By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Michigan (Non-Conference) November 20-21, 2015
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – Ann Arbor, Michigan; Mascot – Wolverines; This Year’s Record – 5-1-1 (0-0-0 B1G), 1-0-1 on the road, 25 all-time meetings, Michigan leads 14-11-0; Fun Fact – Michigan Head Coach Red Berenson has been behind the Wolverines’ bench for over 30 years, making 11 Frozen Four appearances and two National Championships
The Boston University Terriers Men’s Ice Hockey Team will put its five-game unbeaten streak on the line this weekend, as they welcome the Michigan Wolverines to Agganis Arena for two games.
The Terriers are fresh off back-to-back ties against the nation’s top ranked team in Providence College. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson recorded four points on the weekend to earn Pro Ambitions Rookie of the Week in Hockey East. Sophomore goaltender Connor LaCouvee shut down a high-powered Providence offense, receiving Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week Honors.
“I thought there was a lot to like about last weekend,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “You’re not going to face a team that will make life more difficult for you. I’m really happy with our progress.”
Michigan played only once last weekend, winning a Friday night bout in Ann Arbor against Niagara, 7-3. Freshman forward Brendan Warren earned his first career weekly honor as he was named the Big Ten’s Second Star of the Week for his three assists against the Purple Eagles.
“They’re very opportunistic,” said Quinn. “They really can generate offense, and can make you pay for your mistakes unlike any team we’ve played so puck management is going to be huge.”
The last time BU and Michigan met was on October 25, 2014 as the Terriers skated to a 3-2 victory over the Wolverines. Despite conceding two power play goals and trailing after the second period, BU staged a late rally as Matt Lane tipped in a Brandon Hickey shot with just over three minutes to go to complete the comeback.
This season, Michigan is led by a trio of freshman forwards. Kyle Connor, Cooper Marody and Brendan Warren have amassed 26 points in just seven games to pace the Wolverines.
Some key returners from last year’s squad include junior forwards J.T. Compher (1G, 5A) and Tyler Motte (5G, 0A) along with sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski (2G, 5A). This trio combined for 80 points last season.
Altogether, the Wolverines have 12 players who have been drafted into the NHL, while the Terriers have 10 draftees.
In goal for the Wolverines will either be senior Steve Racine or junior Zach Nagelvoort. The two net-minders have split the time throughout their careers, and it seems that 2015-16 will be no different.
Racine has gotten more of the minutes, posting a .892 save percentage along with a 3.37 goals against average. Nagelvoort has started more games so far and bolsters a .878 SV% and a 3.00 GAA.
“Nothing changes no matter who the goalie is,” said Quinn. “I don’t really put too much stock into who the other goalie is. We just got to continue to do all the things that allow us to have some success.”
On the other side of the ice stands BU. The Terriers’ top line has emerged over the last few weeks, combining for 34 points (11G, 23A) through the first ten games. Ahti Oksanen, who scored his first goal on Halloween, leads the team with six tallies on the season.
A contributing factor to BU’s recent success has been the return of captain and senior defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. In four games, Grzelcyk has scored twice and added a pair of assists.
In goal for BU this weekend will be sophomore upstart LaCouvee, who has played in eight games this season, posting a .919 SV% and a 2.53 GAA.
“[LaCouvee] is becoming more confident, he’s being more aggressive,” said Quinn. “He’s a competitor, and he only played five games last year.”
BU will be without the services of forward Nikolas Olsson, who is sidelined with an upper body injury for the weekend. Stepping in for Olsson on the fourth line will be sophomore defenseman Brien Diffley.
Puck drop on Friday will be at 6:05 p.m. and can be seen live on NESN and American Sports Network. Saturday’s matinee will begin at 4:05 p.m.
After last weekend’s pair of barnburner ties against top ranked Providence, the Terriers have proven they can play with and stop the best in the game. Michigan has struggled with its goaltending this season, and if the Terriers can get pucks past both net-minders along with shutting down the Wolverines high powered offense, three points out of four (a win and a tie) on the weekend shouldn’t be an impossible goal.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Score early and often
- The Wolverines play a strong third period, but their first two leave something to be desired. Scoring early would give the Terriers some comfort to play the game their way
- NO PENALTIES
- Yes, again this is a key to the game. The Wolverines have an 18% power play that is only getting stronger. BU is going to have to play even strength hockey if they want to win.
- Limit Michigan Shots
- The Wolverines enter the weekend with a +90 shots on goal differential. If the Terriers can hold Michigan to a limited shot selection, the Terriers will hold a valuable edge.