By: Dan Shulman
Excluding semester break, the weekend after Thanksgiving will be BU’s final complete idle weekend of the season. And the Terriers have earned it.
Two major road trips and a jam-packed slate have left the Terriers banged up and missing a few major elements on offense. Clayton Keller remains sidelined with a lower body injury, but the team remains optimistic that he will return to the lineup shortly.
After the Terriers 5-3 victory over Harvard on Tuesday, Coach Quinn announced that Keller was “ahead of schedule” in his recovery. It’s even likely that Keller will be back as soon as December 9 against Vermont but would likely target a return on January 5 against Union.
Keller isn’t the only player dealing with injury problems. John MacLeod missed last Saturday’s game with an undisclosed ailment and Nikolas Olsson remains out with yet another upper body injury.
Some of BU’s injured troops have begun to return. Ryan Cloonan cracked the lineup against Harvard on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jordan Greenway and Nick Roberto, who have been dealing with nagging minor injuries and now have a weekend to get back to 100% health.
Aside from injuries, defensive struggles have plagued BU this season. Despite only allowing three in-zone goals this year, the Terriers have had trouble stopping chances on the initial rush and have continued work to fix this issue.
Another question mark, all of a sudden, is who BU should be playing in net. Junior Connor LaCouvee has made two starts, going 2-0-0 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average.
Freshman Jake Oettinger has had a hand in three shutouts for the Terriers, but has allowed four goals on four different occasions this seasons and has been thoroughly inconsistent as of late. Quinn and his staff face a difficult decision over which net-minder to ride through the end of the first half.
Just over the horizon for the tired Terriers is the semester break, which includes the always interesting World Junior Championships.
On Tuesday, St. Cloud State and 2017 U.S. World Junior coach Bob Motzko was in attendance scouting potential talent to fill his roster for the upcoming tournament. Players like Kieffer Bellows, Chad Krys, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake Oettinger could be candidates for the WJC squad.
With a weekend off, BU cannot only work on getting players healthy, but also gives the young roster a chance to rest and reflect on what lies ahead. Back-to-back, crucial Hockey East series against Providence and at #20 Vermont place the Terriers into must-win situations.
BU will need to take at least three wins from these four games in order to avoid plunging further into an early season hole in the Hockey East standings; a task made tougher given three of BU’s next four games are away from home. After wins at Michigan and at UConn gave BU some confidence away from home, the Terriers seem to have found their road edge.
With a rematch of the 2015 National Championship game up next, the young Terriers will hit the reboot button and look to notch their first win over the Providence Friars since October 2014.