By: David Souza
In their first NCAA playoff appearance since 2008, the Boston University Terriers (12-5-2, 6-1-2 PL) will travel down to fellow New England school the University of Connecticut for a match scheduled to get underway at 12:30.
The Terriers are coming off of a 2-0 loss in the Patriot League Semi-Finals to American University while the Huskies (9-5-6, 3-3-2 AAC) are coming off of a heartbreaking penalty kick loss to Tulsa in the American Athletic Conference Championship.
UConn and BU have shared two common opponents this season: Harvard, and Boston College. The Terriers beat the Crimson 3-0 and fell to BC 3-2 while UConn won 2-1 and lost 3-1 respectively.
BU ended the regular season as the second overall seed in the Patriot League, trailing top-ranked Colgate by a lone point, while Ray Reid’s squad locked up third place in the AAC with eleven points overall.
Spearheading the attack for the Huskies will be freshman Abdou Mbacke Thiam. The Senegal native currently leads UConn with eleven goals, a whopping eight more than Tyler Leeman’s second place total of three. Thiam was also named to the AAC’s All-Rookie Team as well as the league’s All-Conference Second Team.
In net for UConn will once again be New Canaan product Scott Levene. The 6’1” red shirt sophomore now has 31 games of experience under his belt in the past two seasons. This year, the Stamford, Connecticut native currently boasts a 0.74 goals-against average along with a .800 save percentage compared to BU’s Matt Gilbert, who currently owns a 0.96 GAA and Levene with his .816 SV%.
As for the visiting Terriers of Boston University, Neil Roberts and company hope to turn the tide of a pretty lackluster end of the season. After starting the season at a mediocre 3-2, BU rattled off seven wins, a tie, and only one loss before stumbling down the final stretch.
In their last five games, the Terriers went an uninspiring 2-2-1 including two Patriot League losses to tournament teams and a draw with the struggling Army Black Knights.
If BU is to advance to the second round against sixteenth ranked Indiana, they will have to rediscover their offensive prowess. Early on in the season, much of the Terriers’ goal scoring came off the foot of sophomore transfer Anthony Viteri.
The former St. John’s midfielder was sidelined with a concussion for most of the latter half of the season stemming from an incident back on October 13th in a matchup with Brown University. Though he missed substantial time away from the pitch, the Flushing, New York native’s first half performance was good enough to keep him second on the team in points with 14 (6G, 2A).
Picking up most of the offensive slack with the absence of Viteri was Massachusetts’ own Felix De Bona. The 5’10” junior started out hot with key goals against Boston College, and Siena as well as a crucial assist versus Fordham in the season opener. After a midseason lull, he once again found the back of the net in consecutive games versus Lehigh, Holy Cross, and Army West Point. If De Bona and Viteri can both find what they had early on in the season, the Terriers should score in bunches.
Defensively BU has been anchored by the likes of junior back David Asbjornsson as well as fellow classmate Matt Gilbert in net. The pair has logged the most minutes for the Terriers – 1,779 minutes for Gilbert, 1,647 for Asbjornsson – and is largely responsible for BU’s stingy defense. Gilbert himself has posted a career high seven shutouts on the season while Asbjornsson is the only non-goalie to have started every game for the scarlet and white.
Historically the Huskies have had the Terriers number, besting them with a 31-12-3 record over the past 64 years. However, since 2008, BU has held their own as the two New England Schools have battled to a 2-1-2 record in favor of UConn. Both teams have met thrice in the playoffs with the Terriers having the upper hand in a 2-1-0 record, though the last tournament matchup came in 1988.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 PM at UConn’s Joseph J. Morrone Stadium on Thursday afternoon.