Tape Talk III – This Time Even More Excessive
Friends, I don’t know about you but I’m going a little bit bonkers with no hockey to watch. Well, that’s not entirely true, because after doing a little bit of research I found that BU games are carried online by a website called Stadium, where you can watch a ton of college sports. I’m interested in David Quinn’s Terriers in particular, partially because I want to learn what kind of style he likes to play, and partially because if there’s a college team to follow it might as well be Boston University, thanks to our new coaching connection. Below I’ll provide a link to a University of Vermont v Boston University game that took place this past season, so that you can watch in another tab or window and follow along with the breakdowns of individual plays I’ve provided (just 5v5, because I figure that’s the most interesting and illuminating).
A few things to note. First is that the timestamps I’m going to provide refer to the time on the video, not the time of game, because the game clock/score isn’t always up there. Second, I’m not going to use names too much, in part because I’m more interested in the how of this hockey than the who, as well as the fact that I just don’t know them as well and don’t want to mess up (the announcing also cuts in and out and is borderline incomprehensible thanks to that thick Boston accent).
This is going to be a bit long and obsessive, but I hope you find it interesting – it’s as much of a learning experience for me as it will be for you, so I hope we can have some fun together. I’m going to try and juggle more in-depth tape breakdowns this season, college/minor league stuff ideally, provided I can balance everything with the rest of my life (I’m starting law school this fall!). Anyways, since it’s the dog days of summer I’m going to let it rip. As a brief post-script caveat, all of the “near” and “far” terminology refers to the camera angle.
Here’s the link. You have to fast forward a little bit to get it going if it won’t autoplay, but once it works, it works, trust me. Time for the fun stuff.
Right off the opening face-off we see the puck kicked back to the defenseman on the right side and then quickly shuffled across to the other d-man, all inside BU’s blue line. Standard stuff, followed by a quick release up the boards in the neutral zone as the winger who circled back moves up the ice. Getting the puck in deep to the right corner, the right side defenseman comes down low to provide puck support, while the two forwards circle back, with the puck carrier headed back to up top while the extra attacker on that side heads towards the front of the net.
They work the puck back down low, with four BU players stacked from the blue line down along the right boards, and then it’s scooped by the guy cutting in towards the slot. A quick dish down to number 27, who’s along the goal line for a bad angle shot, and although the puck ends up on the opposite side of the net from whence it came, BU pounces on it along the boards. Vermont collects the puck after a some chippy action, moving it through center with one man breaking down their left wing and BU’s two defensemen already back, with a forward pressuring the puck at center to boot. BU smartly pressures the puck and puts UVM into a tough position on the break in, allowing them to overload their opponents in the near corner and work the puck back to the middle of their defensive zone and begin the next breakout.
A problematic play for the Terriers following the previous one, which turned out to be a dump for a line change – Vermont circles back in their own zone, and although three BU attackers are on the forecheck the Catamounts are able to connect on a pass from their defensive end up through the neutral zone along the far boards. BU’s left defender is caught flatfooted and allows a touch pass towards the middle to get by him, turning away from the man he over-pressured towards the puck carrier on the opposing team, already a step behind.
At this point he’s chasing, leaving his partner to cover the puck carrier, with a man directly behind the first defender and another one streaking through center ice, who is also being chased, but who has about a half stride on the guy covering him. BU is now in a bad position after the first defender commits too hard on the puck carrier and allows that quick play that UVM capitalized on, with three guys coming in and only one Terrier in good position to defend.
Number 14 on BU is now well behind his man as he hustles down the slot from the neutral zone and receives a pass from the puck carrier just outside of the reach of his defender. This is the dominos falling perfectly for UVM, and shows how important it is to exercise good judgement defending through the neutral zone. Sure, if you create the turnover there you’ve got three forwards up the ice ready for the counterattack, but our friend who got worked needs to recognize he’s in a just-too-precarious situation. Obviously he doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head, but Vermont ends up with basically a two-on-one down in front of the net as a result of this little play. Oettinger makes a nice stop and then another one on the rebound, so no harm no foul, but this wasn’t especially good defending from BU.
A much better, stifling defensive performance here, on just a basic play. Following a waived-off icing, UVM has to break out from behind their net. The hustle by the two BU forwards on this play, the first player getting the icing called off and the second providing threatening enough puck support that Vermont has to play it cool forces the Cats to try and set up, with the two BU attackers very responsibly getting back. Pressured by number 10 on BU, the Vermont quarterback here makes an attempt at a stretch pass along the far boards that’s immediately intercepted by BU’s defenseman on that side. Excellent pressure and responsible judgement here totally shuts down the attempt, and although the breakout pass from UVM’s zone was not particularly good, BU’s solid positioning and good forechecking puts Vermont first into a tentative position and then forces a bad play. Nice work there.
Now BU makes that pass from the far boards to the forward posted up along the redline at the near boards with pinpoint accuracy. The puck carrier is forced to pass to his only man ahead on the play, who’s unfortunately covered well by his defender, but he in turn pitches it down into the near corner and is provided with good puck support by his team mate on defense, all while someone gets back to cover. Vermont is set up in a neat little box with edges along the boards, goal line, and through the face-off dots, and although the puck winds up in the opposite corner and Vermont stays with it, BU hounds them for the puck and makes things difficult. This too is what Quinn means by playing hard hockey, in that although BU doesn’t get any real scoring opportunities they certainly wear their opponents down and take away any time they might have in the zone.
BU enters the zone with three attackers and keeps up the pressure until they eventually draw a penalty. I know I said I would only do 5 on 5 plays, but I’ll extend this one a bit as the extra attacker comes on. The puck is with the winger along the far boards, while the center and the opposite winger head towards the high slot. Vermont is stacked in an I from the blueline to the high slot, with one man attempting to force a turnover on the puck, with two of four guys moving in to either side of their scrapping comrade for puck support. BU, momentarily outnumbered, repositions to cut off the two Vermont defender inside and the one guy down low, making what was a sticky situation for the harassed puck left winger into a slightly more manageable two-on-one. He knocks the puck down further towards the goal line to his fellow Terrier, who has a step on his man, who knocks the puck to another BU attacker coming in close, by which point the two defensemen have set up along Vermont’s blue line.
With three BU guys forming a small triangle around the far circle and three Vermont defenders on them, there’s two guys to the inside as three of Vermont’s five skaters are out of position and the BU defense squad is in place. It’s popped back to the left defenseman, whose Vermont counterpart is too late to stop him passing it along the line, who then puts it back to LD as the Catamount realizes he’s now overcommitted. Three Cats are now covering BU’s center in a triangle, leaving two guys down low and two defensemen in good circumstances to set up the play. BU has again put Vermont into bad position by playing both on and off the puck well. BU’s two attackers down low tie up the goalie as the LD on BU moves in for a shot, and the delayed penalty call at that point means BU has an extra man on. Now BU has three forwards down along the goal line, one center skating the puck around, and two defenders back along the border between Vermont’s end and the neutral zone.
A quick scoop following the playmaker’s wrister and the puck is skated back from the far corner up, as the left defender drops in and the pass is sent back to the point. He dishes to 27 along the near half-boards, who’s got two guys and one defender down by the goalie, but decides to work it back up top as the UVM defenseman closes up the lane – good presence of mind to realize when you have it and when you don’t (how much of that is coaching and how much is instinct is hard to say, but I’m willing to bet Quinn has some part in rewiring guys’ knee jerk reactions into quick and effective plays). The point man sends it immediately down to the far half boards for the one-timer, and Vermont gets the touch-up on the rebound. Good cycling, good hustle, and good decisions seem to be Quinn’s message, at least based on what I’ve seen (not a lot to be fair) and what he’s said, and it really shines through here.
A long Vermont dump in is tapped by Oettinger to the collecting defenseman, and we can already see BU’s position plan set up, but UVM forces a turnover by picking off the outlet pass up to the far winger (you’ve got to make sure when you go for that pass that there isn’t someone in the way, and perhaps the pass would’ve been better received by the BU center, who was open, or at least more open). From there we see some touch-touch work by Vermont around the BU players attempting to break up the play, which is honestly just kind of the thing that either you get lucky on or you don’t – not a lot the Terriers could do here.
What they do next however is important – Vermont’s got two guys in front vertically with two BU skaters between them, and one guy pressuring the point while the other man up by the blueline stays open, ready to get the puck out of the zone. The straight line from the net to the point shifts laterally, and BU applies a bit more pressure to each man while clogging up the inside shooting lane. The man at the top takes to his knees trying to block the shot (tsk tsk, but honestly fine here), and the shot is outside and around him as our netminder peeks around the guys in front to see the shot the whole way. BU chips the rebound out of the zone, and for now the trouble dies down.
This is, while not a great sequence, also as controlled as it can be, in that BU dictates the positioning of their opponents and makes the point-man take a bad shot, while shutting down any pass lower. Good coordination among the BU defenders to apply just enough pressure works out well, by doing what they can do and allowing the goalie to do what he can do. Bonus points for the man waiting outside the play for the pass out of the zone – he’s not totally abdicating responsibility and leaves his team well-positioned for a counterattack should it become an option.
Good pressure on a point shot, forcing the slapper which is then blocked leads to a one-on-two BU break in. Our puck carrier has plenty of room initially, but is forced into a bad move and suppressed shot, which is good defending by Vermont to their credit. He’s got help on the way though, and it’s easily scooped along the near boards by his brother in arms. They overlap a bit down in the corner as they wait for more assistance and try to get full control. Now it’s back at the right point, where Dante Fabbro takes the open shooting lane with two guys in proximity to the net. Good hustle along the far boards gets the puck out of trouble to another BU man down below the net, but is eventually scooped by Vermont and carried out of the zone.
A pretty simple play that didn’t come to full fruition, but what’s key here is the hustle and the fact that Fabbro takes a chance when he has it. Obviously, outside shots are not an especially effective way to score, but he takes a lane with guys in decent enough position to scoop up a rebound, and the team spends their time in the zone trying to make the most of it. Something I think we all hope for is a little bit less “working for the perfect play” and a little more “pucks to the net”, perhaps leading to a bit more cycling or perhaps just attempts to turn lemons into lemonade. You’ve got to take chances in this game when you have them (I think some guy said something about the shots you don’t take) and it’s nice to see that, with ideally that mindset percolating through the Rangers lineup.
BU wins the face-off but almost immediately loses control behind the net, as Vermont knocks it towards the near corner and attempts to set up the cycle. Unlucky for them, the Terriers set up their box defense immediately and with ease, and good stick positioning combined with the effective zone formation cuts off passing lanes both at the outset and in terms of the final destination. BU also has a guy up top by the blue line, ready for the breakout pass – although the man ends up not getting the puck we can see that BU is prepared to break out at any time, and their option winds up being to have the two guys on the near edge of the box parallel to the boards attack the puck up the ice after it’s lofted into the air. Now BU’s got two guys down low in the corner and one in front of the net, loosely covered by a Vermont defender who’s closer to the inside rim of the circle as Vermont attempts to set up their own box defense.
This proves costly, as the BU attacker in the corner has clean possession of the puck and quickly whips it pin-point to the man in front, who gets the shot off in close to the goalie. Nice work on all fronts keeping things contained in the defensive zone, moving the puck up the ice, and getting a high-quality scoring chance.
After a highly aggressive penalty kill, Vermont is on their heels in their own zone, with one man behind the net trying to get the puck up ice, one man in the far corner, and one man along the half-boards on the near side. BU has number 12 planted in front of the net to put pressure on the puck, while number 13 circles around behind him from near side to the middle as Vermont puts the puck in that far corner. 12 moves to meet him as 13 shifts towards the center, and due to the significant pressure and excellent positioning of number 12, the Vermont puck carrier attempts a pass that ends up going awry as he moves up the boards from the corner, putting the puck directly on the stick of the BU attacker in the middle.
This guy has an immense amount of space in front of him, with the Vermont defender in front of the net in the low slot and the next closest defender behind him by a full stride. As he’s harassed by the man behind him he turns, all while number 11 enters the zone and breaks through the line of three defenders trying to pressure the puck and clog the middle of the zone. It’s sloppy defending by Vermont, because of course the BU support breaks through and is in good position to chase the puck as the tied up puck carrier (number 13) rims it around the boards behind the net.
Vermont beats him to the puck and sends it back around the boards, but there’s no one but two BU guys there to handle it, and although Vermont’s man along the half-boards gets the puck and carries it up, he runs right into the BU defenseman back behind the play. The good news here is that this particular defender sees his attacker just up the ice, having recently curled out of the zone, and shoots him a laser-beam pass as he’s one on one with a defender skating backwards. He puts a move to the outside, then goes back inside as he gets towards the post, but he’s denied, Vermont scoop the puck, and makes a breakout pass of their own.
The key here is pressure, and deciding when to apply it. Initially, BU forces the turnover and gets some time in the zone, and because they’ve locked down enough UVM players down low, there’s only one man able to carry the puck up along the boards as the Cats attempt to regain control on play. Defense is there to meet him, makes a quick decision with great accuracy, and now BU’s got a high quality chance. A big thing I’m seeing is solid transitions borne of excellent pressure, and I’ve got to imagine that with defenders like Brady Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk, as well as guys like Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Mats Zuaccarello, there’s going to be a good amount of what we see here.
Vermont and BU trade chances, with two Catamounts breaking through the neutral zone with speed and three BU defenders on them, one forming the top of the triangle slightly behind the two guys in green, and the two defenders back. Good communication has the man behind the play indicating to pressure the puck carrier near along the boards, so as to prevent the pass to the middle, but unfortunately it’s not headed there – UVM has the jump and makes the pass to the trailer, who’s bearing down on our air traffic controller with speed.
UVM has four guys in the zone but only three really threatening the net right now, and as the BU triangle condenses around the puck carrier their opponents stack in tight from the high slot on down, screening the goalie in the process. The shot gets off and is deflected, and since BU was poised for the counterattack they jump on the chance. Now it’s the Terriers with a two-on-two and a little speed to their advantage, and since just a moment before Vermont was deep in the zone the BU trailer, with good hustle up the ice, receives the pass.
Here’s where BU demonstrates their superiority: number 19 shifts backwards to the outside of his defender, whose interest is piqued by the trailer, leaving him with a decision to make. As he moves in on the puck carrier, he leaves his man on the near side open, who is in great position to take the shot, right at the center of the right circle. A quick but controlled pass forces the goalie to move considerably, and although it doesn’t hit the back of the net, the one-timer and the way BU set it up contrasts heavily with UVM’s relative ineptitude. Now, would we like to see better defending from BU? Sure, but their ability to turn lemons into actual lemonade there, and not just like, pulpy lemon juice or something, is what sets them apart.
A bit of back and forth and the puck ends up behind the net with the Vermont goalie Lekkas, who plays it up the far boards to his man waiting half way up. He bounces the puck of the wall around his defender and collects it as he enters the zone, and meanwhile BU has one defender off the puck covering two guys helping to form a triangle, with the long edger parallel to the goal line. The UVM friend at the tip of the triangle is well ahead of his man, the first part of this defensive breakdown, and the unengaged BU defender makes a quick move outside towards the puck carrier, thinking he can still cover the open man coming down the slot. He can’t, and the pass makes its way quickly to the man in front who gets the shot off before the extra defender realizes the error of his ways. Not such great defense from BU here – perhaps better communication, perhaps better hustle, or perhaps just slightly better positioning could have prevented what might’ve hit the back of the net and tied the game for UVM.
Another problematic play for BU, with UVM really ramping up their forecheck here. A quick collection and pass out of the zone by Vermont to a man along the their own blueline and the far boards, the receiver then flips the pass immediately to a totally uncovered man at center ice. It goes a bit past him, to the near half boards, and he just puts a shot on net to see what happens. It goes well wide, into the far corner, and here’s where things get worse – at present moment BU is not even close to set up defensively, while Vermont knows exactly what they’re doing.
The puck collector on Vermont at the far half boards draws number 18, and 27 just behind him, with one BU defender in the high slot, one in the low slot, and one tied up with a Catamount around the goal line, but Vermont has the advantage here in the little tussle and collects the puck with ease as it’s banked around the boards. Now with two men and three BU defenders along the boards about a couple of feet away from the goal line, Vermont swaps positions to confuse BU’s coverage and the puck carrier curls towards the middle. He backhands the shot on net, taking everyone by surprise except Oettinger, and then Vermont controls the rebound behind the net with an even match of two attackers and two defenders.
With one guy covering no one in particular in front of the net (I suppose he’s pressuring the puck, but isn’t particularly useful in this case), one man higher up the slot, watching UVM’s would-be one-time man, and one defender at the far circle (unclear if he’s covering someone at this point or if he’s just waiting for the outlet – not such a terrible position to be in) BU eventually gets the puck out of their own end, but since they weren’t especially poised to really come flying through the neutral zone, they just make a line change as Vermont shuts them down at the blueline and prevents an entry. Hockey involves all three zones, and this sequence proves it – good defensive work primes you for good offense, and an amorphous or undefined situation in your own zone can foreclose chances you have as you try to exit and push the pace.
A nice cycle play set up by a dump and chase, something you don’t see every day. Dante Fabbro sends it in deep where it’s collected by a streaking BU forward, who then catches it in the near corner, although Vermont has a nice defensive set up here with one man pressuring the puck, one man at a 45 degree angle to the post covering both the circle and the inside lane to the net, and one man in the low slot. With coverage like that, you’d think BU’s cooked, except 19 curls back, drawing the two nearest defenders in, but the reverses again to dish it off to some reinforcements coming in hot towards the area right behind the net.
Excellent battle level in the corner gets the puck into just enough space to put BU ahead on the play, and as 18 curls around to the far corner a very convenient trigger man pops up right in the far circle for the one-timer. From there BU collects the rebound, and although UVM’s box + 1 formation is set up, the advantage is to BU, who start first by moving down along the boards and then passing the puck further down low, just as the recipient of that pass is moving up the boards.
The BU setup shifts around – the nearest guy along the blue line shifts down low, and from there everyone shifts left – excellent coordination, despite the fact that the puck carrier headed up towards the blueline is covered and there’s a defender clogging up the lateral passing lane with his stick. Knowing this, and knowing there’s some nice clockwise rotation going on, our puck carrier dishes it backhanded down the boards, where it’s then moved up but brought in a bit tighter to the net. In the mean time, the BU attacker who just dropped the puck back had moved out of the zone, drawing his defender but evidently turning back quick, as he’s now headed down the middle.
As he does so the two wingers converge as well down in front of the net, with quite the screen in place in front of the goalie Lekkas. Greenway, the puck carrier, heads to his left and then sends it back down low to the forward who broke around behind the net. Unfortunately, the play ends there as UVM wins an individual battle and begins a zone exit. Now, here’s the big critique: BU spent all that time moving the puck looking for the right chance, that they didn’t get any pucks to the net aside from the one-timer whose rebound started it all. It feels like a wasted opportunity, and that happens, but you’d like to see a bit more of an aggressive attack.
It’s tough to balance that desire to posses the puck and set up the right shot with the notion that you might lose possession if you take a bad shot, but as it happened, BU lost possession anyways. If the play is going to end eventually (and it will, unless you cycle for the entire remainder of the game), you might as well get something out of it. That’s just me though, and given that I’ve never played or coached the game, well, take it with a grain of salt I guess. Moving on.
A brief interlude.
BU scores right around 1:16:00, but it’s kind a wacky, highly circumstantial play on Vermont’s part that ends up in the back of the net on a nice shot. I’m not going to dissect it, since there’s plenty more of that coming your way, but it is important to remember that the goals are what count the most in determining who wins the game (the only thing that counts, really). Not a ton of stuff that I think is worth breaking down happens between here and the start of the next period, so let’s jump ahead, shall we?
Collecting the puck in their own end, Vermont begins the breakout with three men back and one BU guy pressuring the puck. A D-to-D pass makes its way from near to far while the monkey in the middle moves up the ice, drawing the Terrier pressuring the puck with him. The puck is sent back by the far defenseman to the near side, who then sends it up to his man along the boards on the same side in the neutral zone; a pretty basic play but one executed effectively, which means this could turn into something.
As it happens, it does turn into something, sending it further along the boards as number 7 in green pulls just inside his man to make it from the top on the zone down to top of the circle, where the puck has caromed off the boards to. Another simple but effective play on UVM’s part and a little bit of a slow mindset from BU – Vermont goes to where the puck is going to be, while BU is chasing to where the puck was just a split second before. Obviously the timing of this is incredibly difficult, and I’m not levying too hefty of a critique on these guys, but it’s worth pointing out that hockey is a game played in milliseconds, and one step behind can be a difference maker as far as setting up a play and getting chances (as an aside, I might as well nitpick since I’m starting and stopping the video every second).
Now there’s a small box of BU defenders formed from the near faceoff dot to the top of the circle and in, with the puck carrier at the near/lower corner, and if you’re wondering who’s covering the other four guys on UVM, you and David Quinn are likely on the same page. As 7 in green draws all four defenders way down low and curls up in the corner, two of his comrades come streaking in, with the first man in actually setting up for the shot after slipping through the seam in middle of the discombobulated BU zone defense and the man behind him picking up the pass.
Good stick work from BU halts the attack however, as the puck carrier on Vermont overplays his hand and gets it poked away as he tries moving in through the box as well. It bounces towards the top of the zone to the far boards, where 17 in white and red skates it up and let’s it loose just before being crunched into the boards. The old “take a hit/make a play” adage is true here, as it gives number 19 just enough space to get aggressive on the puck in Vermont’s zone, and even though his opponent is right there, he’s then forced to bank it around the boards, where that receiving player is being hounded by a Terrier coming in hot. Vermont makes a less-than-ideal pass and then another in an attempt to get it out of the zone, but it’s intercepted by BU, brought back down along the boards, sent to the man down low, and who would’ve guess, but there’s two Boston boys in front ready to receive a tap-in. It doesn’t go as planned, but that’s one way to force your opponent into bad decisions to your advantage.
The rebound is collected by 17 in white, who then curls around instead of making a dumb decision, and sends it back down low where it’s battled for a bit until Vermont can dump the puck out. That sure was a long back and forth, but it goes to show how bad timing can set you up for failure, and good effort can start a chain reaction that helps make up for whatever errors may have been made.
A faceoff win that gets the puck in deep (I know faceoffs don’t really matter, but these ones sure seem to help a lot) sends two BU attackers and every Catamount chasing down below the goal line, so when the guy on BU nabs the puck in the far corner and bats it back to his partner along the half-boards, of course he grabs the pass cleanly. However, the puck gets tied up there with two Terriers and two of their opponents, and makes its way back to the far point, where it’s quickly shuffled along from d-man to d-man. Fabbro, receiving the puck, let’s a quick shot go that gets blocked on its way to the net – here maybe he should’ve considered other options given that he didn’t really have the lane.
In any event the hard-working BU guys down low gather up the puck and move it from the near corner up the boards, and as soon as Fabbro, jumping in on the play, receives it with his momentum heading down the zone and the puck heading up, he sends it right behind the net. This is smart on and off the puck play, because now the UVMers on the near side are chasing across the zone and 23 on BU has his man behind the net beat, seeing what Fabbro was thinking before the defender did evidently and moving with speed to grab the puck. He curls around the net and backhands the puck on goal, and when the rebound pops right in front on of the BU guys scrapping in front jumps on it and swings another shot backhand, and then follows up on that one directly off the goalies pad.
This is what you want to see from a cycle, despite it not being a picture perfect passing play – getting it in deep, finding small pockets of space (the knowledge to slip through the seam when curling from around behind the net is excellent and goes right along with great body positioning) and then following up until you can’t anymore. That’s real tenacity and toughness: not quitting on the play until you’ve gotten everything you can out of it.
This one’s a brief one, I promise (although if you’re still reading I assume you’re in it for the long haul). Vermont tries to move the puck up through the neutral zone, and BU’s guys immediately converge in a box around the puck carrier, forcing him to lay the puck off behind him. The guy now controlling the puck is still being pressured by the man on the corner of the box closest to him, and lobs the puck to nowhere in particular, where it’s knocked down and controlled by BU. Excellent, excellent stuff defensively here, the kind of thing you’d hope would revive a guy like Marc Staal or Brendan Smith insofar as they can be revived. Moving along.
Number 11 on Vermont skates the puck up along the near boards, covered adequately by a defender, when he takes a shot that bounces of said defender’s leg. This kicks the puck back to the trailer on Vermont, who then himself tries to let it fly but … it also hits a BU guy standing in the way. He pops the puck up to a buddy moving up ice with a bit more momentum, and it’s off to the races for Boston University. Moving from the center of the ice to the intersection of the near boards and the blueline, the puck carrier sends it in deep and his compatriot sweeps away the pending icing call with speed.
Two BU attackers, each covered by Vermont defenders, are now below the goal line, with the one directly behind the net in control of the puck, when the rest of the crew comes skating in to set up, with the two defensemen most clearly primed and ready. That’s good news because an errant centering pass makes its way back to the near point, where the puck is then sent to the far point for a quick shot with the lanes wide open due to the lackadaisical UVM defending. The rebound winds up on the near boards where it’s scrapped for between BU and Vermont, and the Vermont defender is eventually forced to make a desperate flip out of the zone, that’s easily retrieved by the two defenseman already back.
It just goes to show you what hustle can do – almost always, if you’re getting there quick enough to get an icing waived off you’ve got the tempo of the game on your side, and that can only be a good thing. Again, would’ve been nice to see some higher quality chances, but they don’t always come and pucks to the net are pucks to the net, at the end of the day. Your blueline being well positioned from start to finish, knowing when to try things and when to stand pat, really helps as well.
BU calms down the puck behind the net, with one unassertive forechecker from Vermont in on them. A quick, simple, and accurate pass from the goal line up towards the blue line and BU is heading out through the neutral zone down the far boards – just about as good of a breakout as you could ask for. The entry is just as nice, with the puck carrier going more or less end to end, skating from his blue line all the way in deep with good reach to keep the puck away from his defender, eventually curling around the net while two of his pals get up in front.
Seeing the defensive coverage there though, he instead passes the puck back to the point for an immediate shot, with both players showing a nice balance between keeping things calm and playing with urgency late in the game. The puck is bounced around a bit in front and one of the guys tied up directly in front of the goal tries swinging it around outside as he falls to his knees, an although the puck is gathered up by UVM the Terriers keep after them and again gain control of the puck down below the goal line. It’s worked from the far corner back up to the point, where the defenseman lets a little wrister fly that’s unfortunately collected right in front of the net. Still, this kind of urgency with about 7 minutes left to go in the third, with a two goal lead no less, is going to be a breath of fresh air after watching the Rangers turtle from the middle of the second period on any time they went up a goal.
A little more scrap in BU’s game here too compared to other cycle plays, with the guys on the ice making smart decisions and taking chances when they had the chances to take. Just overall really nice to see late in the game with a lead, something I’m really looking forward to.
Vermont simmers things down in their own end, with BU sitting back a bit and letting them do their worst; the Catamounts attempt to get down to X’s and O’s here, but it doesn’t quite work out. The near defenseman on UVM makes a short pass across to his partner, who then skates it up a bit, and, despite good stick in place to close down the lane from the pressuring number 10 in white, makes a successful pass up to center ice for the next stage of the breakout (the pass was around to the outside, and the BU stick was mostly covering the inside – not a really egregious error at all).
Now we’ve got number 3 in green skating it right down the middle of the neutral zone over the face of the little dog logo, and two BU defenders lined up perfectly to contain him on either side, a stick in the way to cut off the pass to the man at the far blue line, and a stick on the near side to pressure him into making that doomed pass. Behind these two wingers are the actual defensemen, also pretty neatly spaced so that the four of them form a solid box. Now the UVM centerman has to make the pass to the near blueline, a not as fruitful avenue of attack because the middle of the ice is presently cut off by one edge of the BU box, with the trailing forechecker slightly behind the box adding a further wrinkle. This guy is contained, to say the least, so that when he goes after the puck just out of his reach (good positioning meant a bad pass from the man running things in the neutral zone), BU converges on him, one man covering him and one man covering the puck.
BU carries the puck along the boards to the far side, drawing two Catamounts with him along to that side and leaving a man open at center ice. Now BU has tons of space to skate it through the center of the ice themselves, a far cry from Vermont’s cramped attempt at a clean transition. He goes out wide around his defender as he heads from the middle of the ice down to the near corner and around, eventually getting to the far circle and ripping the shot as a shooting lane opens up momentarily. This is an excellent example, again, of what good positioning can do for you, and I’m sure that Quinn’s excellent assistants will have the team well-equipped tactically to contain and counter quickly and effectively. Awesome stuff from a simple shape – a basic box and some smart on-the-puck play opens up a ton of space that leads to a solid solo scoring chance.
At this point not a ton worth looking at strategically goes down, and eventually Vermont pulls the goalie, so let’s call it a day.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and above all, thank you. This was super fun to do and I hope fun for you to read, and as I continue to do this with BU games and ideally prospect games throughout the year, I’m betting we learn and grow together a lot. With that, I’m quite exhausted, and I bet you are too so uh, have a good one.