By Kevin Dillon/DFP Staff
Boston University men’s hockey senior defenseman Ryan Ruikka moved up to play fourth line forward for a brief stint early in February, shifting his playing style to be more offensive-minded. Even with the brief experience at forward, Ruikka has never shown that he is an offensive-minded player, as he only has four career goals.
So when Ruikka had more than a fifth of his team’s shots in No. 13/15 BU’s 3-0 loss to No. 12 University of Massachusetts-Lowell Friday night at Agganis Arena, it was apparent that there was something wrong with his team’s offense.
One of the main problems with the Terriers’ offense, as pointed out by BU coach Jack Parker, was that it had trouble getting through Lowell’s trap defense. Lowell had all five players sit back in the neutral zone at times, cutting off any BU offense before it made it into the offensive zone.
“We were forcing the puck up the ice and playing it 2-on-4 too much instead of regrouping and finally another area to carry it in,” Parker said. “I think Lowell played extremely well defensively”
Lowell coach Norm Bazin pointed out BU’s skill at creating offense from the weak side of the ice after the game, and said his team did a good job of shutting that lane down.
“We tried to hold the lines,” Bazin said. “I think maybe we forced a few more dumps than usual. However, overall they’ve got such dynamic forwards that we just try to do a good job of having a strong backcheck.”
Once BU made it through the trap, which was not often, it struggled to get the puck to Grade- A scoring areas. After getting five Grade-A chances in the each of the first and second periods, the Terriers only mustered up three Grade-A chances in the third period when it was trying to come from behind on the scoreboard.
Senior captain Wade Megan led his team with four Grade-A chances, and led all BU forwards with his four shots on the game. BU only managed 25 shots on Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, which is its lowest shot total since its 5–1 loss to the University of Massachusetts on Feb. 1.
“I don’t think [Hellebuyck] saw a lot of Grade-A shots,” Parker said. “They played really well on the initial rush and really well covering out front.”
BU’s offense has been inconsistent recently, scoring fewer than three goals in three of its last six games. The Terriers had scored three goals or more in seven consecutive games leading up to its loss to UMass, which is also the same day that former BU forward Wesley Myron left the team.
BU was shut out for the first time since 2009 earlier in the season at the University of Denver, when it lost 6-0. With Friday’s shutout, BU has now been shut out twice in a season for the first time since 2009 as well, when it did not score against Northeastern University and University of Notre Dame.
For now though, BU has to regroup and figure out a way to break through Lowell’s defense when it travels to Tsongas Arena Saturday night.
“We didn’t generate enough offense the second half of the game,” Parker said. “We didn’t generate enough offense the whole time … Disappointed that we didn’t create more offense. Disappointed we come out without a point.”