By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Union College (Non-Conference) – Thursday January 5, 2016
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – Schenectady, New York; Mascot – Dutchmen; This Year’s Record – 14-4-2 (8-1-1 ECAC), 9-2-1 on the road, BU is 0-1-1 all-time vs. Union; Fun Fact – Union won the 2014 National Championship by defeating Minnesota, 7-4.
The puck drops for the second half of the Boston University Terriers men’s ice hockey team’s season as they prepare to host Union on Thursday night.
The Terriers ended 2016 on a high note, defeating Yale at home, 5-2. Sophomore defenseman Shane Switzer scored his first two goals of his collegiate career in the victory. On an even higher note for BU, seven Terriers took part in the IIHF World Junior Championships in Canada.
Union swept Vermont on the road before falling at home to reigning National Champion North Dakota on New Years Eve, 3-1. North Dakota set the tone early, scoring after just 11 seconds. Austin Poganski tallied twice and added an assist for the Fighting Hawks while Spencer Foo netted the goal for Union.
The last meeting between the two teams came on October 10, 2015 at the Achilles Center in Schenectady. Matt Wilkins scored the game-winner for Union with under three minutes to go, giving the Terriers a defeat to open the season.
This season, Union is led offensively by Hobey Baker candidates Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo. Vecchione leads the nation in goals with 18 in 20 games. Foo has been prolific all over the ice. He leads the nation in assists with 21 and is first on the team in plus/minus (+27) and shots on goal (84).
On defense, freshman Vas Kolias was on the Terriers’ recruiting radar for some time, ultimately deciding to join Union. He has flourished so far with the Dutchmen, recording one goal and six assists in 19 games this season.
In net, Alex Sakellaropoulos has started 16 of 20 games this season for Union, holding a 13-2-1 record. He boasts a .920 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average. The senior is in his third straight season as a starter for the Dutchmen.
On the other side, BU will be looking for offensive production from sophomore Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. With only three goals this season, the top-line center will need to boost his scoring production in 2017.
The Terriers will be missing seven key players Thursday night as they compete at the World Junior Championships in Montreal. Dante Fabbro with Team Canada and Patrick Harper, Jordan Greenway, Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Charlie McAvoy, and Jake Oettinger with Team USA are all scheduled to play for a medal on Thursday afternoon.
On defense, the Terriers will be short a pair of key blue-liners. Junior Brandon Hickey will be expected to lead the D-corps against a potent Union attack. Hickey is a +6 and has recorded eight points (3G, 5A) this season.
In net for BU, junior Connor LaCouvee is expected to get the nod in the absence of Jake Oettinger. LaCouvee has played three games this season, holding a .938 SV% and a 1.93 GAA. LaCouvee will be backed up by the newest Terrier, freshman Nico Lynch who joined the team prior to the new year.
Face-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and can be heard live on mixlr.com/wtbusports. Chris Picher, Jordan Thibault, and Dave Souza will be on the call.
PREDICTION – Union wins 4-3
It’s not going to be an easy game for BU without seven of their best players in the lineup. Union has proven themselves to be a skilled team and with their offensive production, should beat the Terriers in a close yet high-scoring battle.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Stay Disciplined
Staying out of the penalty box will be crucial for the Terriers as they come down the stretch this season. And it starts against a Union team that draws an average of 6.5 penalties per game. If BU can keep level-headed and unpenalized in this one, it will go a long way towards setting the tone for the rest of the season.
- Shut Down Union’s Top Line
Vecchione, Foo, and Sebastian Vidmar have been elite point-producers this year. With a combined 93 points in 20 games, the scoring for Union doesn’t really get much deeper. The Terriers must force Unions bottom lines to beat them by playing physical, disciplined defense against the Dutchmen’s top unit
- Don’t Fall Behind Early
Union is 8-0-0 when scoring first and haven’t lost when leading at an intermission. If the Terriers are to trail at any point, they need to weather the storm in the first five minutes of the game. Stingy defense early on should set the tone for the remainder of the game.