Barring an injury, that is still the plan. In 2008-09, BU began the season with Grant Rollheiser and Kieran Millan competing for playing time. An injury to Rollheiser made Millan the de facto No. 1, and he never relinquished the title. For now, Parker will go every other with Maguire and O’Connor, but it’s up to Maguire now to show he can play as well as his teammate did on Saturday.

What Else You Should Know

  • Providence travels to Oxford, Ohio, next week for a pair with Miami.
  • After its road test against UNH, the Terriers start a home-and-home pair with Massachusetts on Oct. 26 at Agganis Arena.
  • Ryan Ruikka’s goal to open the scoring was his first since March 11, 2011, in a 5-2 win over Northeastern in Game 2 of a Hockey East quarterfinal series.
  • Ross Mauermann’s first period goal was his second of the season, giving him two goals and two assists through two games.

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