EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Boston University men’s hockey team flew about 800 miles for a pair of matchups in The Great Lakes State this weekend, but by the end of it the only distance that mattered to coach David Quinn was one step — one big step backward, as he put it.
The No. 13 Terriers fell to Michigan State, 3-1, Saturday at Munn Ice Arena after entering the final frame up by a goal, the second night in a row BU found itself in that situation. The Terriers (3-3-0) lost to fourth-ranked Michigan, 2-1, on Friday.
“They were the much better team tonight. That’s all there is to it,” Quinn said. “It’s our puck possession and our puck management that’s killing us. It’s just killing us.
“We’re playing youth hockey out there too often. It’s frustrating because before this weekend I liked the direction we were going. And [Friday] was a tough environment, that’s a heck of a team we played . . . [Saturday] was really the first night I can say we weren’t ready to play.”
It was the first win of the season for the Spartans (1-3-0), who opened with losses to Hockey East teams University of Massachusetts (twice) and UMass-Lowell.
According to Quinn, that factored into BU’s mind-set.
“They played like a team that was 0-3 and was looking for a win, and we played like a team that was 3-2 and thought it was going to be easy tonight,” Quinn said. “I think they looked at the 0-3 record. They’re kids. I could tell them till I’m blue in the face, and they’re not believing me.”
Added senior captain Garrett Noonan: “I don’t think anyone in our locker room is saying ‘0-3, let’s just mess around tonight.’ It wasn’t tough to get up for this game. The crowd was loud, it’s a cool rink, it’s Michigan State versus BU. It’s brand-name college hockey.”
For a while, Sean Maguire (30 saves) made it look like BU’s lone goal was going to stand up. The Spartans accrued plenty of time on the man-advantage — BU took seven penalties, putting its weekend total at 13 — but the sophomore netminder kept them at bay until five minutes remained.
MSU’s Brent Darnell knotted the game at 1 at the 15:04 mark by banging home a rebound into a mostly open net. Just 52 seconds later, Joe Cox made it 2-1 when he bounced his own second-chance shot off Maguire’s pad and in.
It was the first goal of the season for both players, and both were the result of the Spartans working their game plan.
“We thought we were putting them under quite a bit of pressure,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos. “We just kept battling. We talked about bringing the puck to the net, just bring it there, jam it into the goalie and create a scramble.”
Greg Wolfe added an empty-netter for the Spartans with four seconds left.
BU killed off all seven penalties, but the lasting effect was drastic. The extra effort required early meant the Terriers lost their legs a bit late.
“But we had no legs from the get-go,” Quinn said. “We were standing in quicksand the first period. We were so lucky to be up, 1-0.”
That lead came courtesy of sophomore Matt Lane in the last minute of the first period when he beat Jake Hildebrand (26 saves) cleanly nearside from the left circle.
Freshmen Kevin Duane and Doyle Somerby — each standing 6 feet 5 inches — combined to win the puck along the right boards, then center Cason Hohmann sent a pass through the slot to Lane.
Lane’s tally was one of just five first-period shots for the Terriers.
Michigan State outshot BU, 33-27, on the night and won the faceoff battle by a 36-20 margin.
“I’m not a big shot guy, but eventually when you’re giving up the amount of shots we’re giving up, obviously there’s a problem,” Quinn said.
Quinn, who spent several minutes after the game pacing in the trainer’s room, had a quick talk with his team before meeting the media. The message was simple.
“Be ready to practice on Tuesday,” Quinn said.Tim Healey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.