BOSTON — Exhibition games are the first real opportunity that a coach has to see his team face off against another squad. So what did Boston University coach Jack Parker learn about his team after watching them beat Concordia College 2-0?
“That we’re going to have to get a lot of shots to get a goal, if we face goalies like that!” Parker said.
Stingray goalie Philippe Ozga showed why he was an All-Canada selection last season, stopping 57 of 59 shots in a losing effort against BU in front of 1,958 fans at Walter Brown Arena Friday night. Steve Greeley and freshman recruit Dave VanderGulik scored the goals for the Terriers, while Sean Fields and newcomer Stephan Siwiec combined for an 18-save shutout for BU.
“I thought we played well,” Parker said. “I thought we looked pretty quick.”
Parker was reluctant to draw too many conclusions about the outcome.
“It’s hard to tell because this was their first game as well,” Parker said. “I thought usually they played a couple games before we do. They drove down from Montreal today.”
“They weren’t much of a challenge leg-wise, and I think that was the difference in the game — the speed was too much for them.”
The Terriers dominated play in the first period. Freshman John Laliberte and sophomore Brian Collins teamed up for a near goal just 15 seconds into play. BU followed with a goal at 1:51, when Steve Greeley camped on the doorstep and batted a waist-high rebound of a Gregg Johnson shot past Stingray goalie Philippe Ozga.
By the end of one, the shots were 19-4 BU — with two of the Concordia shots coming in the last minute of the period. BU’s superior skating made for an effective game of keep-away, even if the finishing touch wasn’t quite there.
After a long stretch of minor penalties kept at least one penalty box fill for several minutes, the Terriers ironically notched an even-strength goal. VanderGulik — late of the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL — picked up the puck in the left-wing faceoff circle as a power play expired, then stickhandled in to beat Ozga with a high backhander.
Play was a little less lopsided the rest of the period, and Terrier goalie Sean Fields had to make a handful of good saves as a result.
Like most exhibitions with Canadian schools, this one had its testy moments. Somewhat surprisingly given his history, Freddy Meyer was the one trying to get cooler heads to prevail for the Terriers.
“I think the ‘C’ is important, and I think maturity is important,” said Parker of the change in his new captain. “My getting in his face all the time and benching him is important too. That’s the first thing I said in the dressing room: ‘How many penalties did you get tonight, Freddy? None.’ That’s pretty good.”
When the third period began, Terrier recruit Stephan Siwiec was between the pipes for the first time at Walter Brown Arena. Siwiec is a tall (6 feet, 2 inches) netminder with a butterfly style; he looked pretty composed under the circumstances.
The game gave Terrier fans their first look at five other freshmen. Jekabs Redlihs appears to be a good two-way blueliner — very solid with a nice passing touch. Redlihs is reminiscent of Chris Kelleher in the way that he appears to belong right away and in how he looks effective on both side of the ice.
“He can shoot it, and he’s a great passer,” Parker said. “He passes it like a pro because he snaps it off. [Ryan] Whitney passes like that too. They’ve got strong hands.”
Dan Spang is another defenseman — a second-round NHL Draft pick last summer despite playing only five games at Winchester High School last year due to injuries sustained in a car accident. Spang played it conservatively early on, not trying to do much. He appeared to get more comfortable as the game went on, showing some offensive flair.
VanderGulik was a top sniper in the BCHL last season, so he might prove to be the best goal scorer of the freshmen. He certainly looked like he could shoot tonight. On the blue line during the National Anthem, Brad Zancanaro made John Sabo look tall — he’s listed as 5-5, which seems generous. Don’t let the size fool you, though — Zancanaro is an excellent puck handler who likes to shoot too. One of the top point scorers in the highly competitive USHL last year, Zancanaro played a fair amount on the power plays tonight and looked solid with many passes and a near goal in the third period.
Laliberte played on the first line with Brian McConnell and Collins, but he didn’t seem to have too many chances to show what he could do.
“All of the freshmen played really well,” Parker said.
Of the upperclassmen, Gregg Johnson was arguably the standout for the Terriers.
“I think he’s ready to have a big year; he’s got great skating ability,” Parker said. Most notably, Johnson created a breakaway and nearly scored with the Terriers down two men in the third period. Greeley was a pleasant surprise, looking pretty good on the PK. John Sabo certainly had plenty of chances and could have his best season if he starts to bury a few of them.
Clearly, BU has depth — they dominated territorially despite keeping some key players out of the lineup. To get a better look at the newcomers, Parker opted not to dress Mark Mullen or Ryan Priem for the game. The Terriers played without Whitney, who is questionable for next weekend’s opener with a sprained ankle. Whitney was taken fifth overall in the NHL Draft last June by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Justin Maiser is sitting out his suspension for a spearing penalty in the first period of BU’s season-ending loss to Maine in the NCAA tournament. He will not play in the regular-season opener on Friday night against Northern Michigan in the Icebreaker Tournament.