Last year, Boston University didn’t get its fourth win of the season until November 24, and they stayed stuck on that total until January.
The season is young, and so is the Terriers team, but they’re now more than a month ahead of last year’s pace.
Kieran Millan matched his second-highest career total with 39 saves, and sophomore Ryan Ruikka scored his first two collegiate points to lead No. 8 BU over Providence College in front of 5,795 at Agganis Arena. Friars centerman Aaron Jannick spoiled Millan’s shutout bid with eight seconds remaining in the game, in which Providence actually outshot their hosts by a 40-20 margin.
“In general, if you don’t look at the number of shots, I would say we played a very good game,” Terriers coach Jack Parker said. “When I look up and see we were outshot 40-20 in our building, you wonder how that happened. But it’s easy when you get seven penalties and give up 14 shots on those seven power plays.
“Also, up until this evening, we have been winning 65 percent of our faceoffs, and I’ll bet you we lost 70 percent of our faceoffs tonight, and it seemed that every time we lost a faceoff in the attacking zone, they got two or three shots off of it before we could get the puck out of the zone.”
“Tough to fall behind 2-0, but I thought we responded and did a lot of things,” Providence coach Tim Army said. “We just couldn’t score early enough to give us a chance to tie it late, but I thought we played really well.
“We just kept coming. We could feel we were gaining momentum. We were drawing penalties and moving the puck on power plays. We’re pushing; they’re protecting a 2-0 lead; the mindset’s a little different.”
Given that Providence and Mass.-Lowell had combined for 81 shots on Friday night, it was surprising to see both teams struggle to get the puck on goal early on tonight. The Terriers weathered a lengthy five-on-three advantage in the first, yielding only two shots on goal and no great ones.
Finally, BU struck at 13:59 of the first when Alex Chiasson raced in on the right wing before pulling up to let fellow forwards Matt Nieto and Corey Trivino crash the net. Ruikka was unmarked while trailing the play, and he had ample time to take aim before wristing a shot that grazed the crossbar on its way in. His first collegiate goal was certainly a long time coming.
“Someone who really deserves special recognition is Ryan Ruikka,” Parker said. “He came here two years and literally got hurt the first day of practice on the ice and was out for the year. Last year, he got hurt his second day of working out with [BU strength and conditioning coach] Mike Boyle and was out for the whole year. All you saw him do was rehab, rehab, rehab for two years. I was wondering if he’d still know how to play after two years, and he’s played extremely well.”
“It’s just unbelievable to finally get out there and play with the boys,” Ruikka said. “It’s just a good pass by Chase; I got open in the middle; had a lot of time to get my head up and get a shot off. ”
“He was always the first guy to the rink every day, smiling,” Chiasson said. “Speaking for the whole team, I’m really proud of what he’s done the last two years.”
BU made it 2-0 less than five minutes later. Incredibly enough, Ruikka followed up his first collegiate goal with his first collegiate assist. Chiasson picked up a rebound of his shot and maneuvered the puck onto his backhand before beating goalie Alex Beaudry with the shot.
It looked the Terriers might be off to the races, but they never scored again. With the help of some power plays, the Friars dominated the shot totals the rest of the way, outshooting the Terriers by a 33-12 margin over the last 40 minutes. However, the majority of the shots were from the perimeter, and Millan was not seriously tested very often until the third period.
“A shot’s a shot,” Army said. “Every shot has a chance to go in the net. I’d rather have us put a puck at the net and make him make a save. It’s still pressure, and it’s still chaos, too, once it goes to the net. There’s a lot of confusion, and a lot of people looking to find the puck.”
BU almost made it 3-0 at 5:00 of the third when Chiasson got the puck low in the left-wing faceoff circle, fed it to Max Nicastro at the point, and then nearly buried it after the return pass came his way. Then Kyle MacKinnon had a pair of great bids for the Friars late in the period, including one point-blank shot with much of the net open. It looked to be a shot that would be much easier to make than miss, but somehow he shot it wide.
Millan lost his chance for a fifth career shutout with eight seconds left when Providence notched an extra-attacker goal. Aaron Janick’s shot trickled through Millan’s pad.
BU (4-0-1, 2-0-1 Hockey East) plays a home-and-home with Mass.-Lowell next weekend, while Providence (1-4-0, 1-2-0) does the same with Massachusetts.