By Tim Healey/DFP Staff
PROVIDENCE -- Often after a loss – and especially after an ugly loss – athletes and coaches tend to stay away from pinning blame on any one member or any one part of the team.
Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker stayed true to this form after his team’s surprising 5-3 loss to Providence College Friday night, but if Parker hadn’t chosen that route – if he wanted to pick out, for example, the defense – no one would have been able to blame him. For the second straight game, the blue liners were less than impressive.
The defensive lapses were evident almost immediately for the No. 7/8 Terriers (1-1, 1-1 Hockey East), producing an unexpectedly early turning point on the game. Junior defenseman Sean Escobedo’s turnover just 2:48 into the first period put BU in an early 1-0 hole, the result of sloppy play.
“He made the right play, he just didn’t execute it,” Parker said. “He had the right idea. He went to pass it over to [sophomore forward] Sahir Gill who was wide open on the far side and he just shot his stick over the puck. The puck never went anywhere, and [Providence] just picked it off and went in on a two-on-one and scored.”
For a team playing its home, Hockey East and season opener, the goal was a huge morale boost for the Friars (1-0, 1-0 Hockey East) and first-year coach Nate Leaman. The goal also pressured the BU defense into even more of a frenzy.
Before BU’s defense could re-group, the Friars struck again 34 seconds later. A scramble in front of the net that no defensemen managed to clear and that senior goaltender Kieran Millan could not cover resulted in another goal and a 2-0 Providence lead.
Providence went up 3-0 before the offense un-did the defense’s harm by scoring three consecutive goals, but more faulty play from the Millan’s protectors ended up doing him in. Sophomore defenseman Garrett Noonan took a high-sticking penalty to give the Friars the man advantage, and take advantage they did.
“We took the penalty we didn’t need to take and they got a power-play goal,” Parker said matter-of-factly. “[Freshman defenseman Alexx Privitera] went out to the guy, he made a pass, and Alexx came back in but he came back in at the wrong angle so it went by him and to the point guy.
“He drilled it one time and Alexx wasn’t in the shooting lane anymore. That was obviously the big goal.”
It was a big goal to say the least, as it created a deficit the Terriers never overcame.
After bailing out the defense on numerous occasions, including several odd-man rushes, in a 5-0 win over University of New Hampshire last week, Millan just could not repeat that feat against the Friars when put in the same situation.
”We left him out to dry tonight,” Parker said, avoiding the blame-game with the goalie. “He had a couple back-door goals, a couple real bad missed coverages by us, and the power-play goal was a bad screen. Kieran didn’t quite see it.”
The poor play could be a result of the defensive core’s relative youth. Of the six players that have dressed in the team’s first two games, Escobedo and linemate and classmate Max Nicastro are the elder statesmen. The group could also be suffering from the lack of leadership and skill of David Warsofsky, who left the team a year early to join the Boston Bruins organization.
According to junior assistant captain Alex Chiasson, it is all a part of the experience. Some simple growing pains, he said.
“We obviously have young defensemen, and I’m not here to tell them what to do,” Chiasson, a forward, said. “They’re good enough and they got here [to BU], so they’ll figure it out. The top six defensemen on our team are on the ice, so obviously coach has confidence in them and so do I. They’ll bounce back.”