October 18, 2013

Hockey East Journal: Quinn era starts on the right foot at BU

By Andrew Merritt

After 40 years of success, the first steps of a program headed in a new direction are often tentative, unsure about what will come next.

Or, in the case of Boston University, they’re firm and confident, an extension of the history that came before rather than a repudiation of it.

In other words, BU’s first games played not under the stern watch of Jack Parker since a time when the United States was sending men to the moon, but under the newish look of former Parker assistant David Quinn (Cranston, R.I.), weren’t the stumbling affairs one might expect of a team unleashed from the hand of its longtime leader.

On Oct. 11, the Terriers opened the season with a 3-1 win over UMass that certainly didn’t win any style points, but a three-goal second period that included the first collegiate score from freshman Tommy Kelley (Natick, Mass.) showed the BU offense wasn’t getting up on the wrong side of the bed this year. Sean Maguire, who had No. 1 stuff for the Terriers last year after the rotation between him and Matt O’Connor was broken up by O’Connor’s scary midseason collapsed lung, was also strong, making 39 saves on 40 UMass shots to preserve the win.

The next night, although the 3-2 score was closer, BU’s effort against Holy Cross was even more thorough. Needham, Mass., native Danny O’Regan scored his first of the year on a breakaway set up by an incredible outlet pass from captain Garrett Noonan (Norfolk, Mass.), and after the Crusaders tied it early in the second, Nick Roberto (Wakefield, Mass.) re-established the lead with his first career goal. Cason Hohmann scored what proved to be the game-winner late in the second period as the Terriers once again made the middle frame their best.

O’Connor didn’t quite match Maguire’s performance from 24 hours earlier, making 21 saves on 23 Holy Cross shots, but he was good enough to win.

“It’s not easy to do in college hockey, to win two games on a weekend,” Quinn said after Saturday’s win over the Crusaders. “Big win (Friday) night, (Maguire) really gave us a chance last night, I don’t know if he stole one, but he certainly was a big part in our win last night. I really liked our progress from last night to tonight, I thought we really showed signs of puck possession, we made the game easier for ourselves tonight.”

The two wins don’t just put BU among the (very) early leaders this season, they should also go a long way toward easing the transition from Parker to Quinn.

“It’s huge, especially because we have a lot of freshmen getting their feet wet,” Roberto said. “Coach Quinn’s a great guy, has faith in you. He’s really fair about playing time, whoever’s playing the best, he’ll play you. Doesn’t matter if you’re a senior captain or a freshman, he’s really fair about it.”

For Quinn, the weekend was not an answer to a big question about how they’d respond, but rather an affirmation of what he’s already seen from his team in the early going.

“It helps, but I’ve loved this group from Day 1,” he said. “I think we’ve all been on the same page – I say ‘we,’ because that’s what we talk about with the players, that this is a ‘we’ thing. This isn’t the coaching staff running a dictatorship. They need to feel ownership of the team, and ultimately I make the final decision, but this is a ‘we’ thing.”

The “we” thing, so far, is working.

(Pictured: Garrett Noonan showed why he's the captain of the Terriers with a goal and two assists in the opening weekend. Photo: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

Player of the Week

Kevin Roy – Sophomore, Northeastern

Any questions about Roy’s freshman breakout being a fluke are pretty unnecessary now. In the first two games of his sophomore season, Roy scored a hat trick to lead a 9-1 rout of Alabama-Huntsville and then picked up two more assists in the next night’s 3-2 Northeastern win over the Chargers.

Game of the Week

Quinnipiac at UMass-Lowell, Friday, Oct. 18

The two bridesmaids to Yale’s Cinderella national championship run meet in an non-conference clash of two teams with high hopes and surprising early losses on their résumés.

Hockey East power rankings

  1. Providence (2-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – Two-goal nights from John Gilmour and Mark Jankowski gave the Friars a decisive opening-night win over Minnesota State, and Jon Gillies’ (South Portland, Maine) first shutout of the year gave them the sweep a night later.
  2. Boston University (2-0-0, 1-0-0 HEA) – The Terriers got off to a roaring start, opening the David Quinn era with a pair of wins including one over league foe UMass – a good sign for a program that has often stumbled in the early-going.
  3. Notre Dame (2-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – Two games, two shutouts for Irish goaltender Steven Summerhays, who made all 22 saves asked of him in both games against Western Michigan over the weekend.
  4. Boston College (1-1-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – The Eagles’ season opening loss to Michigan carries no shame, but wasn’t the way they wanted to kick off the season. Sunday’s smacking of RPI was a little more like it. 
  5. New Hampshire (1-1-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – A wild second period proved too much for the Wildcats to overcome in the IceBreaker tournament championship game in Minnesota, but a solid win over Clarkson the night before was a good way to get things started.
  6. Northeastern (2-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – The Huskies are undefeated after the opening weekend for the second time in as many years, though the sweep of Alabama-Huntsville doesn’t carry quite the same cachet as the wins they had over Merrimack and BC to start the 2012-13 season.
  7. UMass-Lowell (1-1-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – How shocking was the River Hawks’ loss to Sacred Heart on Friday night? Deadspin, a national blog that publishes two or three college hockey stories a year, wrote about it. The next night, UML got back on track with an expected win over UMass.
  8. Vermont (0-1-1, 0-0-0 HEA) – A Chris McCarthy shorthanded goal gave the Catamounts a tie against North Dakota in the second of two games on the road, but the Sioux won it in a shootout.
  9. Maine (0-2-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – The Red Gendron (Boston, Mass.) era didn’t get off to the best start, as the Black Bears were swept in a two-game series at St. Lawrence to start the season. The Saints scored three goals in the final five minutes of Saturday night’s game to turn a 2-2 deadlock into a 5-2 runaway.
  10. Merrimack (0-2-0, 0-0-0 HEA) – Coach Mark Dennehy (Dorchester, Mass.) said he was happy with the way his team played in the second of two games in Denver, even if the pair of shutout losses exposed the scoring issues that were expected to plague the Warriors this year.
  11. UMass (0-2-0, 0-1-0 HEA) – The Minutemen had the misfortune of running into what looks to be a very good BU team, and then a UMass-Lowell squad smarting from a surprise loss, in its first two games of the year.

Twitter: @A_Merritt
Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com