By: David Souza
ORONO, MAINE — No. 18 Boston University will have the opportunity to notch their first weekend sweep of the season as they travel to the northernmost part of Hockey East for a two-game battle with the University of Maine. Beginning their stint with a Friday night contest at Alfond Arena, the Terriers and the Black Bears will then travel down Interstate 295 before squaring off at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland for game two.
BU (5-6-1, 3-3-1 HE) comes into the weekend following a pair of splits in their last two conference series. A week ago, the Terriers fell at No. 13 Northeastern on Friday before rounding out the weekend with a shutout of then-No. 9 New Hampshire at home. In the series preceding that, the scarlet and white again split – this time besting then-No. 6 Providence before being drubbed by Northeastern at home.
With a pair of games on tap against a Maine team picked to finish last in the Hockey East Preseason Coaches Poll, the Terriers will aim to make up ground in the conference standings. BU currently sits in fourth place with seven points, five behind first-place Boston College.
However, while the Black Bears (3-5-0, 2-2-0) were pegged as one of the worst teams in the conference, they have proven resilient thus far. Maine has been swept in just one of their four weekend series, with those pair of losses coming against a Minnesota-Duluth team that was ranked tenth in the nation.
In Maine’s four conference tilts, the Black Bears have salvaged splits against UConn and a UMass Lowell team picked to finish second in Hockey East. Last weekend against the River Hawks, Maine dropped the first of two at Tsongas Arena before exacting their revenge in a 6-2 win on Saturday night.
The main issue for the Black Bears this season has been on the defensive end, as they’ve allowed the second-most goals-per-game in Hockey East. Overall on the season, Maine has conceded 27 goals in eight games, equating to a 3.38 average per game. And while they slot into eighth in conference play, the blue and white’s defensive woes can be traced back to their league-worst penalty kill.
The Black Bears overall have the most penalty minutes-per-game at 15.9. Combining that with a penalty kill that operates at 63.9 percent efficiency, Maine has been a defensive wreck while shorthanded; they’ve allowed 13 goals on 36 penalties – the most conceded in Hockey East.
But, Maine can be a dangerous team in the offensive zone, scoring the second-most goals-per-game in conference play, trailing only Northeastern. Scoring 13 goals in four league games, Red Gendron’s team relies on an offense that strikes more often as the game goes on; their six third-period goals are tied for second in the conference.
Leading the way for the Black Bears are a trio of underclassmen. Freshman Eduards Tralmaks has made himself at home in Orono, totaling seven points on a team-high five goals. The native of Rīga, Latvia is coming off a game against UML where he tallied three points on a pair of goals and an assist.
Mitchell Fossier and Chase Pearson – both sophomores – have also recorded seven points on the year, with all of Pearson’s coming on assists and Fossier’s on four goals and three helpers.
Both Rob McGovern and Jeremy Swayman have split time between the pipes for the Black Bears, with both goalies posting similar stat lines. A freshman, Swayman has been the better of the pair, posting a 2.87 goals-against-average in five games. McGovern’s GAA is a full tally higher at 3.87. Despite two years separating the net minders, both Swayman and McGovern have similar save percentages at .908 and .891 respectively.
Hunting Black Bears
After failing to score more than two goals in all but one Hockey East game, the Terrier offense came to life against UNH. Spearheading the offense were the usual suspects for BU, as Jordan Greenway and Dante Fabbro each added their third goals of the season, while Bobo Carpenter potted his seventh.
And while Head Coach Dave Quinn has stressed the offensive depth of his squad, the offense has largely come from the top down thus far. Patrick Harper has been integral to BU’s success, leading the team with 11 points on five goals and six assists. Freshman Shane Bowers has also fit in seamlessly to the offense, striking for four goals in his first 12 games as a Terrier.
Sophomore Jake Oettinger has been the man between the pipes for the majority of BU’s season, but it was his classmate that backstopped the Terriers to a win last weekend. Sophomore Max Prawdzik turned aside all 29 shots he faced against UNH, earning a shutout in his collegiate debut.
The series is set to get underway on Friday night in Orono, with puck drop scheduled for 7:30 at Alfond Arena. The team’s will do it all again on Saturday in Portland; game two is set for 7 p.m.