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The RPI Engineers and the BU Terriers faced off Friday night. It was a battle of the bottom of the barrel, as both teams were second to last in their conferences. BU put up a good fight, but in the end too many mistakes an an inability to score during 5-on-5 play cost them the match, as RPI defeated BU, 5-3.
Oddly enough, the heroes of tonight’s game from an offensive perspective were the penalty kill unit. Two of the three goals scored by BU were shorthanded, one from junior Nick Bonino in the first period and one from junior captain Kevin Shattenkirk in the second. The other goal, scored also in the second period by senior Zach Cohen, came on a power play. So the offense can be summarized as playing very well during 5-on-4 situations. When both sides were even was another story altogether.
Passing was a serious problem for the Terriers and it made it difficult for them to ever really get into an offensive flow. Hockey is naturally chaotic, but this was especially out of control. Too often were passes sent astray or deflected the wrong way, sending BU players scrambling after what would otherwise have been shooting opportunities. While BU out-shot RPI 35-25, most of the shots were not very good. Bad passing set up less than ideal shooting conditions most of the time, and it wound up costing BU the game.
Another issue with the team was overall effort on offense. BU had several break-away opportunities, but every time they would get something started RPI would just skate back and cut off the lane to the goal. RPI outraced BU a number of times, and it made it very difficult for BU to ever get off clean shots on goal. Only the penalty squads managed to muster the energy to outrace RPI, and it led to zero power play goals for the Engineers and the two short-handed goals for the Terriers.
Most of BU’s problems Friday night could be traced back to their goalie, sophomore Kieran Millan. He was often out of position, moving too far away from the net to be able to effectively guard it. For a member of the 2009 National Champion squad, it is surprising how porous his goal-tending skills are this year. Perhaps his heart is not in this mediocre team after playing for such a great team last year. Perhaps he is hiding an injury. Either way, he is not playing well, and it is costing the Terriers game.
On the whole, BU played OK defense. There was only one goal where they really allowed RPI to set up the shot and strike it cleanly. Everything else (except for the fifth goal, which was an empty-netter) came via the general chaos of hockey. The defensive line did a good job of holding their own, however they had trouble doing it cleanly. This led to numerous penalties that forced the penalty-kill squad to work extra hard. This was not a bad thing, because they were the most effective line on the ice.
Maybe it was the mediocrity of the opponent, but the crowd at the Agganis Arena was on the quiet side. Nothing like the raucousness of a BU-BC game, everything was somewhat muted Friday night, and there were definitely empty seats in the stands. The biggest cheers may have come during the second intermission teddy toss when someone threw a teddy successfully from the seats into the buckets on the ice. Overall, it was an underwhelming response to an underwhelming game.