By: Dan Shulman
BU Men’s Ice Hockey vs. New Hampshire (Hockey East) February 17-18, 2017
ABOUT THE OPPONENT
Location – Durham, New Hampshire; Mascot – Wildcats; This Year’s Record – 12-14-4 (7-8-3 HEA), 7-7-2 at home, BU leads all-time series 105-52-20; Fun Fact – New Hampshire’s home arena, Whittemore Center, is one of eight Olympic-sized rinks in NCAA Division 1 Ice Hockey.
The home stretch for the 2016-17 season has arrived for the Boston University Terriers men’s ice hockey team. With four league games to go and sitting three points below the top spot, BU will begin the trek to make up lost ground this weekend with a home-and-home series against the New Hampshire Wildcats.
BU has lost consecutive games for the second time this semester, falling on Friday at UMass-Lowell, 3-2, before a devastating, 6-3 defeat in the Beanpot Final to Harvard. The Terriers have been troubled by lackluster defending and an inability to stay disciplined over their last two games.
“Our next goal is to win the regular season [Hockey East] Championship,” said BU Head Coach David Quinn. “We still need to do that. All our energy has been geared to Friday night.”
UNH is fresh off a series split against Vermont on the road. The Wildcats scored four unanswered goals to overcome a 2-0 deficit midway through the second period. The following night, Vermont overwhelmed the Wildcats, scoring two second period goals to silence UNH, 5-3.
The last time BU and UNH met came almost exactly a year ago. BU took three of four points from the Wildcats. In game two at Agganis, BU took a 3-0 lead into the third period, only to see it almost slip away as UNH came out blazing. But the Terriers shut down their opponents to earn a much-needed rebound win, 3-2.
This season, UNH is led by offensively by forward Tyler Kelleher. The senior is second in the nation with 51 points this season and his 18 goals is tied for the team-lead with Jason Salvaggio. The two have combined for 205 shots this season and 11 power play goals.
“You’d better be 100% committed to playing the body on those guys or they’ll make you look foolish,” said Coach Quinn. “If we’re physical with them, we’ll have a good chance at trying to neutralize them.”
On defense, Matias Cleland has been one of the top blue-liners in Hockey East. He has blocked 65 shots this season and earned a +11 rating, and the senior has 30 points this season, including 28 assists.
In net for UNH, Daniel Tirone is finishing up his third year as a starter for the Wildcats and continues to improve each year. This season, he boasts a .911 save percentage and a 2.80 goals against average. Two of his five career shutouts have come this season.
“You’ve got to get traffic on [Tirone],” said Coach Quinn. “Obviously being a little bit more patient, little bit more fakes. To me, he’s a guy that’s played well against us.
“Our problem lately is that we just don’t shoot enough. We shoot when we think we’ll score but we don’t shoot to get guys turned around or to get pucks to the net. We just got to do a better job getting more pucks to the net.”
The Terriers have seen immense offensive production from Clayton Keller. The freshman has a point in 16 of his last 17 games, including a pair of goals on Monday against Harvard. Keller leads the team with 16 goals and 32 points.
The forward lines have struggled to produce over the past few games for Boston University. On Friday night, per Coach Quinn, the lines are going to look different than they did on Monday and there will even be a few surprises.
Healthwise, BU continues to miss Nikolas Olsson with a broken leg and now Brandon Hickey is dealing with a lower body injury on his right side. Hickey won’t suit up this weekend against UNH and is week-to-week.
Defensively, the Terriers continue to see a solid defensive effort from Doyle Somerby. Despite only collecting two points, the senior captain has a team-high +13 and has blocked 54 shots this season.
In net for BU, Jake Oettinger continues to be a big reason for the Terriers success this season. He stopped 40 shots in a losing effort on Monday night, but looked stellar against a barrage of shots. Through 26 games this season, Oettinger has posted a .932 SV% and a 1.93 GAA.
Faceoff on Friday is set for 6:00 p.m. and for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.
PREDICTION – Terriers Sweep
BU has proven they can take down UNH at home, but results away from Agganis against the Wildcats have been hard to come by. But the Terriers speed and defensive ability should allow them to have a successful weekend sweep over UNH.
BU’s THREE KEYS TO THE GAME
- Put the Beanpot Behind
The Beanpot loss last season deflated the Terriers and led to a slow home-stretch run for BU. This season, the young Terriers cannot afford to let a non-league loss in February affect the rest of the season. With four valuable league games left on the schedule, BU should turn its attention to winning the Hockey East regular season title and securing a bye for the conference tournament.
The Terriers have allowed power play goals in eight of their last nine games. Against UNH’s 22.7% unit, BU will need to stay out of the box and keep the game 5×5. The Wildcats have scored a power play tally in four of their last five games, going 6-22 (27.3%) in that span.
“We took bad penalties at Lowell,” said Coach Quinn. “Penalties are a problem for us. You take three penalties in a period, it changes the complexion of the game.”
- Stop Kelleher
Tyler Kelleher has recorded 10 points in his last five games and is one of the premier forwards in the nation. The senior has an astounding nine power play goals as well. The Terriers will need to find a way to limit Kelleher’s chances and shut-down a potent Wildcats’ top line.