By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Merrimack & UMass-Lowell (Hockey East) January 27-28, 2017
ABOUT THE OPPONENT – UMass-Lowell
Location – Lowell, Massachusetts; Mascot – Riverhawks; This Year’s Record – 15-7-3 (7-5-1 HEA), 9-4-1 on the road, BU leads all-time series 72-28-9; Fun Fact – UMass-Lowell has appeared in the last four Hockey East Tournament Championship games.
In November 2014, BU was named first in the rankings for the first time all season and immediately dropped a Tuesday night game. Fast forward to this past week when the exact same thing occurred.
Following a dreadful loss at Merrimack, BU must pick up the pieces and look to earn four more valuable league points at home with a second game against Merrimack on Friday followed by an all-important battle with UMass-Lowell on Saturday.
“Hopefully we’ve moved past Tuesday night,” said Terriers head coach David Quinn. “There’s nothing we can do about it now. Let’s just stay focused and be ready to go for tomorrow. We’re not going to go undefeated. We played a lot of hockey lately so that might have caught up to us too.”
Before the Terriers face the challenging test which UMass-Lowell will present, BU looks to wrap-up the season series with Merrimack on a positive note Friday. Boston University struggled on Tuesday in North Andover as the Warriors knocked-off the depleted Terriers, 3-1.
Merrimack captain Jared Kolquist had three assists as the Warriors scored three unanswered goals in the win. Chad Krys put the Terriers ahead early but a major penalty on Charlie McAvoy, which led to a game misconduct, and some poor puck movement created a recipe for disaster that cost BU a win.
With the series shifting to Boston on Friday, the Terriers will have a bigger sheet of ice to outskate the Warriors. In addition, the Terriers will see freshman Jake Oettinger back in net Friday following a night off on Tuesday, where Connor LaCouvee got the start. In 20 games, Oettinger has a .938 SV% and a 1.70 GAA with four shutouts.
A victory on Friday is important for BU in the race for the Hockey East regular season title. Boston College earned a win Tuesday to extend its lead atop the league standings over BU to five points. The Terriers remaining game-in-hand over BC will come on Saturday against the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks.
“[Lowell has] got some high-end guys,” said Coach Quinn. “They’re very structured, play a smart game, and don’t beat themselves. Same old Lowell team. We had trouble with them last year. It will be a great game that’s for sure.”
Lowell is coming off a consecutive losses to Providence last weekend. In the series finale at Providence, the Friars crawled back from a pair of one-goal deficits before finally potting the game-winner midway through the third period.
BU and Lowell last met in the Hockey East Quarterfinals last season, with the host River Hawks earning an emphatic sweep over BU. In game two, UML piled on a handful of goals to silence the Terriers, 5-0, and eliminated BU from the conference tournament.
This season, UMass-Lowell is led offensively once again by Joe Gambardella. The senior has a team-leading 23 assists and 34 points. Seven of his eleven goals have come in special teams situations and with only 49 shots on goal all season, his shot percentage is among the best in the nation.
Defensively, fellow senior Dylan Zink has put together a fabulous final collegiate campaign. With 22 points (8G, 14A) in 25 games, Zink has shown he can contribute as a two-way player. His 34 blocked shots and 43 PIM both lead the team as the senior is one of the grittiest players in all of college hockey.
In net, Tyler Wall has filled the void left by graduated goaltender Kevin Boyle. The freshman lives up to his name, posting a .921 SV% and a 2.06 GAA along with an impressive 14-6-1 record in 21 games played.
For the Terriers, Bobo Carpenter has been one of the most efficient offensive players for BU. His toughness and ability to win puck battles all over the ice shows the makings of a future NHLer. Bobo has 17 points (7G, 10A) so far in his sophomore season with a team leading 83 shots on goal.
“Bobo’s a guy we have a lot of faith in,” said Coach Quinn. “He’s an honest player. He’s very determined and just keeps getting better and better.”
“I definitely like to keep a hard-working, simple game,” said Carpenter. “I like to help teammates any chance I get. I like to contribute to the team as much as I can.”
The Terriers will have a full lineup for this weekend and could even see a change in line combinations for the pair of contests.
“I’m thinking about it,” said Quinn. “Not sure what we’re going to do from a line standpoint. We’re kind of messing around with some things right now.”
On defense, Krys has become a star in the making. The 2016 second-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks continues to improve and is elite at getting pucks to the net to create goal-scoring chances. Krys has blocked 29 shots and is a +2 this season as well.
In net, Oettinger will try to help the Terriers bounce back from Tuesday’s setback. His ability to control rebounds and position himself to make a save are second-to-none. Ranked third in the NHL’s Midseason Central Scouting Report, Oettinger is a projected early-round draft pick this summer.
Puck drop on Friday is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. and for 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. Both games can be heard on mixlr.com/wtbusports.
PREDICTION – TOSS UP
It’s honestly too close to call. BU will be playing in its third game in five days so fatigue could be a factor. Meanwhile, UMass-Lowell has been stellar on the road this season. However, the Riverhawks have struggled at Agganis and have been marred by inconsistent play this season. We’ll see what the scoreboard says after the game, but it’s anyone’s to win.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME vs. UMass-Lowell
BU has been better as of late at staying out of the box. While every game will have penalties, the amount must be limited, especially against UML and its 24.3% power play.
- Play Physical
UMass-Lowell is a tough, older team that can be hard to figure out. BU will need to use their speed and size to its advantage by finishing their checks, winning puck battles, and making the Riverhawks work in the neutral zone.
- Score Early
Not only is it important for BU to hop out in front against UMass-Lowell, but the Terriers must do so quickly. Only seven times has UML allowed the first goal this season, and is winless when trailing after the first period. Once BU gets a lead, they cannot sit on it and must continue to attack the net in search for another tally.
“We always like to get out to a good start and play with the lead. We’ve been doing that lately,” said Quinn.