By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Yale (Non-Conference) December 11, 2015
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – New Haven, Connecticut; Mascot – Bulldogs; This Year’s Record – 5-4-2 (3-3-2 ECAC), 1-2-1 at home, 64 all-time meetings, BU leads 31-30-3; Fun Fact – Rematch of the 2015 NCAA Northeast Regional First Round game where BU beat Yale, 3-2, in overtime
The Boston University Terriers head into their final weekend of the first semester with a trip to New Haven, Connecticut, for a matchup with the Yale Bulldogs.
The Terriers split their final Hockey East series of the 2015 last weekend against Vermont, losing a tough game on Friday before earning a comeback victory the following night. BU was without captain and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk on defense, and lost Nikolas Olsson early in the first game with an upper body injury.
Grzelcyk will remain absent from the lineup on for the weekend with a knee injury. The Terriers will be without the injured Olsson and sophomore defenseman Brandon Hickey, who will be away at World Junior tryouts with Team Canada.
Yale lost both games last weekend, getting shutout by Quinnipiac on Friday before dropping a disappointing result to Princeton on Saturday. Goaltender Alex Lyon was injured in warmups on Saturday, and sat out against the Tigers, despite being dressed and on the bench.
These two teams met most recently on March 27, 2015 at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire for the First Round of the NCAA Northeast Regional. The Terriers beat the Bulldogs in overtime, 3-2.
Danny O’Regan netted the game-winning goal 7:27 into overtime. Ahti Oksanen tied the game just under halfway into the third period. Lyon stopped 39 shots for the Bulldogs, including a stick save in the final seconds of regulation.
This season, the Bulldogs are led by Joe Snively (4G, 4A) and Stu Wilson (2G, 6A). The duo leads the top two lines for Yale, pacing the offense.
On defense, Mitch Witek returned from last year’s squad, and despite only registering three points this season, the senior captain has recorded 17 shots on net and has an even rating this season. Witek recently made his 100th appearance for Yale.
In net, Alex Lyon is expected to start on Friday after taking a shot to his hand during warmups last Saturday. Lyon has a .932 save percentage and a 1.76 goals against average. He holds a 5-3-2 record so far this year.
“We’ve got to get pucks past them,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “We’ve got to get bodies there. Our recipe for success doesn’t change no matter who we play really. We just have to make sure that we are ready physically and mentally because if we are, then we’ll have a chane.”
Yale leads the nation with a 93.5% penalty kill and boasts an impressive 23.4% power play unit as well. The Terriers have had their struggles on special teams this season, but have looked sharp for the most part over the last few games.
“Certainly we’ve got to be alert on the power play and the penalty kill,” said Coach Quinn. “We’ve got to pay attention. We’ve done a much better job on the penalty kill. We have been aggressive, but have to do a better job icing pucks.”
For the Terriers, O’Regan and Oksanen continue to lead the way, combining for 34 points (13G, 21A) this season.
Following a line shuffle on Saturday, A.J. Greer has stepped up to the first line. After recording only two points through Thanksgiving, Greer has scored once and recorded two assists over his last three games.
Defensively, Brandon Fortunato leads all blue-liners with 14 points (4G, 10A). The recent invite to U.S. World Junior camp, Fortunato has quarterbacked and contributed to BU’s 20.3% power play this season.
In net for the Terriers will be Connor LaCouvee. The sophomore has made 12 appearances this season, bolstering a .912 SV% and a 2.86 GAA. LaCouvee holds an impressive 6-2-3 record this season.
It is important for the Terriers to score on first on Yale, as the Bulldogs are 3-0-1 when getting the first goal. Meanwhile the Terriers are 5-1-0 when they strike first this season.
“Obviously you never want to dig yourself into holes,” said Quinn. “Earlier in the year we were actually having a good start. It’s changed an awful lot in the second half of the first semester. We just got to get off to a better start.”
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Ingalls Rink and can be seen live on ESPN3.
BU has struggled to put in a full game this season. However, against teams with low GAAs, the Terriers have done pretty well, scoring thrice against Cornell and Merrimack. If BU can play sharp, focused hockey, the Terriers could escape the old Yale Whale with at least a tie.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Get shots to the net
Yale is outshooting opponents this season by 69, yet are only outscoring opponents by an average of less than a goal this season. The Bulldogs goaltender, Alex Lyon, led the nation in GAA last season and is posting similar numbers this season. With more shots comes more chances to beat Lyon.
- Play 60 minutes
The Terriers have yet to play a complete, 60-minute effort this season, and against a top team like Yale, BU is going to have to be sharp on all cylinders.
- Keep the game 5-on-5
Yale’s top class penalty kill and power play units will be tough this weekend. The Terriers need to keep the game at even strength in order to win.