As strong a season as Boston University is having so far, one factor that has been a bit troublesome is the Terriers’ slow starts.
Because they have the talent to turn it on when they need to, it hasn’t been a subject of tremendous concern but as December and January give way to February and March, the team knows it will be important to come out with a lot more energy and commitment.
On Saturday, No. 1-ranked BU hosted No. 9 Colgate at Agganis Arena. It was the first meeting between the schools in more than 21 years.
Freshman phenom Jack Eichel tied the game, 2-2, at the 16-second mark of the third period and the Terriers added three more goals on the way to a 5-2 victory in front of 4,585. BU improved to 9-2-1 and Colgate dropped to 9-5-1.
“It was another slow, sluggish start in this building,” said BU coach David Quinn. “We can’t keep relying on the third period to bail us out.”
The Raiders had a strong opening period, outshooting BU by a 12-6 margin and taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Junior left wing Tyson Spink made a terrific play on the goal when he raced up the left side, deked sophomore defenseman Doyle Somerby and cut into the slot. As he skated to the right side, he backhanded a shot past junior goaltender Matt O’Connor (27 saves).
BU had a chance to tie when senior left wing Evan Rodrigues was hauled down with 42.7 seconds left, earning him a penalty shot.
But Rodrigues got a bit too fancy on his approach and sophomore goaltender Charlie Finn (25 saves) made an easy left pad save.
Freshman left wing Chase Phelps pulled the Terriers even with a power-play goal at 1:38 of the second. It was the first tally of his collegiate career.
Freshman center Mike Panowyk put the Raiders back on top, 2-1, with a goal on the man advantage at 17:28 but it didn’t last.
Eichel’s snap shot from the right circle clanged off the crossbar and in early in the third and it was all BU after that.
Rodrigues earned the eventual winner when he scored on a one-timer from the slot during a power play at 11:27. Junior right wing Danny O’Regan buried a loose puck at 18:33 and Rodrigues closed it out with an empty-netter.
Despite playing more than 60 terrific minutes against Harvard on Tuesday only to lose in overtime, Rodrigues said the Terriers need to figure out a way to come out of the gate harder.
“Obviously, it wasn’t a strong start, it wasn’t the start we wanted,” he said. “But we kind of regrouped between the first and second period and I think we came out a lot stronger in the second and especially in the third and obviously it showed. We were fortunate enough to be able to turn it around like we have all year. But I think it’s something we have to try to get out of our game. We were able to stay in it in the first two periods and able to turn it on in the third. It might work now but later on in the season, we’re going to have to learn how to play a full 60 minutes and each day we just have to work toward getting there.”
Colgate coach Don Vaughan said although he was happy with his team’s effort for the most part, he had to tip his cap to the home team.
“Defensively we did a lot of really good things that we wanted to do,” said Vaughan. “We took some penalties that took a little momentum [away]. I thought Eichel’s goal to start the third period was a huge goal for them. He’s such a great player. I didn’t think our gaps were very good on him tonight but that’s what really good players force you to do, our [defensemen] were off a little bit in terms of him coming through the middle. But it didn’t feel like a 5-2 game to me. We didn’t take care of the puck especially in the third period and that’s something you have to do on the road against a skilled team. If you don’t do that, it’s going to bite you and I thought that’s what happened tonight.”