BOSTON -- Boston University's freshman class entered the season with some pretty high marks, but one member of the seven-player group has emerged from the bunch and been a very pleasant surprise.
Players like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy have received significant interest surrounding the most recent and upcoming NHL Draft, but East Longmeadow, Mass., native Ryan Cloonan has provided a solid spark to head coach David Quinn's lineup.
The former Boston Junior Bruin scored his first collegiate goal a week ago against Wisconsin and added another in Saturday's 4-2 win over Connecticut.
Quinn moved Cloonan into classmate Jordan Greenway's spot on the top line in the third period, a move which provided seniors Danny O'Regan and Ahti Oksanen with some wheels on the left wing.
"I just thought Cloonan's speed would give Ahti and Danny a little bit more speed up there," Quinn said of Cloonan. "It made sense to (make the switch). I thought he had a good night, I thought Jakob had a great night."
The Terriers certainly have big shoes to fill without Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues leading the offense, but there are plenty of players capable of making a mark.
Cloonan's name was certainly not as high on anyone's radar to fill the void in such a prominent way. He is now one of just three Terriers with more than three points over the first three games of the season.
BU, the second youngest team in college hockey, boasted five freshmen in the lineup on Saturday, but Cloonan gives the team a level of experience that many rookies can't provide quickly in their beginning of their transition to Hockey East.
"We knew we were getting a good player," Quinn said. "He's an older kid, which we don't have a lot of. He's a 20-year-old freshman, so that certainly allows him some experience some of our other freshmen don't have."
O'Regan enjoyed the opportunity to skate alongside Cloonan, and feels that his presence provided the team with a boost late in the game.
"Ryan's a great player, a really offensive guy," O'Regan said. "I was definitely open to it. I think at that stage of the game, we just needed a little spark. Switching up the lines was definitely something that could do that for us."
If Cloonan's move was a spark for the Terriers, it is safe to say that it definitely worked to plan.
After playing what Quinn described as "incredibly cute" hockey in the first two periods, the Terriers took control in the third period, scoring three times and holding a 15-3 shooting advantage.
"I think we all just kind of woke up a little bit," O'Regan said. "We realized we were getting just out skated to a lot of pucks, out-worked ― all the things we have in our control. We just flipped a switch and I think we skated harder, played a little more simple."
Forsbacka Karlsson and sophomore Brandon Fortunato scored power-play goals three minutes apart to lift the Terriers to a two-goal cushion before fellow defenseman Brandon Hickey ended the game with an empty-netter just after Max Letunov scored his second goal of the game with 24 seconds left.
Oddly enough, Oksanen also hit the pipe three times ― a trend Quinn knows will turn around as the season goes on.
"It's unreal," Quinn said. "If there was a category for hit posts, he'd lead the country. It'll go in for him, we know that. That power play is going to keep getting better."
Posts aside, the Terriers gained tremendous momentum with a man advantage, scoring on two of their five opportunities while generating a whopping ten shots on goal.
"Obviously, our power play was incredibly productive and our penalty kill was really good. It was a hard fought win, which most wins are in this league," Quinn said. "We really just simplified (the offense). There was much better puck movement, puck support. We got pucks to the net and any time there was a loose puck we supported it."