By: Matt Dresens
BOSTON PROPER — This weekend, Boston University and No. 15 Boston College will renew the Greenline Rivalry, a clash between the two Boston based schools that dates back to the 1917-18 season. The Terriers and the Eagles will rehash the rivalry in back-to-back games, starting on Friday at 7 p.m. in Chestnut Hill before returning to Agganis Arena on Saturday night.
“There’s always a little extra buzz when you’re playing BC,” said Terrier Head Coach David Quinn, who squared off with the Eagles (8-5-2, 8-1-0 Hockey East) 16 times during his playing days at BU (6-8-1, 4-4-1 Hockey East) in the mid-1980s.
Sophomore Dante Fabbro, whose four goals paces all Terrier defenseman, echoed Quinn’s thoughts.
“Obviously with us being big rivals and there’s lots of history there, I think we’re definitely pretty excited coming into this one,” Fabbro said.”It’s going to be a pretty crazy atmosphere both nights and this week you could definitely feel the excitement with our team.”
A year ago, BU took three of four games from the Eagles, including the opening round of the Beanpot. But, it was Boston College who won the series’ biggest matchup of 2017, taking the Hockey East Semifinal, 3-2.
Since starting 1-5-2, BC has turned things around considerably. Starting on November 5th, the Eagles ran off seven wins in a row, and are 7-0-1 in that stretch after their most recent draw with Harvard. The most impressive win for the Eagles came on November 18 at Northeastern, a 4-1 win. BC picked up 14 of their league-leading 16 Hockey East points in the month of November.
The Eagles have been a strong defensive team in conference, allowing just 1.67 goals-per-game. A huge reason for this is their penalty kill, which is currently running at conference-best 91.4 percent (32-for-35). By contrast, BU is eighth in Hockey East at 78.4 percent (29-of-37).
Traditionally, Jerry York’s BC team run a very aggressive penalty kill. Last weekend, BU had a glimpse of that aggressive style against Cornell, and cashed in not once, but twice on the man advantage.
“When your power play matches the penalty kill’s effort and work ethic, you’re going to have a chance to have a good power play,” mentioned Quinn. “I thought there was a lot more pace to our power play against Cornell. We are trying a few different things, but I thought it was pretty good against Cornell after a sluggish stretch.”
A lot of BU’s success on the man-advantage this season has come from the defense. Fabbro and Chad Krys both netted power-play goals over the weekend, and have been a main source of special teams production all season.
“I think before when we weren’t really clicking we were hanging on to pucks too long and not moving it quick enough,” Fabbro added. “In practice, we addressed a few things and have tried to get pucks to the net as much as possible and retrieve them. It seems to be working so far and we are trying to build off that.”
Scouting the Eagles
Unlike years past, Boston College doesn’t have one dominant line or player like Johny Gaudreau. Instead, the 2017-18 Eagles are scoring by committee. Ten skaters have at least eight points, but no one has more than eleven.
Sitting atop the charts is Julius Mattila, a sophomore who was on the Finnish World Junior team last winter. Mattila, whose fellow sophomore brother is also on the roster, has amassed eleven points via four goals and seven assists. Freshman Chris Grando leads the team in goals scored with five and has also added five assists. Other players to watch include Cassy Fitzgerald, David Cotton, JD Dudek and Graham McPhee.
“You can be good in different ways,” Quinn remarked. “Sometimes you have a horse and a top line, sometimes you got a bunch of good lines; and they have a bunch of good lines. That’s not easy to prepare for either. There are all different ways to win, and they have done a good job digging themselves out of a hole they were in early from playing a very difficult schedule.”
Between the pipes, Joe Woll holds a 6-4-2 record with a .905 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against-average. A year ago, Woll posted a 9.19 save percentage against BU in four games, with a 1-3-0 record.
This weekend’s clash with cross-town rival Boston College marks the 100th anniversary that the two Comm Ave based schools have done battle. In fact, BU’s first ever game was against Boston College on February 6, 1918. The Eagles skated away with a 3-1 win at Boston Arena – now known as Matthews Arena – in what was BU’s lone game of their inaugural 1917-18 campaign.
The Terriers did not play a single game in 1919, lost both their games in 1920 (one to BC, 9-0) and didn’t field a team for the 1921 and 1922 seasons. Finally, the program stabilized itself under head coach George Gaw in 1925 after going 1-8-0 in 1924. The ’25 season was the first winning season in BU hockey history and it also marked the first time the Terriers beat the Eagles, a 1-0 win at Boston Arena on December 23, 1924.
Overall coming into this weekend, BU holds a 133-123-18 record in the series, thanks in large part to a 16 game unbeaten streak from December 9, 1992 to February 5, 1996 when the Terriers went 14-0-2 against BC. In 2017, the teams squared off for times, with BU emerging victorious three times; however, the Eagles have won the most recent contest.