By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. Massachusetts (Hockey East) February 3, 2017
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – Amherst, Massachusettss; Mascot – Minutemen; This Year’s Record – 5-20-2 (2-12-1), 1-8-0 on the road, BU leads All-Time Series 60-11-6; Fun Fact – Last loss for BU against Massachusetts came on February 1, 2013 (5-1).
The Boston University Terriers are getting ready for the annual Beanpot Tournament beginning this coming Monday. However, before BU hits the TD Garden ice, the Terriers must tackle an important league match-up against the Massachusetts Minutemen.
BU and Massachusetts met first back in January for the first Hockey East game in the 2017 edition of Frozen Fenway. BU scored late in the first period and added two goals in each of the next two frames to take down the Minutemen, 5-3, outdoors.
The Terriers win at Fenway was its fourth in a row and the mid-point of an eight-game win streak snapped last week when they were swept by Merrimack. On Saturday, the Terriers rebounded against a reeling UMass-Lowell team, taking a 4-2 thriller at Agganis Arena.
Bobo Carpenter scored twice in the third period, including the go-ahead goal and an empty-netter to seal the two points. Freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger turned aside 33 of the 35 shots he faced Saturday, including a cross-crease stop to rob Lowell’s John Edwardh of a breakaway goal.
Massachusetts will enter this Friday’s game losing eight in a row and 13 of its last 14 contests. The Minutemen will be on short-rest following a 6-5 loss to Northeastern in Amherst on Tuesday. Massachusetts held a 3-2 lead after twenty minutes but the Huskies overwhelming offense was too much for the depleted Minutemen defense.
“I’m hoping our guys don’t put any stock in that,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “That means nothing tomorrow night. We had a hard game with them at Fenway but this is about trying to play smart, simple hockey.”
This season, Massachusetts continues to be led offensively by captain Steven Iacobellis. The senior has a team-high seven points and nine assists. The Minutemen offense has struggled this season, only netting 55 goals in 27 games.
“They got some high-end forwards,” said Coach Quinn. “You’re going to have be careful of their high-end guys. They compete hard, they’re never out of a game. It’s so much more about us and not about our opponent.”
Defensively, it hasn’t been any better for Massachusetts. In all, the Minutemen have conceded 95 goals and hold the 53rd scoring defense in the country and worst in Hockey East. The one bright spot on the Massachusetts blue-line has been William Lagesson. The sophomore has seven points, tops among Minutemen defensemen, and a second-best -1 rating for the team.
Goaltending has seen an upswing this season with addition of Ryan Wischow in the rotation. The freshman has posted a .901 SV% but has a paltry 3.05 GAA. With one shutout, Wischow is the active leader among Massachusetts goalies in that category.
“We’ve got to make sure we get to the net,” said Coach Quinn. “We got to screen him. We’ve got to get more pucks to the net. We pass up too many shots, and we’ve got to understand shooting for rebounds.
For the Terriers, freshman Clayton Keller has upped his production in recent weeks and now leads the team in points despite missing eight games to injury. His team-leading 12 goals and nation-leading three shorthanded tallies shows that Keller is emerging as one of the top prospects in the nation.
Health-wise, BU lost forward Nikolas Olsson with a long-term injury after the junior assistant captain broke his leg in the first period of last Friday’s game. This week, several Terriers have been battling the flu, but Coach Quinn remains hopeful that everyone will be healthy enough for tomorrow night.”
Although the BU offense has stepped up this season, its defense continues to be one of the best in Division 1. The Terriers rank sixth in the nation in goals against per game, allowing opponents only 2.06 tallies. Captain Doyle Somerby has been a big part of BU’s defensive success this season. The senior carries a +12 rating and has blocked 48 shots this season.
Despite the Minutemen’s lack of success on defense, BU will need to play tough against a team that can score goals in spurts.
“We just have to respect them as a team,” said sophomore Jordan Greenway. “If we keep the puck in the offensive zone and keep good possession, we won’t have to play much defense. Overall we just have to play simple, fast hockey and everything else will take care of itself.”
In net for BU on Friday will be Jake Oettinger. The freshman continues to be one of the top goalies in the country, ranking in fifth in the nation in both save percentage (.935) and goals against average (1.821).
Puck drop on Friday is slated for 7:30 p.m. and can be heard live on mixlr.com/wtbusports.
PREDICTION – Terriers Win
BU has been dominant against Massachusetts and the trend is likely to continue on Friday. With the Minutemen on short rest, the Terriers will pounce on the visitors early and through a couple of quick tallies, hold a large advantage for much of the game. Should be a good win heading into Monday for BU.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Don’t Underestimate Opponent
BU has been known to play up or down to an opponent. A prime example would be last Tuesday at Merrimack. Despite Massachusetts’ poor record and deflated stats, the Minutemen are a dangerous team. BU is going to need to be sharp defensively and treat this game like it’s important because every league game is for the rest of the year.
- First Goal is Always Important
Massachusetts has struggled mightily this season and has yet to win when the opponent scores first. BU will need to set the tone early, especially on home ice, in order to earn an early advantage against a talented Minutemen side.
- Focus on Friday
With the Beanpot First Round game against BC looming on Monday, it’s understandably easy to look ahead to that. But the Terriers have to focus on the task at hand Friday against Massachusetts and take care of business before turning their attention to Monday night.
“Our goal is to win the league championship,” said Coach Quinn. “We’re down to six games left in the league. We don’t have much room for error.”