By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Northeastern (Hockey East) November 4-5, 2016
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – Boston, MA; Mascot – Huskies; This Year’s Record – 3-2-2 (0-1-0 HEA), 0-1-2 on the road, BU leads the all-time series 161-58-8; Fun Fact – The two teams are the most recent Hockey East Champions and were picked one (BU) and two (NU) in the conference preseason poll.
After winning three of its first five games, the Boston University Men’s Ice Hockey team will look to open conference play on high note with a home-and-home series against cross-town rivals Northeastern.
The Terriers were idle last weekend following a two convincing outings seven days earlier against Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac. Freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger recorded his first two shutouts of his young career, making big saves in each game.
Northeastern is fresh off a home-loss to the Vermont Catamounts on Sunday, 3-2. Despite holding a 2-1 advantage after 20 minutes, UVM scored in each of the last two periods to steal a league victory. Catamounts center Craig Puffer netted the game-winner with about five minutes to go in regulation.
The Terriers and Huskies met three times last season, with BU winning all three meetings. They most recently faced off in the Beanpot last February as BU took a 3-1 victory over Northeastern. The Terriers were the only team to beat Northeastern in the second half of last season until the Huskies loss in the NCAA Tournament to North Dakota.
“[Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan] is a very positive person,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “He doesn’t let adversity affect him. We all know what happened last year.”
This season, Northeastern is paced by a trio of double-digit point-scorers only seven games into the year. Dylan Sikura, Adam Gaudette, and Zach Aston-Reese have combined for 31 points, including 11 of the team’s 25 goals.
Defensively, the Huskies were depleted by graduation last season but the return of Eric Williams to the blue-line. Leading all defensemen with a +2 rating, the sophomore has ripped 19 shots on goal and is a shot-blocking threat as well.
In net, sophomore Ryan Ruck has played in all seven games this season, posting a .904 save percentage and a 2.25 goals against average.
For the Terriers, sophomores Jordan Greenway and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson have led the way this season, combining for five goals and eight assists. The two factored into every goal in BU’s 3-0 victory over Quinnipiac, with Greenway collecting the would-be game-winner.
“I think JFK is off to an incredible start,” said Quinn. “This is the best hockey he’s played since he’s been here. Your success is always tied to the guys coming back.”
BU will be without the services of assistant captain Nik Olsson who is sidelined with an upper body injury this weekend. However, the Terriers could see Chase Phelps and Oskar Andren back to full health and in the lineup this weekend.
On defense, captain Doyle Somerby has recorded only one assist, but is a team-leading +6 and has blocked 10 shots this season. The senior has been one of the Terriers most consistent defenders this season.
“We finally have some veteran’s on our blue line,” said Quinn. “It’s nice to have that balance. I was really happy with the way they played last weekend as a corps.”
Between the pipes for BU will likely be Oettinger. The freshman leads Hockey East with a 1.42 GAA and a .947 SV% – good enough for fifth in the nation – through five games.
“[Oettinger] is our number one goalie,” said Quinn. “The numbers speak for themselves and he’s earned it.”
Puck drop on both Friday and Saturday nights is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be heard on WTBU.
PREDICTION – BU sweep
Northeastern bears resemblance to Quinnipiac in that the Huskies come out of the gates fast and hold off opponents at the end. With all three of Northeastern’s wins coming against the likes of Bentley and Arizona State (2), the Terriers may be just a step above the Huskies as BU will take a pair of close games.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Stay out of the box
Although Northeastern’s power play is operating at 17.9% with the BU penalty kill working at 95.3%, it is important for BU to keep this game 5-on-5 for the majority of the 60 minutes. BU averages 21.2 PIM per game while Northeastern opponents are averaging 21.9 PIM. The Terriers will need to stay disciplined and not be coerced into taking penalties from a Huskies team that knows how to draw them.
“We just haven’t adapted yet to how [the refs] are calling it,” said Quinn. “We just have to be smarter. We’ll get that ironed out.
- Control the First Period
Northeastern is +7 in the first period compared to +1 over the last two frames. There is a steep drop-off in production after the opening 20 minutes and if BU can weather the storm, the Terriers should have their way with the Huskies.
“We always want to get a good start,” said Quinn. “We’re going to have to get off to a good start to get the crowd out of it early.”
- Limit Northeastern’s shots
The Huskies average around 35 shots on goal per game and have been able to overwhelm opponents with net-front presence and persistent shooting. The Terriers will need to frustrate Northeastern by playing a gritty, shot-blocking two games.