Having talent on it side has not been a problem for the Boston University hockey team the past few years.
Players such as Jack Eichel, Clayton Keller and Charlie McAvoy have come and gone. It’s only two games, but this year’s team appears to have intangibles that lie outside of talent.
The Terriers took Quinnipiac’s best shot, stood tall, and came out of TD Bank Sports Center with a 3-2 overtime victory on Sunday afternoon. There was no arguing BU’s sizeable advantage in elite talent on the ice, but the win went well beyond that.
“This is a team [Quinnipiac] that certainly tests your physicality and toughness. I was curious to see how we were going to react coming into a hostile environment against a big, mature, strong team,” said BU coach David Quinn. “I’m proud of the way we responded. We were physical and played at a good pace.”
BU didn’t back down from any of Quinnipiac’s challenges, whether it be the physical and in your face style, or answering two separate one-goal deficits.
“This early in the season, every coach is just trying to figure out what type of team they have from a competitive standpoint, physical standpoint and a mental toughness standpoint. So far, we’ve passed the test in all those areas,” said Quinn, whose team also beat Union, 4-1, after giving up the first goal in that game.
While talent is the word thrown around most often, youth is another word that could aptly describe this year’s BU team. On Sunday, Quinn dressed one senior, two sophomores and three defensemen on the blue line. His starting goaltender was a sophomore and his top six was comprised of two juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen. Despite its green thumb, BU showed no signs of being intimidated by a bigger, older and stronger Quinnipiac squad.
“We didn’t back down. That’s what I loved. We stood toe-to-toe. It was a physical hockey game. That was a man’s game. I’m proud of how our guys handled those situations,” Quinn explained.
One of the few veterans up front is junior and alternate captain Bobo Carpenter. He played wing for most of his first two seasons at BU, but switched to center during the second half stretch last season. The transition to taking draws is starting to pay dividends for the North Reading, Mass. native who won 20 of 23 he took Sunday.
This is a team that is playing with cohesion and seems to have a little more grit and sandpaper to its game. BU should only improve as the team grows and better understands the systems it is playing.
“I’m encouraged because I think we’re going to continue to get better. It was a great road win for us,” said Quinn.
The Harper Show
No matter how much grit, determination and will a team has, it cannot win unless it scores more goals than its opponent. That’s where sophomore Patrick Harper comes in. The Nashville Predators prospect has a hand in six of the seven goals BU has scored this season.
Harper has always been an elite skater with terrific hands and offensive creativity. Dating back to his time at Avon Old Farms, a prep school in Connecticut, Harper has dazzled opponents and fans with his wizardry with the puck.
While those characteristics have been on full display during the first two games, it’s how he’s playing away from the puck that has impressed his head coach the most.
“Harper works so hard away from the rink. He’s a little bit bigger and thicker. He’s playing at a better pace. We’ve talked an awful lot with him about having pace without the puck. He’s really good with it. He’s elevated his pace without the puck,” Quinn explained.
Where’s the Net?
That had to be the question a lot of shooters on both teams were asking during Sunday’s game. Quinnipiac freshman goaltender Keith Petruzzelli stands 6-feet-6 while BU Sophomore goaltender Jake Oettinger comes in at 6-feet-4. Both goaltenders take up a lot of the net.
“They looked like two basketball players in net. They’re two great goalies with great futures ahead of them,” said Quinn.
Oettinger, a first round pick of the Dallas Stars, made 22 saves in the win. Petruzzelli, making his collegiate debut, stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced.
“Keith was good. You can see why he’s a high NHL Draft pick,” said Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold of the Detroit Red Wings’ third round pick.