Before the season started, Boston University looked on paper like the prototypical young team that would take a lump or two in the early going but be a far better team in the second half.
So much for that idea.
The Terriers are undefeated (4-0-1), atop Hockey East, and ranked sixth in the country.
“We’re a young team and we’re in first place in the league,” coach Jack Parker says. “Last year in January, we were in tenth place. We had to really scramble [to finish in third place]. So it’s nice to get off to a good start.”
Which is not to say the Terriers are blowing everyone out. In fact, the results have been exactly the opposite. Each game has been either a one-goal win or the 2-2 tie with Massachusetts.
Parker thinks that has its advantages.
“Winning games like this is better than [blowouts],” he says. “Players would like to win them easier and maybe my heart would like to win them easier but winning [close] games pays off. It’s good for a young team to know they can do that.”
Goaltender Kieran Millan is playing once again at the top of his game. As a freshman on the 2009 national championship team, he posted unconscious numbers: 29-2-3, 1.94 GAA, and a .921 Sv%. Last year, at least in the first half, he suffered from some of the championship hangover that afflicted the team all year long.
“There’s a difference in our entire team this year from last year,” Parker says. “Last year’s team was full of themselves and I’m pretty sure Millan thought it was going to be pretty easy for him after the year he had his freshman year. He’s the first to tell you he feels much better mentally the way he’s approaching this season.
“I think he’s playing better than he’s ever played. He played great his freshman year and had some fabulous games, but he’s rock-solid right now.”
Perceptive fans will see a new look in BU’s defensive zone coverage this year. In the past, the Terriers played “man-for-man,” which included chasing opponents into the corners even if they didn’t have the puck. Not anymore.
The new approach concedes more time in the defensive zone but achieves better coverage in the quality scoring areas. A side effect is more blocked shots from the perimeter.
“We knew we’d [spend] more time in our zone because of the way we changed [our coverage], but we
also knew we’d have more people to defend in the grade A [area],” Parker says. “It’s paying off that way coupled with the fact that we do have the chance to block more shots. You’re not blocking shots from grade A, you’re blocking shots from 40 or 50 feet. Most of the blocked shots are from the points.”
The early results look awfully good.
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A belated thanks to Scott Weighart for his assistance.