With Boston University’s Eichel, even what sounds like criticism actually is praise

Jack Eichel (9) didn’t get on the score sheet in Boston University’s Beanpot semifinal win, but with linemates Evan Rodrigues (17) and Danny O’Regan, he still made an impact (photo: Melissa Wade).

I can remember back to my early days out of college and going from headhunter to headhunter looking for my first real job. There was a word of advice one of them gave me on how to answer the difficult question in an interview: “What is your biggest flaw?”

The stock answer, I was told, was that your biggest flaw is that you sometimes try to do too much.

Perfect answer, right? You show that you’re not perfect (in your mind, at least) but that you have drive and initiative.

It was funny, then, to hear second-year Boston University coach David Quinn use those exact words to describe one of the best-known rookies in college hockey, Jack Eichel.

“Jack at times tries to do too much,” an honest Quinn said after Tuesday’s double-overtime Beanpot victory over Harvard. “Jack puts a lot of pressure on himself. Nobody wants to win more than Jack.”

Honestly, it sounds like a criticism of Eichel, who has scored 15 goals and 40 points this season. But this was overt praise that Quinn was passing the way of his superstar.

Even when Eichel is held off the score sheet, as he was on Tuesday, he is a factor, according to Quinn. And although he wasn’t the goal scorer or the setup man, it was his line with mates Evan Rodrigues and Danny O’Regan that scored in overtime for a 4-3 win.

“I thought he played a great game,” Quinn said of Eichel’s effort on Tuesday. “He worked his tail off start to finish. Harvard was committed to playing through him. And people lose sight sometimes of the fact that Jack is 18 years old.”

That last statement presented a bit of stark reality to those listening. Let’s face it: Rarely in hockey will you hear a coach directly questioned about any single player who doesn’t show up on the score sheet in a single game.

But Harvard’s ability to keep Eichel, who has scored in all but five of BU’s games this season, off the score sheet for the second time this season was attention-grabbing.

The plus side for BU, however, was its ability on Tuesday to get scoring from lines other than Eichel’s. Cason Hohmann and Ahti Oksanen, both on BU’s second line, scored the first and third goals, respectively. Third-liner Nikolas Olsson buried the second goal.

Those are the contributions that this team likely will need most, especially in the postseason. If a team is able to key on a single line, knowing shutting it down likely will be enough to win, it magnifies the importance of scoring depth.

Northeastern finally got past Boston College in the Beanpot (photo: Melissa Wade).

Three was key for Northeastern

Northeastern’s secret to beating Boston College in the Beanpot semis for the first time since 2009 was simple: the number three.

Coach Jim Madigan knew that if his team was to have a chance, it needed to score at least three goals on Tuesday. The third didn’t come until the closing minutes when Dustin Darou feathered a wrist shot to the top corner of the net.

But given that the Huskies scored a single goal in a 1-1 tie and just two goals in a 4-2 loss earlier this season, three was the magic number in Madigan’s mind.

“We haven’t been able to get to three goals against [BC goaltender Thatcher] Demko in the last couple of years,” Madigan said. “You look at some of the games he’s played. If the opposition gets to three, you have a real chance of winning.

“Any time you beat Boston College in [the Beanpot] — they’ve kind of dominated … well, they have dominated for the last 10 years — it says something about the character of our team.”

That character has been on display since mid-November with Northeastern turning a dismal 0-8-1 start around. The Huskies are back to .500 at 11-11-4.

It wasn’t a position Madigan might have imagined after the ninth game of the season. But hard work and dedication — and, more than anything, belief — paid off.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team where as a coach or a player you don’t get a win out of the blocks in the first nine games,” said Madigan. “It’s a true testament to the young men we have in the locker room.

“To a man, in the locker room, the guys thought we were a good team and thought, ‘Let’s try to prove this,’ in the fifth game, the ninth game. But they stuck to it.

“There was no in-house bickering or bitching, which when you’re losing in stretches does occur. So I am really proud of them.”

Northeastern has to play a league game this Friday at Massachusetts, a game that means plenty in the standings. But once that game is over, focus can move to Monday’s championship game against Boston University. In the title game for the third straight year, Northeastern is still looking for its fifth Beanpot title and first since 1988.

Facing BU, the all-time winningest team in the tournament, and more importantly the No. 3 team in the nation, will be another stiff test.

“That’s what you have to do in [the Beanpot],” said Madigan. “You have to beat a good team to go and play just as good of a team.”

Quick hits

• With Boston University scoring in overtime on Monday, the Terriers further increased their efficiency in the third period and OT. BU leads the nation in third period and OT goals with 52. The closest team is Robert Morris, which has 46. Eichel alone has 13 of his 15 goals and 25 of his 40 total points in the third period or OT.

• Think penalties kill? Ask Massachusetts. The Minutemen sit at the bottom of Hockey East but also lead the league in number of times on the penalty kill. UMass has been short-handed 129 times and has been effective on the penalty kill only 75.2 percent of the time. The league’s least penalized team, UMass-Lowell, has been nearly as inefficient on the penalty kill with a 76.7 percent efficiency. The major difference is Lowell has been short-handed just 90 times this season.

• Tip of the cap to BU’s Rodrigues, who tied the school mark for assists in a game on Friday night against UMass. Rodrigues tallied six assists, with a remarkable five of them coming in the final 13 minutes of the game, right after he had finished serving a major penalty for boarding called 35 seconds into the third.

• Think the New England Patriots’ victory on Sunday didn’t trickle down to college hockey? Maybe it did when it came to Northeastern. While the Huskies waited for Tuesday’s first Beanpot semifinal — a double-overtime thriller between BU and Harvard — to end, Huskies players turned to the pigskin. “[The players] were actually throwing the football in the locker room, just to limber up,” Madigan said of what his team did during the extended overtime.


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