Patience Is A Virtue

“I don’t care about shots on goal…”
— Maine coach Shawn Walsh

“It’s never a bad idea to shoot.”

Fans shake their heads in disgust when their favorite team generates a good offensive chance, only to come away without even a shot.

“You can’t score if you don’t shoot.”

The power play is a special irritant. To some eyes, it seems like a succession of repetitive passes back and forth that accomplish nothing. But be it even-strength, shorthanded or on the man advantage, a golden opportunity that ends without a shot is guaranteed to make the blood boil.

“Just shoot it!”

Throwing it on net and seeing what happens is Hockey Common Sense 101. And at times, it’s the only right move.

“Good grief, will you please shoot the @*&#%$ puck!!!”

However, rigid adherence to the many “shoot it” canards often results in games won in the shot column but lost on the scoreboard.

All shots are not created equal. Sometimes the difference between a skilled finisher or gifted playmaker and a grinder who creates chances but few goals is knowing when to fire away and when to be patient.

A close look at Maine’s 4-2 win over Boston University shows three Black Bears’ “patience goals” providing the decisive edge.

In the first period, Martin Kariya broke with Barrett Heisten on a two-on-one. Instead of conventionally shooting or dishing to Heisten, however, Kariya dropped a pass back to a trailing Peter Metcalf. Many players would have never even considered Metcalf, but Kariya’s hockey sense in short order created a four-on-two. Metcalf passed to Chris Heisten, who buried the puck.

In essence, Kariya eschewed the obvious play in front of him, risking a no-shot result, to gain an even better advantage, much like a chess grandmaster ignoring a flawed checkmate attempt and opting instead for a slower, but ultimately more deadly,attack.

“Are you surprised with that last name?” asked a grinning Maine coach Shawn Walsh, who won two national championships with Kariya’s older brothers, Paul and Steve, both All-Americans. “I’d have been surprised if he didn’t see him.”

Patience is a virtue.

In the second period, Tommy Reimann held the puck on a power play until he’d set up Ben Guite for an empty net on the far post.

“[That] was just a big-league play,” said Walsh. “That’s part of our game plan, but you’ve got to have hockey sense to do it…. How often can a guy set up an empty net against a good team? It’s tough to do, but he did it.

“You know the goalies at this level are going to stop the first shot. So if you’re going to focus on the first shot, you’ve got to get back door opportunities.

“I don’t care about shots on goal. Fake the shot like Reimann did and slide it. It’s an easy goal.”

Patience is a virtue.

A third “patience goal” established an unshakable 4-1 lead for the Black Bears when Guite tapped a loose puck in front back to Niko Dimitrakos in the slot. The sophomore turned down the quick shot, but instead waited and waited, moving to create a better angle from which he could rip a shot over goaltender Ricky DiPietro.

“That was talent,” said Walsh.

Patience is a virtue.

However, players who might have the talent and hockey sense to sometimes hold the puck instead of rushing a shot might see that creativity and patience eroded by a coach who goes nuclear any time such decisions result in no-shot, no-goal result.

“There’s a fine line,” said Walsh. “But realistically, against your best goalies, why shoot it unless you’re going to create a rebound goal? You’re better off trying something different.”

The Terriers, on the other hand, lost the game in part because they lacked the offensive patience that Maine displayed.

“We had some great opportunities… but we were jumpy,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “Instead of being quick and not in a hurry, we were in a hurry. And we seemed to be in a hurry all night long. That seemed to be the tale of the tape.”

Tale of the tape, indeed.

Patience is a virtue.


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