|Tale of Two Banners|
|Gut check for Quinn's Terriers (Courtesy USCHO)|
Saddled with a roster full of freshmen and two shaky goalies, Coach Quinn embraced the challenge of righting his ship without his best defenseman. "If you want to win championships, there's a certain level of physicality you have to have. I don't care how talented you are, you just have to have it. We didn't have it for a while."
Despite the loss to Merrimack on October 30, his squad actually played with some vital desperation, valiantly fighting back from a two-goal deficit and nearly doing it a second time before dropping a hard-fought 4-3 decision. Choosing the right goaltender is often a coach's biggest and most difficult challenge. After BU senior Sean Maguire gave up his fourth goal late in the second period against Merrimack, Quinn's only alternative was Connor LaCouvee, the same goalie who was torched by UConn for five goals earlier that week. Quinn chose to bring in LaCouvee, and the sophomore
|Soph Stopper LaCouvee|
Quinn broke the story to the Boston media a day prior to the Northeastern series: BU Captain Grzelcyk would be available for that weekend, the news coming at least a week ahead of its expected delivery. "I talked to the doctors, the training staff and coach, I felt ready to go so they gave me the green light," said the man known as Gryz, the obvious key to BU's chances to be a title contender yet again. "When you're adding arguably the best defenseman in the country to your lineup, it's going to make an impact," said Quinn.
|Terrier Lynchpin Matt Grzelcyk|
Gryz provided vital tonic to the Terriers in their weekend sweep of the cross town Huskies, wristing home BU's first goal in his debut Friday, and then setting up Oksanen for the game-winning goal with a beautiful cross ice feed in the third. The big Finn is in top form now, having scored game winning goals in consecutive games against Merrimack and Northeastern on Friday. But it was the opening minutes of Saturday's game in which Grzelcyk answered any lingering questions about the status of his jets. With trusted centerman Danny O'Regan leading a charge through center ice while a man up, Gryz spotted an open lane down the left wing and stomped his foot on the gas. "Our power play rush was really good," said Quinn. "We attacked with speed, and Grizzy's got that world class skating ability." Grzleck streaked down the wing, got a pass at full speed, and fired in the opening goal without breaking stride. It was college hockey's answer to the beautiful game played at fever pitch, the high speed play remaining onside only because of the trust between passer and receiver. "Danny's a really smart player, and we read off each other so well," said Gryz of O'Regan. "I kinda had an idea that he was gonna throw it at me and he made a great pass. I saw a little room short side and I went there." This was the signature moment in what was arguably the best period in Quinn's coaching career at BU: the Terriers held Northeastern shotless for the first 16 minutes, finishing with an 18-2 shot advantage for the opening stanza. The final score was 4-1 and Quinn had but one solitary complaint after their four-point weekend. "It's ridiculous that we gave up a short-handed goal with a minute to go. It cost Connor the shutout, that's really unfortunate."
A single blemish in their last game before BU's monster mid-term exam: a home-and-home rematch with the reigning NCAA champs, #1 ranked Providence College. This is the team that crushed their dreams in excruciating fashion last April, staging a third period comeback that won't be forgotten this lifetime. Would there be any challenge motivating the Terriers for this revenge match? "Absolutely not," said the captain. "We try to put it past us, but it was the national championship game. They got off to a great start this season, so we have every reason to feel motivated to go into their building Friday night. We've really grown the past few games; I think losing to UConn was an eye opener."
We asked Starman for an honest assessment: Can BU compete for national glory this year? "They are the fastest team I've seen so far, I think they're really skilled," said Starman. "The question is, do they get the same thing in goal as they did last year?" Quinn appears to have put his faith in goaltender LaCouvee, keeping him in Friday's game despite coughing up four goals in the second period. "I felt like he just keeps getting better," he said Saturday, answering the question as to why he gave LaCouvee the game 2 start versus Northeastern. "He had two great third periods, against Denver and Northeastern last night. I just felt like he earned it."
We caught up with Lacouvee after his stellar performance Saturday, confidently holding court with the BU student media, his save percentage inching up towards respectability. "We were kind of struggling a bit at the beginning there, and it's nice to string together a couple of wins, get the guys rolling and have some confidence. We got a big weekend coming up, so its nice to keep that streak alive."
A big weekend for sure, starting Friday night in Providence. This is the game hockey fans have circled on their calendars since the schedule came out, BU at PC, a rematch of the most dramatic hockey title bout in recent memory. Does Quinn's revived squad have the maturity to compete with the champs playing at home under their own championship banner? Will LaCouvee wilt or thrive under the hot lights? For fans who can't wedge their way into Schneider Arena Friday night, the game will air nationally at 6 pm Eastern time on American Sports Network (Ch 628 on DIRECTV). This, my hockey friends, is the epitome of appointment viewing.