BOSTON — Boston University defeated Rensselaer, 3-2, in overtime at Agganis Arena Friday night. The Terriers put 40 shots on RPI senior goaltender Bryce Merriam. With two minutes left in the extra frame, sophomore Cason Hohmann skated through the right slot and launched a quick wrist shot above the left blocker of Merriam. The deciding goal came after the Terriers dominated the third period and continued to generate scoring chances in overtime.
What I Saw
During the first period, the Engineers maintained a strong defensive shape and frustrated BU’s efforts to engage the offensive zone. RPI started the scoring in the middle of the frame, as sophomore Ryan Haggerty scored quickly off a face-off. The Terriers responded several minutes later after freshman Mike Moran danced into the crease from behind the net and put a shot on Merriam. Then, senior Ryan Santana quickly converted the rebound to tie the score.
The Engineers took the lead in the second, again, on another quick shot past BU goalie Sean Maguire. This time senior C.J. Lee scored quickly from the left slot. Early in the third, BU’s industry in front of the net again proved worthwhile. Junior Sahir Gill scored on a rebound of a shot from junior defenseman Garrett Noonan from close range. After the goal, the Terriers dominated the remainder of the period but failed to create the game-winner.
Friday’s game marked another data point in the Engineers’ season-long quest to find a No. 1 goaltender. The team’s three goalies have played in roughly the same amount of games. Freshman Jason Kasdorf, who did not dress against the Terriers, has the best statistics of the trio.
For a stretch in early December, it appeared that coach Seth Appert had found the starter in Kasdorf. The freshman had started six straight games, earning a 2-1-2 record and presiding over the team’s most impressive win of the season at No. 17 Yale. However, Kasdorf left the Engineers’ game last Friday at St. Cloud State with an injury. His status is currently day-to-day, as RPI’s two other goalies battle for the starting position. But Merriam’s strong play against BU certainly alters the conversation.
What I Thought
In recent years, BU has been known to play down to its competition in non-conference play and has consequently experienced some unfavourable results. Last year, the Terriers dropped a 4-3 result to Holy Cross at Agganis Arena. Victories against lower-level ECAC and Atlantic Hockey teams can have little obvious gain and thus diminish motivation.
Based solely on the first period, it seemed the Terriers were destined for a similar result. But the Terriers put together a strong effort Friday night, as evidenced by their significant shot advantage over RPI. The team was evidently determined to move beyond its performance in a 6-0 blowout at No. 14 Denver last week.
The lack of quality scoring chances that typically characterizes a power play drought was not the case for BU against the Engineers. Entering the game on a 3-for-39 stretch, the Terriers maintained all the pieces of a strong extra-man unit: winning face-offs, cycling the puck, maintaining possession, and creating enough space for scoring chances. BU failed to score on the power play in the first two periods, despite three chances.
In the third, the Terriers earned three additional opportunities, but still could not convert. The failure to take advantage of power play chances has not materially harmed the team at this point in the season, but likely needs to be solved before conference resumes next week if BU hopes to challenge UNH and Boston College for the Hockey East title.
Noonan’s play directly in front of the net at times during the power play was exceptional. He has the size and stick skills to create screens and redirect pucks. The junior prefers to rotate around the offensive zone on the power play to best position himself to score a goal.
What They Said
“I though they played better than us in the first two periods,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “They were pushing and bumping us around. I thought it still looked like were in Denver. But in the third period, we played much better. The power play helped us to turn it around; I think we wore them down a bit.”
“Because we don’t see them all the time, the guys don’t know how good they are,” Parker said about his team’s ECAC opponent. “I think they were shocked how much they bumped us out there.”
“The last 30 minutes they did a better job of breaking out, and coming through the neutral zone with more speed. Then the amount of time we spent killing penalties in the third contributed to a momentum swing in the third,” Appert said.
“This roadtrip is a benchmark for this team. They’re a group that’s young and growing, but has struggled at times over the past two months against some of the best teams in the country,” Appert said. “We need to learn to trust our game at such a high level that we can execute at the biggest of moments against the best of teams.”
What Else You Should Know
BU was again without captain Wade Megan, who is expected to return to the line-up within the next week. Megan adds a lot to the Terriers offensively and his absence forces Parker to reshuffle the lines and match centers with differing wingers.
This was BU’s second game of the season’s second half, first since the blowout loss to Denver. The Terriers have a mid-week game against potential Beanpot championship foe, Harvard, Wednesday night at Agganis Arena.
The Engineers continue their eastern New England roadtrip Saturday with a game against No. 4 New Hampshire. These two matches represent the only two Hockey East foes RPI will face this season.