By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Yale (non-conference) December 13, 2016
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – New Haven, Connecticut; Mascot – Bulldogs; This Year’s Record – 4-5-2 (2-5-1 ECAC), 1-2-1 on the road, all-time series is tied 31-31-3; Fun Fact – Rematch of 2015 NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal in which BU won in overtime, 3-2.
The Boston University Terriers will try to close out the first semester on a high note when they host the Yale Bulldogs in a Tuesday night matchup, their second such in three weeks.
The Terriers are fresh off a frustrating series split at league rival Vermont. After controlling much of the game Friday, BU couldn’t put a strong third period together and fell, 4-2. The following night, BU got scoring from all four lines and put together a complete performance in a shutout victory, 4-0.
“That’s a good test,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “That’s a real good team. It’s a team we’re going to have to beat come March and April if you want to win Championships.”
Yale also endured a league split this weekend against a pair of upstate New York opponents. On Friday, the Bulldog offense sprung to life, scoring seven times against visiting RPI in a 7-3 win. But the following night, Yale saw a two goal lead after one period over Union turn to a one goal deficit after two periods. In the third, Yale tied the game with under three minutes to play but Union scored 20 seconds after to pull back in front en route to a 5-3 victory.
The last time Yale and BU met was last December in Connecticut. The Terriers pulled ahead early in the second period before Yale scored three times in eight minutes. BU pulled one back late but the comeback was not to be as the Bulldogs earned a 3-2 victory.
This season, Yale is led by senior John Hayden and junior Ryan Hitchcock on offense. Hayden is the team’s leading scorer with nine goals to go with his six assists. He has also taken 57 shots on goal. Hitchcock, meanwhile, has yet to tally any goals this season but has 12 assists on the year.
Defensively, Charlie Curti has frustrated opposing offenses all year. With 21 blocked shots in 11 games, the sophomore has cut down scoring chances and given his defense a boost. He has also taken 21 shots on goal this year.
In goal, Patrick Spano backed up for legendary Yale net-minder Alex Lyon for three years. This season, he’s played in nine games, posting a .892 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average. The senior has a career record of 8-4-2 and has proven he can be tough to beat.
“There’s no such thing as a blowover team in college hockey,” said Coach Quinn. “They’re well coached and make you earn every inch of ice. This is a game of will.”
For BU, Clayton Keller made his long-awaited return after missing a month due to a left knee injury. The freshman recorded three points this past weekend, scoring on Saturday and adding an assist each night. He also provided a huge boost to the power play that went 3-for-8 on the weekend after only converting once in 24 chances during league games.
Missing on Tuesday for the Terriers will be Dante Fabbro and Tommy Kelley. Kelley is still recovering from a lower body injury while Fabbro remains on international duty at Canada World Junior camp. Kieffer Bellows was also a scratch on Saturday night and may be the odd-man out again Tuesday. John MacLeod is also questionable for Tuesday night as well.
On defense, Brandon Hickey continues to show his work ethic every time he steps on the ice. With 27 blocked shots this season and a +4 rating, Hickey has been a key contributor to this Terriers side. He has also amassed seven points and taken 32 shots on goal.
In the blue paint for BU will be freshman Jake Oettinger. The freshman answered the call this past weekend against Vermont, earning his third individual shutout of the season. Oettinger boasts a .932 SV% and a 1.86 GAA in 14 games.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and can be heard live on mixlr.com/wtbusports with Jordan Thibault and Jarrett Leonard on the call.
PREDICTION – BU wins big
The Terriers are looking to finish the first half strong. Yale has struggled defensively this season and has been unable to get much going on offense. Against a stronger, faster Terrier team, it will be BU who commands the game in a big way.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Survive the First Period
Yale is +5 in the first period but is -9 over the final 40 minutes. The Terriers have faced many other opponents this season that were tough in the first period and found success. If the Terriers can hold up again in the opening 20 minutes, this game should be there.
- Stay Even Strength
While much of Yale’s play has been sub-par, their special teams play has been superb. The Bulldog’s power play has been operating at 21.3% on the year and the penalty kill has been successful 85.7% of the time. The Terriers should need to keep the game at even strength to get some rhythm to the game.
- Hold the Lead
BU was able to hold an extended lead on Saturday and got comfortable in the game. When the Terriers hold a consistent lead this season they have been vastly successful. Doing so against a faltering Yale team is crucial to getting the victory.