As temperatures drop, men’s ice hockey heats up
by Scott Weighart, GoTerriers.com
After starting the year with a sluggish 4-9-2 record through November, the Boston University men’s ice hockey team is now 9-1-1 in its last 11 games. after a 5-2 win over No. 17 Providence on Sunday.
As the thermometer plummeted, the Terriers warmed up, outscoring their opponents by a 43-18 margin over the past two months. Last week’s wins over the Brethren and Then-No. 9/8 UMass (6-4) saw BU re-enter the USCHO poll for the first time since the start of the season.
But if you’re wondering if there was a turning point where darkness turned to dawn, you’ll find that there’s no consensus as to what triggered this roll.
Junior Robert Mastrosimone mentioned an unlucky weekend on the road.
“I think that weekend in northern Michigan where we got swept away, we played really good hockey, but the rebounds didn’t work our way,” Mastrosimone said. “We showed glimpses of how we’re playing now. It’s propelled us forward and given us confidence even though the results haven’t been our way. Obviously we’re on a pretty good run at the moment. .”
Junior Ethan Phillips believes the switch has flipped on all four games after the trip to Northern Michigan.
“I think those two weekends were where we played against UMass and Northeastern,” Phillips said. “We went out and played some really tough games and started to build confidence in our group.”
Senior Captain Logan Cockeril think the pivot came even later.
“In the first half we had a lot of tight games and we were fed up with not executing the way we wanted and the way we talked about it,” Cockerill said. “From the start of the year we knew we had talent in the locker room, we just had to set up the chemistry and start executing better. The winter break always felt like a turning point, where we have a young squad It’s starting to get organized and playing really good hockey, which is what we’ve been doing recently.”
One of the reasons the turning point is hard to pin down is that the roster was hard to pin down.
“At the start of the year we had a lot of forwards, a lot of D’s,” Mastrosimone said. “Now everyone is healthy and we’ve had much more consistent training. The chemistry is really improving.”
As the chemistry gelled, Terrier fans enjoyed seeing several players not only end droughts, but start scoring in clusters during this hot streak. Consider how the following attackers all succeeded:
- Graduate student Max Kaufman did not manage a single point in the first 14 games of the year. Then an empty-net goal against New Hampshire on Dec. 3, the start of that 9-1-1 streak, started a five-goal, four-game assist streak.
- Mastrosimone has failed to score a goal in nine consecutive single-streak games, but did score in three consecutive games in January.
- Cockerill had scored just one goal as of January 24, but he suddenly netted two in the huge road win over the Minutemen.
- After scoring one goal in the fall semester, Phillips now has four goals in his last three games.
“It has a lot to do with confidence,” Cockerill said. “You get that rebound, your confidence skyrockets and you start putting them in place.”
“Now I have that confidence in my shot,” Phillips said after Saturday’s home win in which he scored his fifth goal of the season. “It’s the same shot I’ve had all year, but I’m putting it on net more and getting the rebounds.”
Phillips scored a particularly nice goal against the Friars. A Providence defenseman had the uncontested puck behind his own goal line, and he attempted a pass down the ice that instead put Phillips about 15 feet in front of goaltender Friar. It looked like the ferryman just hadn’t seen Phillips.
“I think he’s committed to this game.” Phillips called back. “I was in the right spot and luckily it just landed on my tape. It’s probably my favorite shot, I throw it high so maybe it’s instinct there.”
A twist the Terriers are now facing is this sophomore goaltender Drew Commeso will be in Beijing to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics over the next few weeks. This means that the guardians Vinny Duplessis and Ashton Abel will be between the pipes while Commesso is in China.
That said, the Terriers are excited for Commesso and confident in Abel and Duplessis – and for good reason. When Commesso had to run out of time last season, Duplessis was fantastic. In five games, he posted a 4-1 record along with a sparkling 1.66 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
“Any time you get the chance to represent your country, it’s great,” Mastrosimone said. “The Olympics are just a completely different stage, and we’re all so happy for him. We will miss him so much, but we have so much confidence in our whole team and our other two goalkeepers. We’re not going to worry about that; we’re going to support Drew.”
“We were joking that he could carry the torch,” Cockerill joked.
Figuratively, BU now have plenty of players who can carry the torch with their starting keeper playing for a medal.
“Guys like Phillips, Jay O’Brien, Matte brown really activated the second half,” Cockerill said. “We need these guys to be playmakers, and they really are. When everyone is playing their best game, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”
“O’Brien has been very consistent down the middle; he’s great on the forecheck,” Phillips said. “Mastrosimone – his patience with the puck and his creativity bring energy to our offense. And on defense, Drew has said it before: I think we have the best D-body in the country. We have size and skills, guys who can skate. Everyone is mobilizing.
In October, the Terriers were ranked No. 10 in USCHO’s preseason poll. Now we are beginning to see why.
“Early on in the year we discussed how we could be a national-caliber team, and that belief is there now when you see the way we’re playing,” Phillips said. “We all accept. Everyone finds their role, and we just want that to continue.”
With each Terrier finding their role, the result has been an exemplary stretch of these roller patterns.