By: Dan Shulman
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – Providence, Rhode Island; Mascot – Friars; This Year’s Record – 6-0-2 (0-0-1 HEA), 3-0-1 on the road, 3-0-1 at home, 175 all-time meetings, BU leads series 106-55-14; Fun Fact – rematch of the 2015 NCAA National Championship where PC won 4-3, giving BU its only defeat all season in a game where the Terriers led after two periods
The Boston University Terriers will look to exact revenge against the team that beat them in the 2015 National Championship game as they meet the Providence College Friars for a weekend home-and-home series.
Providence is currently ranked first in both the USCHO and USA Today National Polls.
The Friars are 79-58-20 under current Head Coach Nate Leaman, including registering an impressive 21-10-1 record in November during Leaman’s tenure.
The last meeting between the two teams came on April 11 when Providence stunned the second-ranked Terriers, winning the National Championship, 4-3.
Brandon Tanev scored the game-winning goal with just over six minutes remaining in regulation to seal it for the Friars. Tanev’s marker came moments after a howler by Terriers’ goaltender Matt O’Connor, who dropped a puck into his own net.
Despite the loss, BU set a school record for the quickest two goals, netting a pair in just four seconds in the middle of the first period.
The two teams met on Halloween weekend in the regular season last year, with the road team winning both meetings.
John MacLeod scored his first career goal at Providence on Halloween as the Terries took a 4-1 decision. The next night, BU fell for the first time in 2014-15 in a 2-1 loss to the Friars. Providence goaltender Jon Gillies made 37 saves to halt the Terriers.
“We have a lot of respect for [Providence],” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “This is the number one team in the country, they’re undefeated. That’s enough motivation for anybody. I understand that everybody’s going to talk about the rematch but we’re thinking about getting valuable points in Hockey East.”
This season, Providence is led by sophomore defenseman Jake Walman who has registered 12 points (7G, 5A) on the young season and sits in fifth place among top scorers in Hockey East. Walman found the back of the net for times last weekend in a series sweep of Colgate.
With nine seniors on the roster, the Friars are one of the oldest teams in the nation. Among the fourth year players are Mark Jankowski, Trevor Mingoia, and Brandon Tanev. The trio has combined for 24 points this season, forming one of the most potent lines in college hockey.
“If we continue to defend the way we have and take away time and space, we’ll be tough to score on,” said Quinn. “It’s not so much a focus on shutting [Providence] down, it’s focusing on continuing to defend the way we have been.”
In goal for Providence will be Nick Ellis. With just 18 career games under his belt including six before this weekend, Ellis bolsters a .920 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average on the young season and a 10-2-2 career record.
BU is fresh off a weekend sweep of Northeastern and carries a three-game winning streak.
The Terriers are paced by senior Danny O’Regan, who has collected nine assists this season and a pair of goals. BU’s leading goal scorers are freshman Ryan Cloonan and senior Ahti Oksanen, with each scoring four times and adding four assists. Sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey has also scored four times this season.
On defense, senior captain Matt Grzelcyk returned to the ice last weekend, scoring two goals and assisting on another. Sophomore defenseman Brandon Fortunato has had a stellar season so far, scoring three goals along with five assists, sitting in second on the team in scoring.
“[Grzelcyk] brings an awful lot to our team on top of what he contributes offensivley,” said Quinn. “He gives us a little swagger and he gives us leadership so it’s always great to get the best defenseman in college hockey back.”
In goal for BU will be Connor LaCouvee. The sophomore from Qualicum Beach, British Columbia has made six appearances this season, posting a .910 save percentage and a 2.80 goals against average.
“[LaCouvee] looks bigger, he looks more confident, and he’s made some big saves,” said Quinn.
The Terriers have won all four home games this season, but only one of their road games.
For Providence, this series will be its first Hockey East action of the season after opening the slate with seven non-conference games.
“We’re going to have a great test this weekend,” said Quinn. “We’ve really made some great strides and we’ve got to build on what has transpired over the last few games.”
Faceoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Friday and can be seen on the American Sports Network. Saturday will feature a 4:00 p.m. matinee start at Agganis Arena.
Providence, coming off an idle week, opens Hockey East play against an in-form Terriers team. BU will certainly be looking for revenge in addition to improving its record in Hockey East, and if the Terriers can get out of the first period unscathed, BU should take 3 points from a Friars team that needs to come back down to earth.
FRIDAY FINAL — BU 1, Providence 1 (OT)
BU’s FOUR KEYS TO THE GAME
- Strong first twenty minutes
- Providence has outscored opponents 13-3 in the first period. If BU can take an early lead, they can easily command the rest of the game
- Make PC play from behind
- Providence has only trailed twice on the season and not at all between periods. Putting the Friars in an unfamiliar situation could be valuable for BU.
- NO PENALTIES
- It sounds like a broken record but an abundance of penalties gives opponents a chance to score, and with PC converting at 20% on the power play this season, BU can ill afford to be down a man.
- Third period shots
- An Extra Key on this week’s preview! One weakness of PC is third period shot differential. The Friars are -23 in the final twenty minutes, and have allowed six goals in the third period this year.
Coach Quinn’s full media remarks from Thursday can be heard below.