By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Notre Dame (Hockey East) February 26-27, 2016
ABOUT THE OPPONENT – All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 6-3-2
Location – South Bend, Indiana; Mascot – Fighting Irish; This Year’s Record – 18-7-7 (14-4-2); Fun Fact – Notre Dame plays at Compton Family Ice Arena, the newest venue in Hockey East.
The Boston University Terriers will close out the regular season with a two-game road trip at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is returning home for the final weekend after losing a pair at Providence. The Fighting Irish led late in the third period in game one, but Providence completed the comeback with three unanswered goals, including an overtime winner.
BU took three points from New Hampshire last weekend after a Friday tie and a Saturday win. BU led by two goals during both games, relinquishing the lead twice on Friday and holding on for a nail-biter on Saturday.
“I thought we did a lot of good things last weekend,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “We played a full 60 minutes. Both night we had some lapses so hopefully we can continue to play mentally tough hockey.”
The last time BU and ND met was in February of 2015, as the Irish took three points from BU at Agganis Arena. The teams played to a 2-2 tie in game one before Cal Petersen and Notre Dame downed BU in the finale, 3-2. The loss extended BU’s winless streak to three games, their longest of 2014-15.
This season, Notre Dame is led by a duo of sophomores in Jake Evans and Anders Bjork. Evans has scored just eight times but has recorded a team-high 24 assists. Bjork is a +27 on the season and has recorded 31 points (11G, 20A).
Defensively, Jordan Gross has been the highlight of the Irish blue-line. Gross has recorded 27 points this season (8G, 19A), 10 of those have come on the power play. The sophomore is a +17, has taken 100 shots on goal, and has blocked 34 shots this season.
In net for ND will be Cal Petersen. The sophomore goaltender has been sharp throughout his entire career, and has played in every game this season for the Fighting Irish. He boasts a .930 SV% and a 2.12 GAA in 32 appearances.
“We’ve played good teams all year,” said Coach Quinn. “We’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the country. Hopefully we can defend well and be more opportunistic and build on our power play.”
On the other side, BU has been hit with the injury bug lately, losing Brandon Hickey, Robbie Baillargeon, and Sean Maguire last weekend. However, the team is hopeful the three are getting back to full health.
“There’s a good chance we’ll have all three of those guys back for Friday night,” said Coach Quinn. “It will probably be more of a game-time decision but I’ll be surprised if all three aren’t ready to go.”
For the Terriers, Ahti Oksanen, Matt Lane, and Danny O’Regan are all tied for the team-lead in goals with 14 on the season. O’Regan is also the team leader in assists with 22. Oksanen has taken a team-best 164 shots while Matt Lane is a team-high +19.
“Everybody has to step up,” said Coach Quinn. “We’ve got some guys that are snake-bitten and haven’t scored in a while and we’re still having a good second half. Eventually they’re all going to start scoring goals.”
Defensively, Brandon Fortunato has had a standout sophomore season. With 20 points, 11 coming on the power play, Fortunato has quarterbacked the Terriers all season, playing tremendous two-way hockey. In addition to being a +8, the sophomore has also blocked 33 shots this season.
The goaltender for BU will be a game-time decision, but could be Sean Maguire if he has recovered from a hand injury that forced him to miss last weekend. The senior has posted a .925 SV% and a 2.24 GAA in 18 games for the Terriers.
Faceoff is set for 7:35 p.m. on Friday and 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, with both games being broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
The Terriers are still looking to clinch a bye in Hockey East while Notre Dame is trying to get the second seed. With #2 Providence playing cellar-dwellers UMass-Amherst, Notre Dame is essentially locked into third. The inability to advance could affect ND and give BU the chance to steal a couple of points on the road. The two teams should split the weekend, giving BU enough of a chance to get fifth.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- First Period
Notre Dame is +20 in the first period while BU has been known to come out slow on the road. It is imperative for BU to score first as ND is very tough to beat when getting the opening goal.
- Special Teams
BU and Notre Dame are pretty much even in the special teams department, so gaining an edge here will not only be a confidence booster, but could be the difference in a game with two stalwart goaltenders.
- Get Shots on Net
Cal Petersen is a proven net-minder, but even he can’t keep everything out of the net. BU need to apply pressure on Notre Dame and must get a steady flow of shots on goal.