By: Marisa Ingemi
BU Men’s Ice Hockey at Merrimack (Hockey East) January 24, 2017
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – North Andover, MA; Mascot – Warriors; This Year’s Record – 8-13-3 (2-7-3 HEA), 6-6-1 at home, BU leads all-time series 85-17-8; Fun Fact – Terriers swept Merrimack in Quarterfinal Round of the 2015 Hockey East Tournament.
Heading into the week ranked first in the nation for the first time all season, the Terriers are riding an eight game winning streak. BU is looking to continue its winning ways when they travel up I-93 to face Merrimack on Tuesday.
The series against Boston College was one of the best stretches this team has had all season, and it seems like they’re finally at a place they want to be; for now.
“I haven’t known where we rank all year,” said head coach David Quinn. “I don’t know who was ranked number one last week. All that matters is the pairwise.”
Last season the Terriers headed to North Andover in late October where they suffered a 4-3 defeat. Both teams are in a much different place more than a year later.
“Doesn’t matter last year, or the year before, or the year before,” Quinn said. “We’re in the middle of the season right now, against a team that’s played well lately, and if we want to achieve our ultimate goal, we better take care of business.”
That ultimate goal long term is starting to shape up for the Terriers, who are as healthy as they’ve been all season and are starting to click. Dante Fabbro and Nikolas Olsson are battling some “bumps and bruises,” but the team remains relatively in tact.
Despite the most recent success, Quinn hasn’t been afraid to shift lines around, with Patrick Curry playing on the top line in the second game against Maine last week, and the coach likes the direction of the combos.
“I liked our lines on Saturday,” said Quinn. “Friday night, still tinkering moving guys around. Always looking for the perfect combination, I don’t think it’s ever attainable. I liked our lines both nights, in particular I think the Keller line on Saturday night was pretty good.
“I think when you’ve gotten attention like [we did] over the summer, and in particular through the World Juniors, kids pay attention and think, and other teams probably get a little amped up when they play us.”
Brett Seney, a New Jersey Devils prospect, leads the Warriors with 18 points this season. Right behind him with 17 is Hampus Gustafsson, but it’s no secret Merrimack struggles to find the back of the net. Ranking 54th in scoring offense, behind the likes of Alabama-Hunstville and Colgate and Northern Michigan, it’s one of the Warriors’ biggest weaknesses.
With a goals against average of 2.45, Drew Vogler has been the starter for most of the season in net. Connor LaCouvee is slated to make the start in the Tuesday game while Jake Oettinger would presumably play on Friday night.
BU is third in the nation allowing just 1.95 goals per game, while Merrimack is allowing 2.75.
PREDICTION – 4-2 BU
The Terriers are on a tear and while this could spell “trap game,” it seems the team has turned sort of a corner. After the second Boston College game Quinn talked about the team’s maturity improving, and after a successful series against Maine, it seems like they’re heading in a positive direction.
Clayton Keller and his line have exploded onto the scene, and though he slowed down in the Maine series, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson broke through at the start of the second half of the season. There’s still plenty of hockey to be played, but the Terriers are clicking at the right time.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Jump Out Early
Merrimack has just one win all season when behind after the first period, so a key for the Terriers will be taking advantage of that with a quick start. They’re also 2-11-3 when giving up the first goal of the game at any point.
2. Stay Focused
BU has had a great stretch, and after the Maine series, it’s hard to imagine focus being an issue, but with a young team, it’s worth noting. The Terriers have had their mental lapses this season, and with a game against UMass Lowell coming up in this recent stretch as well, and now being ranked first in the nation, it’s not bad to stay completely focused on the game at hand against Merrimack.
3. Defense, Defense, Defense
The Terriers’ defense is as strong as its been all year, keeping Maine to one goal twice and holding BC to one goal in their series. Only allowing 14 shots to the Black Bears on Friday night is impressive, and late in the second Boston College game, the Terriers blocked away a lot of chances. It’s as in-sync as they’ve looked all season, and they’ll need that to continue.