By Arielle Aronson/DFP Staff
As a junior co-captain and the third-oldest player on a very young team, Chris Connolly is obviously a special player for the No. 16 Boston University men’s hockey team.
In just his fourth game from his return from a broken finger, Connolly proved just how special he can be on none other than special teams for the Terriers. The 23-year-old forward scored both a power-play and shorthanded goal to propel Boston University to a 5-2 win over Harvard University.
Connolly did not waste much time in getting the power-play goal out of the way. Junior forward Corey Trivino dug a puck out of the corner and tossed it to freshman defenseman Adam Clendening, who drifted back to the point before finding Connolly through a seam, waiting and open by the right face-off dot. Connolly fired the puck past Harvard goaltender Kyle Richter only 20 seconds into the man-advantage.
“I just saw a little seam so I tried to get in it and he did a good job finding me,” Connolly said of the pass from Clendening. “I think we kind of made eye contact there and he made a great seam pass through. I was just trying to get it on net as fast as I could.”
Connolly had to use his speed on his second goal of the game as well. With the Terriers playing shorthanded in the second period due to an obstruction-hooking call on sophomore forward Wade Megan, senior co-captain Joe Pereira pressured Harvard into making a dangerous pass by Connolly at the blue line.
Connolly intercepted the puck and did not attempt any fancy moves on the breakaway. He simply roofed a shot high over Richter’s glove to put BU ahead 3-1. It was Connolly’s first shorthanded tally of the season.
“I give all the credit to Joe there,” Connolly said. “He pressured that guy into making that pass. It was about the only play that guy had, but Joey’s pressure up top made it easy for me to kind of hop in there and grab it.”
Late in the second period, Connolly had a golden chance for his first career hat trick. Pereira again set Connolly up for a goal and got the junior the puck right at the top of the crease. Richter denied Connolly’s first attempt with the top of his skate, and then Connolly stuffed the rebound right into Richter’s body.
“That one will haunt me for the rest of the night, probably,” Connolly said with a frustrated grin. “That one surprised me a little bit, but it was the rebound that came right back that I couldn’t believe I shoved it right back into the goalie. So, you know, that was unfortunate but it was a good play on Joey’s part and I apologize to him for not finishing it.”
But Connolly has nothing to apologize for with his four points in the four games since his return. The junior co-captain seems to have brought a spark back to the Terrier offense, and his eight shots against Harvard were very welcome on a squad that garnered only 16 shots in its previous game against Vermont.
The Terriers, who started to struggle on the penalty kill right before Connolly was injured and continued to decline in his absence, have now killed off 14 consecutive penalties. The power play has gone two-for-ten since his return and the Terriers now have their first win streak since October.
Connolly’s return is even better news for BU with the most difficult part of the schedule looming in the next few weeks.
“Our worst time was when he was out, when he got hurt,” BU coach Jack Parker said. “We lose a real good player, we lose a penalty killer, we lose a first-line left wing when he was out of the line-up. But more importantly we lose a junior. We lose some experience and some confidence.”
“It’s nice to have him back in the line-up. I’m real happy with how hard he’s playing and how smart he is out there. But it’s nothing unexpected. That’s who he is.”